One of the allures of earth-mined diamonds is the wonder of their creation. It takes billions of years in the perfect environment for a diamond to form deep in the earth, hence the diamond’s romantic association as a symbol of eternity.
Still, the fact that diamonds need to be mined from the earth raises concerns about ethics and sustainability. Can newly mined diamonds be sustainable or ethical? Are there other types of diamonds that are more sustainable and ethical?
We’re answering these questions as we go over everything you need to know about how to find a sustainable, ethical diamond. We’ll cover the difference between sustainability and ethics, then discuss three responsibly-sourced diamond options.
What is a Sustainable Diamond?
Sustainable diamonds are diamonds that can be produced without depleting natural resources. Newly mined diamonds are a finite resource, so they don’t fit this definition. However, lab-grown diamonds and recycled diamonds can both be produced without depleting natural resources, so they can be considered sustainable.
What is an Ethical Diamond?
Many consider lab-grown diamonds to be ethical because they don’t involve mining. For those who want an ethical natural diamond, there are two options: recycled diamonds and ethically-mined diamonds.
Recycled diamonds are natural diamonds that are repurposed beyond their original piece of jewelry. They’re generally considered ethical because they don’t require any new mining, so they won’t have a negative impact on people or the environment.
Whether a newly mined diamond can be considered ethical will vary based on how it was produced. There’s no single definition of what makes an “ethical diamond,” but most in the diamond industry would agree that an ethical diamond must meet the following criteria:
- It was produced using ethical labor conditions
- It was produced using methods of diamond mining that minimize environmental impact
- It is a conflict-free diamond
Ethical mining companies must have strict standards for labor conditions, avoid mining in conflict diamond regions, and take steps to minimize their environmental footprint as much as possible.
So, how do you know if an earth diamond you’re thinking of buying is ethical? You should purchase from a retailer that offers ethical diamonds that have been checked along every step of the supply chain. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about where and how a diamond was produced before purchasing it.
Types of Ethical and Sustainable Diamonds
Lab-created diamonds are real diamonds made by scientists in a lab. These man-made gemstones have the exact same carbon crystal structure as earth diamonds, so they’re equally beautiful and durable. The main difference between the two types of diamonds is how they form.
This difference is an important one when it comes to sustainability and ethics. Unlike mined diamonds, lab-made diamonds are sustainable because their creation doesn’t deplete natural resources. Because they don’t need to be mined, lab diamonds also don’t come with the same ethical or environmental concerns as natural diamonds.
With that said, the lab-created diamond production process still requires energy. To make a lab diamond, scientists must use energy to make carbon form a diamond around a diamond seed (a tiny piece of rough diamond). Whether the energy required to make a lab diamond is comparable to the high amount of energy used when mining diamonds is debatable. Still, if you’re concerned about energy usage, choose a lab-grown diamond company that focuses on offsetting their carbon footprint.
Recycled diamonds, also called reclaimed diamonds, are pre-owned diamonds that are repurposed beyond their original use. They may be resold in their original setting or reset into a new piece of jewelry. In some cases, recycled loose diamonds may also be recut before being put into a new piece of jewelry.
Like recycled precious metals, recycled diamonds are considered a more sustainable and ethical alternative to newly mined materials. Recycled metals and diamonds are more sustainable because they’re repurposed materials that are given a new life. No new resources are consumed when a piece of jewelry is made from recycled gold and diamonds. Recycled diamonds and metals are considered more ethical because they don’t require new mining, so buying them doesn’t fund the diamond mining industry.
Ethically-Sourced Mined Diamonds
Technically, newly mined diamonds are not a sustainable option, since they are a finite resource. However, they can be considered ethical if they were mined using ethical practices. Ethical diamond mining requires adhering to fair labor practices and strict environmental standards, and avoiding mining in conflict zones.
It can be challenging for consumers to know whether or not a diamond was mined using ethical practices. So, if you’re interested in a newly mined diamond but want to make sure it was produced ethically, shop with sellers who care about the ethicality of the diamonds they sell. Look for sellers who know where their diamonds are from and how they were mined.
Deciding Which Type of Diamond Is For You
Ultimately, the type of diamond that’s right for you is very personal. To help you decide for yourself, let’s talk about how the three types of diamonds described above compare. We’ll discuss how they’re similar, then go over their differences and why people tend to choose each type of diamond.
Similarities Between Lab-Grown and Natural Diamonds
When it comes to chemical and physical properties, lab-grown diamonds, recycled diamonds, and ethically mined diamonds are the same. All three are real diamonds with the same carbon crystal structure. They all earn a 10 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making them an excellent choice for everyday wear. Assuming the specific diamonds being compared are of the same carat weight and quality, these three types of diamonds will also all look exactly the same.
Why Choose Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds have several advantages compared to mined diamonds. They’re made in a lab, so it’s easy to trace the origins of man-made diamonds and know that they were produced ethically. They don’t need to be mined, so they’re arguably better for environmental sustainability. On top of all this, lab-grown diamonds cost less than natural gemstones. The price of a lab-grown diamond will be around 20% to 50% lower than a natural diamond of the same carat weight and quality.
Why Choose Recycled Diamonds?
People who choose recycled diamonds typically want a natural diamond but also want to be sure they’re making an environmentally-friendly and ethical jewelry purchase. Recycled stones don’t need to be mined for a second time, so purchasing one doesn’t fund mining operations that have the potential to have a negative impact on people or the environment. Recycled stones are also quite sustainable since they ensure diamonds that are already in circulation get used and enjoyed to the fullest.
Why Choose Ethically-Sourced Mined Diamonds?
The most common reason a person who is concerned about ethics and sustainability would choose an ethically-sourced mined diamond is that they want a natural diamond, but struggle to find what they’re looking for in the second-hand diamond market. It can be harder to find specific types of recycled center stones and accent stones. So, if someone can’t find a recycled diamond with the specifications they want for their diamond jewelry, they may choose an ethically-sourced mined diamond instead.
Ethical and Sustainable Diamonds at Stein Diamonds
Find a beautiful gemstone you can feel good about at Stein Diamonds. Browse our selection of lab-grown diamond studs or create your own lab-grown diamond engagement ring using the lab-made center stone of your choice. If you’re searching for a specific type of recycled or ethically-sourced diamond, contact us for personalized assistance. We’d love to help you source your perfect stone.