Did you buy your wife a cubic zirconia or a real diamond? Okay, so that is not a perfect analogy as a diamond is much more expensive but this is the first thing that comes to mind when we get asked this question.
Cultured Stone (faux stone, man-made stone, manufactured stone) is concrete poured into a mold then colored to look like real stone. It was introduced decades ago as an alternative to the heavier natural four-inch thick building stone (prior to the introduction of the natural sawn thin stone veneer). The lighter cultured stone made for easier installation causing the product to grow in popularity. This pushed the natural stone market to come up with a sawing process to produce a lighter similar product. Hence, began the age of natural stone veneer. When considering whether to use the thin cut natural stone veneer or cultured stone one must take into account raw material cost, installation cost, finished look and longevity.