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When lab-grown diamonds were first introduced to the fine jewelry world, they were met with some skepticism, to say the least. People wondered if they were actually real diamonds (they are!) and whether they share the same sparkle and brilliance as their nature-made counterparts (they do!). But today, lab-grown diamond engagement rings are as popular as ever and come in a wide range of styles, shapes, and cuts. What’s more, many lab-created diamonds are sustainably grown and less expensive than earth diamonds, making them a cost-effective and eco-friendly choice.
So, what exactly are lab-grown diamonds–and how are they made? “A lab-grown diamond is a real diamond formed in a laboratory setting with high-tech equipment,” explains Lorraine Brantner, a sales manager for James Allen. In short, these labs can create the same pressure and high temperatures it takes to form a diamond from the earth. “In recent years, we have been able to mimic the extreme conditions present deep under the surface of the earth to create the right environment to grow diamond crystals in a laboratory setting,” adds Brantner.
While it can take billions of years to form a natural diamond, it only takes a mere few weeks to create a lab-grown diamond. But the end result is exactly the same. "Lab-grown diamonds have the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as a mined diamond," says Mona Akhavi, CEO of VRAI. Even better? Many lab-grown diamonds are formed by using renewable energy and are created in zero-emission foundries, making them more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds.
Read on for the best places to buy lab-grown diamond engagement rings.
Meet the Expert
- Lorraine Brantner is a sales manager for James Allen, a fine jewelry retailer that carries a wide range of lab-created diamonds at various price points. She is also a GIA-certified gemologist.
- Mona Akhavi is the CEO of VRAI, a fine jewelry brand that offers sustainably grown diamonds and unique pieces for the modern bride.
VRAI is known for its impeccably crafted diamond engagement rings that run the gamut from simple and classic to modern and fashion-forward. VRAI’s conflict-free diamonds are sustainably grown in their zero-emission foundry in America. “There is complete transparency with our jewelry and sustainable diamonds, which are grown utilizing renewable energy, so there are no questions about origin or middlemen markups which is the ultimate luxury,” says Akhavi. The brand’s engagement rings and jewelry are also set in recycled gold and are even shipped in sustainable packaging.
Special Services: When it comes to VRAI’s stunning collection of engagement rings, you can choose to shop their selection of signature designs or opt to create your own diamond ring. “VRAI provides unrivaled customization options with a choice of up to 10 unique diamond shapes and 13 settings,” says Akhavi. “Plus, we offer virtual appointments to help make the process of picking out an engagement ring as easy as possible, allowing customers to see the different diamond cuts, settings, and band pairings with our experts.”
Shipping & Return Policies: When it comes to shipping, made-to-order items usually ship within approximately two weeks of placing your order. VRAI accepts returns of in-stock and un-worn engagement rings and bands within 30 days of delivery. However, each customer is only permitted one engagement ring return, and you must include the diamond certificate as well as the original packaging with your return.
Ritani is all about offering ethically sourced and environmentally friendly lab-grown diamonds for every budget. These sparkly diamonds have the same brilliance as natural diamonds, but at a fraction of the cost, and are available in over 10 stunning shapes, from emerald to hexagonal. Ritani is also big on price transparency and details all the costs that go into creating each lab-grown diamond, such as fulfillment fees and any markups. The brand also carries an impressive collection of lab-grown diamond wedding bands to complement any engagement ring style.
Special Services: If you’re looking to design your own lab-grown diamond engagement ring, Ritani has you covered. Choose from thousands of different types of lab-grown diamonds in every shape, carat, and cut imaginable as well as a wide range of settings and metals to create your dream custom ring. All Ritani engagement rings come with complimentary engraving and free resizing.
Shipping & Return Policies: With Ritani you can enjoy fully insured, fast and free shipping for all domestic orders. When it comes to returns, the jewelry brand has a 30-day return policy and accepts returns for custom as well as engraved engagement rings.
When it comes to creating a custom engagement ring, Brillant Earth offers a streamlined shopping experience to make designing your dream ring a breeze. To get started, simply choose from an extensive inventory of lab-grown diamonds in a wide range of shapes, cut, colors, and prices. Once you’ve picked out the perfect center stone, you can choose from a variety of stunning settings and metals like sleek platinum and trendy rose gold.
Special Services: If you’re not sure what type of engagement ring style is right for you or you’re hoping to get a better sense of what a ring would look like in person, turn to Brilliant Earth’s virtual try-on app. As the name would suggest, this convenient tool allows you to virtually try on engagement rings by simply uploading a picture of your hand and selecting your favorite ring style. If you’re looking for professional guidance or you’re interested in learning more about lab-grown diamond education, Brilliant Earth also offers virtual appointments and consultations with their jewelry experts.
Shipping & Return Policies: Brilliant Earth offers free shipping both ways and complimentary 30-day returns. To receive a full refund, your engagement ring must be returned in its original packaging with all of its documentation.
Since launching in 1999, Blue Nile has become one of the most trusted jewelry retailers in the world and is considered to be the biggest leader in the online market for diamonds and engagement rings. Thanks to their tried and true online business model and low overhead costs, Blue Nile can offer exquisite engagement rings without sacrificing quality or craftsmanship. The brand’s beautiful assortment of lab-grown diamond rings was launched in 2020 in partnership with Lightbox. This small yet eye-catching edit of jewelry includes engagement rings set with white, blue, or pink lab-grown diamonds.
