What is a Sustainable Diamond?

Sustainability is quite the cultural buzzword today. Everyone is looking for ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle, from purchasing reusable cups and straws and toting around reusable grocery bags, to composting their food and riding a bike to work. Now people are even interested in sustainable jewelry and sustainable fashion. However, one thing that can be sourced sustainably that may not have ever occurred to you is your diamonds. Who knew, right?

While diamonds are a girl’s best friend, historically, many diamonds have made their debut onto the market via highly unethical and shady practices. If you’ve ever seen the popular movie Blood Diamond, it probably answered some of your questions like, “what is a blood diamond?” and “how are diamonds mined?”

Admittedly, those practices don’t make a diamond engagement ring seem very swoon-worthy when you stop to think about it. What had to happen to bring that diamond to the market? Was anyone harmed in the process? Are diamonds rare? How are diamonds formed? as the planet harmed when extracting them? Thoughts like these have prompted many diamond lovers who are also eco-conscious to look for planet-friendly alternatives that come from ethical sourcing practices. And where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

So, is it ethical to buy diamonds? Well, this is where sustainable diamonds step onto the scene. In fact, sustainably created diamonds are growing in popularity and eating up market share by leaps and bounds. People want sustainable engagement rings and jewelry options that are easy on the environment, and traditional diamond mining misses the mark with a much higher negative impact. 

Did you know that for every one carat of natural diamond that’s extracted from the earth, up to 200 tons of terrain is unsettled, 120 gallons of fresh water is consumed, and 140 pounds of air is permanently contaminated? Not to mention the consumption of countless gallons of fossil fuel. When put into perspective like that, it almost makes you wonder why anyone would want to continue mining for them at all. 

How Much Do Sustainable Diamonds Cost?

When looking for sustainably created diamonds, look for diamonds that are either ethically sourced, grown in a lab, or recycled. Though some may have a higher price tag depending on where you buy them, in general, lab grown diamonds are up to 80% percent less costly than natural diamonds. However, your mileage can vary when it comes to diamonds that are recycled, and ethically sourced natural diamonds will definitely land on the higher end of the pricing scale. Whether you are looking for a diamond ring or loose stones, let’s walk through the different sustainable diamond options available.

Types of Sustainable Diamonds

There are several types of diamonds you can choose from. Some options may be more suitable than others, depending on your budget and your personal tastes. 

Recycled Diamonds

These are a form of sustainable diamonds where the diamonds are reset, recut, and reused in a new piece of fine jewelry. Although the original source of the diamond is more likely to be unsustainable, it’s much better to recycle existing diamonds than to mine new ones from the ground. You can’t rewrite history, but you can certainly learn from it.  

The beauty of recycled diamonds is that though negative processes may have been used to mine them in the first place, they can be recycled as a way to help balance out those negative scales and turn them into a positive. 

Sustainable Lab Grown Diamonds

Synthetic or lab grown diamonds are another variant and perhaps the most popular choice when shopping for sustainable engagement rings.

Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds created in an artificial environment that mimic the billion years-long processes of pressure and heat that form natural diamonds. Though they are created in a lab, everything about them mirrors naturally-mined diamonds. The only difference is the lab grew them instead, in a process that’s infinitely faster, we might add.

Carbon-Negative Diamonds

Aether Diamonds are a trailblazer in this genre. After their overwhelming success, the phenomenon gained steam, and many more companies have joined the carbon-negative train. 

Carbon-negative diamond makers swipe carbon from the air and morph all the muck contained within it into sparkling diamonds. It’s kind of magical, really. The whole process claims to remove 15 metric tons of pollution from the atmosphere for every one-carat diamond, so not only are these diamonds created sustainably, they may actually be improving the planet, not just preserving it. 

How are Diamonds Grown in a Lab?

Imagine some people clad in white lab coats, working in a spacious laboratory, operating super-powerful diamond-making machines. Using these specialized machines, the lab specialists mimic what the earth does to manufacture sustainable diamonds in one of two ways.

1. Using Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) 

This process uses a tiny diamond fragment called a ‘seed,’ coupled with chemicals and heat to create a plasma-like substance that is essentially layered to build a complete diamond. 

