It’s been a whirlwind year for Allie Long.
Fresh off a thrilling World Cup win in June, the midfielder flew to Los Angeles for the ESPY Awards where she took home the trophy for Best Team with fellow soccer stars Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan, among others.
But all of the excitement came to a halt when Long, 32, realized thousands of dollars were stolen from her hotel ring, along with her engagement ring and the key to the New York City that Mayor Bill de Blasio gave to her at the parade in June.
“As we were getting ready to go to leave for the airport, my husband went to go check his wallet for his cash and he was like, ‘My cash is missing’ and I said ‘Don’t be crazy,” the athlete (who co-founded an apparel line with Morgan and Kelley O’Hara called USA Beat Everybody) tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I opened my wallet and my cash was gone, my ring was stolen and the key to the city [from Mayor Bill de Blasio] was missing too.”
Long — who says she took her ring off because her knuckle was swollen from a soccer-related injury — and her husband, Jose Batista, filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department but nothing came of the investigation.
“I was still celebrating the World Cup win with my girls so to lose my ring was so upsetting,” she says. “I was really devastated.”
So when lab-grown diamond company Great Heights offered to partner with her on designing a new ring, Long jumped at the opportunity.
The soccer star explains, “Great Heights is ethical and environmentally-friendly. They’re really passionate about changing the way people view diamonds so I was like ‘100 yes — let’s do this’.”
The team approached Long with a few ideas but she says they wanted it to be a true collaboration and allowed her to be hands on during the design process.
She opted for an emerald cut diamond, just like her original ring, but amped things up a notch by adding two trapezoid emerald cut diamonds on either side. Long (who’s currently training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) tells PEOPLE, “My ring turned out amazing!”
Friends and family have already complimented Long on the new and improved diamond — and wondered how it looks clear and “real,” she says.
While technically the Great Heights design is synthetic, Long explains, “There’s no way a human could ever that it’s fake no matter how much expertise and training they have.”
According to The New York Times, lab grown diamonds have “the same properties as a natural diamond but different and distinguishable crystal patterns.”
“The singular difference between our diamonds and mined diamonds is the origin,” the Great Heights website states. “Every Great Heights diamond is lab-grown using a craft that mirrors the natural growing process. They’re molecularly identical, but without the destructive force of mining or murky ethics.”
“I think this is the new way that diamonds are going to be presented to the world,” Long tells PEOPLE. “You feel better about your shopping decision and what you’re doing when you’re helping the world at the same time.”
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