Special Services: In addition to engraving services, Blue Nile offers complimentary ring resizing on all customized engagement rings during the first year. Blue Nile also offers a flexible payment plan and a lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Shipping & Return Policies: Like many fine jewelry brands, Blue Nile offers free insured and secure shipping as well as a 30-day exchange and return policy.
Clean Origin only carries 100 percent lab-grown diamonds and caters to couples looking to design their own engagement ring. Much like Brilliant Earth, Clean Origin offers an easy-to-use customization process and boasts a wide range of settings and diamond shapes to choose from. What’s more, Clean Origin’s ethically sourced and eco-friendly lab-created diamonds are competitively priced and can be up to 30 percent less expensive than mined diamonds. Even better? The brand’s "Rare Collection" features a curation of hand-picked, top-tier lab-grown diamonds certified by the Gemological Institute of America.
Special Services: Have questions or concerns about your engagement ring? Clean Origin offers 45-minute virtual appointments with highly knowledgable diamond experts. Clean Origin also offers lifetime warranties and affordable payment plans.
Shipping & Return Policies: Clean Origin offers a generous 100-day return policy, allowing you plenty of time to decide if your ring is right for you.
12FIFTEEN is all about offering engagement rings that you can feel good about. The fine jewelry brand only carries lab-grown diamonds and handcrafts each engagement ring setting with the utmost care and expertise. The brand also strives to bring their customers the best lab diamonds at the best prices and is able to bring costs down by cutting out the middle man and selling exclusively online. Even better? 12FIFTEEN offers the ability to create your own engagement ring allowing you to get exactly what you want with just a click of a button.
Special Services: The brand wants you to feel confident about your purchase which is why they offer a price match guarantee. If you find a diamond for less, they'll work to find you a lab-grown diamond that matches the specs and price point of your comparable diamond.
Shipping and Return Policies: Wondering if you can return your engagement ring? 12FIFTEEN offers a 30-day return and exchange policy–as long as the ring has never been worn and is in perfect condition. 12FIFTEEN ships all over the U.S. as well as internationally.
James Allen boasts an impressive selection of stunning lab-grown diamonds offered in a wide range of shapes and price points. “Our mission is to offer consumers the highest quality diamonds and largest selection at the best price,” says Brantner. If you’re looking to design an engagement ring that feels uniquely you, James Allen has all the tools to do so and makes the customization process incredibly easy and fun, to boot. “We aim to take what is a famously intimidating process and make it both more transparent and more enjoyable,” says Brantner.
Special Services: While shopping for an engagement ring online is easy and convenient, it can be tricky to tell what your ring will actually look like in person. James Allen’s solution to this problem was to create detailed images and videos for every type of customized ring. “We pioneered stunning 360-degree video technology combined with 24/7 customer service and amazing prices to give customers a truly one-of-a-kind shopping experience, all from the comfort of their own homes,” explains Brantner. “Now, we’re taking it one step further with our newest service, The Ring Studio that gives customers full creative control, allowing them to customize their setting style even further by choosing the metal and design for both the head and shank.”
Shipping & Return Policies: Regardless of order amount or destination, JamesAllen.com offers fast and free shipping. If you’re not totally satisfied with your engagement ring, you have the opportunity to return it within 30 days of receiving your order. Loose diamonds must be accompanied by the original laboratory grading report or you’ll be charged a fee to replace the certificate.
What to Look for in a Lab-Grown Diamond Engagement Ring
Like any major investment, when it comes to shopping for a lab-grown diamond engagement ring, it’s important to do your research before you buy. Most trusted retailers (like the ones listed above) will have an in-depth FAQ page highlighting how and where their lab-grown diamonds are made and what sustainable practices they may exercise.
Since lab-grown diamonds share the same optical and chemical properties as natural diamonds, they are graded on the same scale of cut, clarity, color, and carat weight as natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamond engagement rings are also offered in scores of different styles, settings, and metals to suit all aesthetics. Once you’ve found your dream lab-grown diamond engagement ring you should receive and review its lab certification.
What is a lab-grown diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds are man-made stones created in a lab. They are formed through the use of high-tech equipment that can create the same high pressure, high heat, and chemical conditions it takes to create a natural diamond.
Are lab-grown diamonds real?
“Yes, lab-grown diamonds are identical to mined diamonds and share the same optical, physical, and chemical properties,” says Akhavi.
What’s the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds?
In short, how they are formed. Natural diamonds are formed beneath the earth’s surface by billions of years of extreme heat and pressure while lab-grown diamonds are man-made and created in a lab by mimicking the exact conditions of naturally occurring diamonds.
What are the benefits of lab-grown diamond rings?
“While still expensive, they are certainly budget-friendly compared to earth diamonds,” says Brantner. “We find many customers appreciate the overall value of a lab diamond that allows them to truly maximize their budget.”
Why Trust Brides
Contributing writer Sophie Moore is a former fashion editor at Brides and is an expert in all things bridal attire, from couture wedding gowns to the perfect "something blue" accessory. She researches and sources the best fashion items for brides, grooms, wedding guests, bridal parties, and more. When it comes to engagement rings, Sophie is a big fan of timeless styles like emerald-cut silhouettes.