2. Using High-Pressure and High-Temperatures (HPHT)

This process exerts intense pressure and heat on a diamond seed that’s enveloped in pure carbon. The scathing heat causes the carbon to melt. Once cooled, the diamond is ready to be honed as any other natural diamond would.

Pros of Sustainable Diamonds

The first and foremost reward of buying a sustainable diamond is a clean conscience. Buying sustainably helps contribute to the noble cause of preserving planet earth for future generations and fighting against the human rights atrocities that go along with certain diamond mining outfits that care more for profits than humanity.

Also, despite containing the same chemical, physical, and optical characteristics, sustainable diamonds are available for a much lower cost than traditional diamonds, potentially saving you 40% or more on pricing. 

Additionally, lab created sustainable diamonds may be brighter, bigger, and more transparent than natural ones. That means it looks glitzy from every angle, which is only what you deserve in an engagement ring designed to shout your love to the world. 

Cons of Sustainable Diamonds

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there’s no ‘vintage’ tag attached to lab grown diamonds. That means no vintage value either. Since they are essentially created on-demand, their resale value may be negligible when compared to other diamonds. 

Additionally, sustainable diamonds can look quite uniform in appearance, and some say that uniformity opens the way to banality. Meanwhile, no two natural diamonds are the same, meaning every diamond is quite literally, ‘one of a kind.’

Keep in mind that there is a stigma attached to lab grown diamonds. Some people feel as though lab grown diamonds are not “real” diamonds when in reality, lab grown diamonds are just as real and even chemically identical to natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are also more environmentally friendly and ethical than any mined diamond. More research needs to be done by consumers if they are interested in ethical and sustainable jewelry. 

Special Considerations

Though there’s no denying that natural diamonds are indeed beautiful, you simply can’t rule out the fact that many of those diamonds are produced using harmful mining practices and unpaid labor. 

Additionally, if you have a tight budget, some people may struggle to buy a natural diamond ring as an engagement ring, considering the higher price points they sell for. Sustainable diamonds, however, offer more affordable options without sacrificing beauty or quality. 

3 Rules of Buying Sustainable Diamonds

  1. Always ask your jeweler about proper documentation so that you can trace your diamond’s sources and ensure you’re not getting cheated. 
  2. Never hesitate to ask out-of-the-box questions of your diamond retailer, until you’re satisfied that what you’re seeing and being told, is actually what you’re getting. 
  3. Always shop with jewelers you trust.  

Fun Facts About Sustainable Diamonds

When you purchase sustainable diamonds, you know right away they are either lab grown diamonds or recycled diamonds. That means there were no vast resources of drilling, mining, and extraction required to bring them into existence, and no new mining was required to produce them. They were either made synthetically or were recycled diamonds already in circulation. Win, win.

Though affordability may be an issue with natural diamonds, a sustainable diamond goes through fewer hands, which means a nice price break for you. You could potentially save 40% or more on your purchase, making them both budget-friendly and eco-friendly.

They are crafted using procedures that mimic nature sans the ethical and environmental harm, and the process is phenomenally fast. Labs can prepare the same classy yet ethical diamonds in 6 to 10 weeks that, in nature, would take around 1.3 billion years. 

Amazingly, lab created diamonds are certified and graded by the same gemologists’ grade as natural ones. That’s because lab diamonds are physically, chemically, and aesthetically identical to natural diamonds, minus the ethical or environmental damage. They even sparkle precisely like the real thing. Truly, you could not look at one and discern a difference.

So Why Buy Sustainable Diamonds?

The reality is that people are harmed when unethical activities take place during diamond mining. Diamonds obtained sustainably will help to make these horrid practices all but obsolete. Good morals should be allowed to prevail, and you help contribute to the whole process when you choose to spend your dollars on sustainable diamond rings or wedding bands.

Sources: 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-20/ethical-engagement-rings-that-are-truly-eco-friendly-guilt-free

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200207-the-sparkling-rise-of-the-lab-grown-diamond

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/abinlot/2019/12/20/what-makes-lab-grown-diamonds-a-more-affordable-and-sustainable-alternative-to-mined-diamonds/amp/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_diamond

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