- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

Natural diamonds — Made of carbon atoms bonded in a cubic structure, natural diamonds are formed deep in the earth over millions of years under tremendous heat and pressure. They are available colorless as well as in colors such as yellow or pink and are available in a wide range of carat sizes. Prices can range from about $6,000 for a 1-carat colorless stone (depending on quality) to more than $9,000 for a hard-to-find yellow diamond of the same size.

Synthetic diamonds — Also called cultured diamonds, lab-created diamonds, man-made diamonds or engineered diamonds, these diamonds are made of carbon atoms bonded in a cubic structure. Synthetic diamonds have the same chemical and physical properties as natural diamonds. Most people cannot tell them apart, but experienced gem lab personnel can. Prices range about 15 percent to 30 percent lower than for natural diamonds. They are available in colorless stones but thus far only in sizes less than a carat. Colored stones can be made a little larger.

Simulated “diamonds” — These are imitations that sparkle but are made of entirely different chemical elements than diamonds. Common names include cubic zirconia and Moissanite (lab-created silicon carbide). They are available in a wide variety of colors as well as colorless. A 1-carat cubic zirconia typically costs from $15 to $40. A 1-carat Moissanite ring can cost about $700 or more (depending on the setting). Charles & Colvard, the company that makes Moissanite, states in its Web site that the stone is not a simulated diamond but is its own jewel.

Sources: Gemological Institute of America; Apollo diamonds; www.Moissanite.com.

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