SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Diamond alternatives are nothing new. Anyone who’s spent a sleepless night watching the Home Shopping Channel is familiar with the hard sell on cubic zirconia.

But modern lab technology and engineering has advanced in big ways, producing a new brand of manmade diamond remarkably close to the real thing.

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The process involves placing a carbon chip in a microwave chamber, then adding electrical energy and gases that create a molecular reaction. It’s not instantaneous, a lab diamond takes anywhere from six months to two years to make but compare that to the millions of years it takes for a natural diamond to form. And in the end, the fake has all the same properties of a natural stone.

This has its appeal – most of all cost. Lab diamonds are 30 to 40 percent cheaper.

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And don’t worry, you aren’t likely to encounter a bait and switch situation at the jewelers. The Federal Trade Commission has strict rules for diamond sellers. Retailers have to label them lab-made or synthetic.

But according to San Francisco diamond consultant Lia Wilson of Little Bird diamond & engagement ring, that’s not the main reason people may embrace the new gems. Wilson says, “The main reason people would be looking for a lab created diamond, is politics.” Lab diamonds are marketed as eco-friendly and responsibly sourced.

That still may not be enough to sell some on the idea. Real diamonds are seen as a symbol of eternal love… something precious forged over a very long time. Something cooked up just this year – not so much.

And that’s the sentiment of at least one man who found himself in the impossible spot of choosing the perfect engagement ring out of many in a San Francisco shop. “It’s something that will last a lifetime. It’s the way that I can make my expression of intimacy and love felt, every day, for the rest of her life,” said Jordan Etra.

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Odds are he’s going to buy the real thing.