7 places to get the best deals on lab-created diamonds

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De Beers diamond store
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Diamonds have long been associated with engagement and marriage.

But a diamond that’s going to be a girl’s best friend doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank — in part thanks to the increasingly popularity of lab-created diamonds.

RELATED: Clark Howard: How my daughter saved a ton of money on her wedding

Check out these sites for cheap prices on lab-created diamonds

Man-made diamonds offer a real advantage over the real deal: They tend to be priced about 30% cheaper on average than natural stones. And most gemologists can’t tell the difference because the new breed of lab-created stones have the exact same chemical signature as natural diamonds.

The market for lab-created diamonds tends to skew younger. An emerging social backlash around natural diamonds and their drawbacks was fueled in part by the 2006 Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond.

The film laid bare the violence that accompanies the diamond trade and the inherently dangerous and ecologically disastrous mining practices behind the so-called ‘conflict diamond’ industry.

So, it’s a sign of the times that the percentage of people who favor natural diamonds is shrinking. According to a 2015 study, only 45% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 35 said they prefer natural diamonds to lab-created diamonds.

The economics of the lab-grown diamond industry

The market is for lab-created diamonds is broadening every year. Consulting company Bain says production of lab diamonds is up by 15% to 20% a year, according to reports. Still, lab-grown diamonds only have roughly 2% of total market share.

However, that could change soon thanks to a collapse in production costs for lab-grown diamonds. A 1-carat lab diamond used to cost an average of around $4,000 to create in 2008. Just 10 short years later, that price plummeted to between $300 and $500 last year.

The decrease in production costs is driving a surge in discounts on the lab stones. One diamond industry analyst cited by the Financial Times noted the average discount for a 1 carat lab-grown stone compared to a natural diamond increased from 29% per cent in January 2018 to 43% by the end of the year.

Traditional player enter the lab-created diamond business

Traditional players in the diamond business can no longer ignore all the buzz around lab-created diamonds. In fact, industry incumbent De Beers announced in May of last year that it would begin selling man-made diamonds with transparent pricing starting in September 2018.

With De Beer’s new service, Lightbox, you’ll be able to buy a 1-carat lab-created diamond in pink, blue or white for $800. Then you can have them set the stone in silver ($100) or 10-carat gold ($200), resulting in a beautiful man-made diamond ring for $1,000 or less.

As for presentation, the diamond you order from Lightbox comes in a candy-colored cardboard box. Sure, it’s not exactly the famed Tiffany Blue Box, but your ring sure will be a lot cheaper.

The power of the Internet makes shopping for a man-made diamond easier than ever. Below are some options.

As always, money expert Clark Howard recommends shopping around to get the perfect lab-created diamond of your dreams.

Clark Howard’s take

The consumer champ likes the idea of lab-created diamonds as a way to save money, but says the decision really comes down to personal preference.

“This isn’t cubic zirconia we’re talking about here. These diamonds have an identical chemical makeup — not similar, identical — to a diamond that is dug out of the earth. These man-made diamonds are starting to appear in more and more retail stores and you just flat-out save money,” Clark says.

“I think on this score, it’s really just a question of what you’re happy with. Would you be happy with a man-made diamond? Or must you have nothing less than what Mother Nature produces?”

If you fall into that latter category, Clark has long talked about Costco as a great place to buy your natural diamonds because of the tightly controlled markup in price.

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