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Conflict-Free Ring Buying

It used to be that, when it came to choosing a diamond engagement ring, only the four Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat) mattered. These days, socially conscious couples are increasingly asking dealers about a fifth C-whether a gem is conflict-free. Stones dubbed conflict diamonds originate in rebel-controlled areas of Africa (such as in Sierra Leone and Angola). They are mined using slave labor and the proceeds are used to finance civil wars. What can politically correct brides and grooms do to ensure that the symbol of their love doesn't come with a hidden price?

1. Ask retailers you're visiting if they use conflict-free diamonds. Though retailers in the U.S. can't guarantee that their diamonds are conflict-free, you'll be sending a strong message to them just by asking.

2. Go Canadian. The Canadian diamond industry has taken steps to identify diamonds originating in Canadian mines, thus eliminating any suspicion that diamonds come from conflict areas.

3. Ditch diamonds altogether. Many jewelers have begun carrying rings set with moissanite, a naturally occurring mineral that Charles & Colvard manufactures in a lab. It's second in hardness only to diamond, and displays 2.4 times more "fire" (brilliance, in diamondese). Moissanite costs about $700 a carat-a fraction of the price of diamonds.

From the Spring 2005 New York Wedding Guide

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