A Victoria fiancee and her soon-to-be husband hope to move out of her mother’s home as soon as financially possible.

With money tight for the time being, Jasmine Vasquez, 20, said buying a diamond engagement ring was not at the top of their priorities.

“If we had that (much money), I guarantee we would not be living with my mom,” said Vasquez, adding she and her fiance hope to begin saving after starting new jobs soon.

That’s why the couple were thrilled when they received a donated engagement ring with an admittedly tiny diamond. Vasquez said she was not opposed to upgrading that ring with a lab-grown diamond when her family’s financial future is more secure.

After all, she said, a diamond is a diamond whether it was made by people or natural processes.

“Diamonds are beautiful,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the way that they sparkle or shine or shimmer.”

For Paul Neuse, the owner of the Gonzales gem and jewelry retailer Storey Jewelers, the fact that lab-grown diamonds aren’t more popular is bewildering.

“I don’t know why more people haven’t embraced it,” said Neuse.

When it comes to price tags, the differences are vast, he said.

“People like a price alternative,” he said, pulling from a display case two 1-carat diamonds – one lab-grown, the other Earth-grown.

At $3,500, the lab-grown diamond was a mere fraction of the Earth-grown gem’s $6,700 price.

“That’s where the temptation is. It looks the same or better for 40% less money,” Neuse said.

Looking through a stereo microscope at the edge of a 1.02 carat, lab-grown diamond, no one would be able to distinguish the dazzling gem from its naturally created cousin if it were not for an etching along its side reading “Lab grown.”

Although that etching is invisible to the naked eye, the gem’s sparkling gleam and pure color are obvious.

Neuse, who describes himself as a perfectionist, began carrying lab-grown diamonds in his shop about a year ago when the technology was perfected so the diamonds began to meet his standards.

Neuse admitted he would need a $5,000 machine to tell the difference between them.

That reasoning made sense – dollars and cents – for Vasquez.

“If the quality is there,” she said, “I don’t see why I wouldn’t (buy one).”

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.

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Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.

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