Written by Brian Wilson On July 2, 2019.
Enjoy this article, written and researched by Sonya Zelaya
Here at Diadem Jewelers, we know the process of choosing an engagement ring is full of questions. What style of ring do I choose? Is platinum or yellow gold better? While there are so many options, we know that choosing a ring the bride will definitely not regret, requires choosing one that aligns with what she cares about the most. How do you choose the right diamond when you (or your bride-to-be) cares about the environment? Let’s help clear up some of the basics.
What’s the Difference Between Mined and Laboratory-Grown Diamonds?
Almost nothing. While most people are familiar with mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds that are “gem quality” (pretty enough to put into an engagement ring) are quite new to the jewelry scene. They are chemically and visually the same as the diamonds we have mined for centuries; The main difference is their origin. Mined diamonds are also called “natural” diamonds while lab-grown diamonds can go by other names like synthetic, lab-created, man-made, or cultured diamonds. Because they have all of the same chemical properties as the mined versions, a laboratory-grown diamond will last you just as long.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Mined Diamond?
The most immediate con that comes to mind with natural diamonds is how mining disrupts the natural state of the earth. Be aware that diamond mining can be done in a variety of ways, each leaving a different mark on the local ecosystem based on different factors. To combat the negative effects of mining, large mining companies like De Beers budget millions of dollars for environmental reclamation. Environmental reclamation is the process of returning a landscape to its original condition. The dirt that has been excavated is returned, including precious topsoil that is laid back for local flowers and grass to be planted. The mining industry has also made efforts to convert to renewable energy to offset their carbon emissions. Regulation of the mining industry requires companies to produce sustainability reports, mostly available on their websites, to hold them accountable for their efforts to avoid disturbing the ecosystem they work in. Mining companies can also create a better economy by providing jobs and resources for their local area. In terms of ethically sourced mined diamonds, ask your jeweler if they source diamonds that are a part of the Kimberley Process, which was originally created to prevent “conflict” diamonds from being added to the main supply of diamonds worldwide (Also known as diamonds that are mined and then sold to finance wars and genocides).
What are the Pros and Cons of a Lab-Grown Diamond?
They’re definitely conflict free! Created in a lab using one of two processes, HPHT or CVD, laboratory-grown diamonds are also anywhere from 20-40% less expensive than their mined counterparts. The issue that no one can predict is related to cost – will the prices of lab-grown diamonds go up, down, or stay the same? Kind of like the price of gas, no one can know ahead of time what the value of something will be in the future. Since lab-grown diamonds haven’t been on the jewelry market for very long, it’s even harder to predict than for mined diamonds. In terms of environmental accountability, the “newbie” status of lab-grown diamond companies means that they aren’t required to publish sustainability reports (yet). The question then becomes, what kind of energy is used to create lab-grown diamonds? Depending on the company, many try to use renewable energy and work to produce zero emissions.
With all of this information to sort through, why bother buying a diamond? Is there something more obviously environmentally friendly or ethical to buy?
At the end of the day, diamonds have proven to be the hardest gemstone on earth (a perfect 10 on Mohs Scale of Hardness). By investing into a stone that you can wear for the rest of your life, you prevent the demand for further mining in the future to replace the worn and scuffed stone in your engagement ring. It’s like buying a reusable glass container instead of constantly replacing your plastic Tupperware set. Making the effort to make the right decision now helps you stand by your decision in the long term. You want to feel good about your choice!
Oh no! What if I already bought a diamond and I’m not sure if it’s mined or laboratory-grown?
Take a look at your receipt- Does it say if it’s a natural or lab-grown diamond? If not, the next option is to get a grading report. Since it’s impossible to tell with a basic microscope if a diamond is mined or lab-grown, most jewelers and jewelry appraisers don’t have the advanced equipment yet to make this call. Make sure they can definitely determine if it’s lab-grown or mined, not just if it is “potentially” lab-grown. Your best bet is to send it to the American Gem Society or the Gemological Institute of America, two of the most trusted organizations in the jewelry world, for testing.
Think this is good information, but you’re still not sure which kind of diamond is right for you? Check out our venn diagram and the list of questions to ask yourself below.
Need to do some research? Check out these resources:
- Here are sustainability reports from various diamond mining companies: https://diamondproducers.com/sustainability/sustainability-reports/
- You can also look up sustainability reports from specific companies, for example: Tiffany and Co. https://www.tiffany.com/sustainability/
- Want to determine if your stone is mined or lab-grown? Check out the Gemological Institute of America: https://www.gia.edu/gem-lab
- Want to learn more about the Kimberly Process? Learn more with their own site: https://www.kimberleyprocess.com/en
- A great article from the Financial Times about the Kimberly Process: https://www.ft.com/content/76019f26-01f5-11e8-9e12-af73e8db3c71