Diamonds That Are Easy On Your Conscience

April babies must feel extra special as diamonds are the birthstone for this month, but you don't have to be born in April to enjoy wearing diamond jewellery. Diamonds are pretty irresistible and have the ability to endlessly fascinate and mesmerise. I believe that everyone should have the pleasure of owning diamond jewellery, and that it should be worn every day, not saved for special occasions.

Do you worry about the ethics of wearing diamonds, about the impact of diamond mining, processing, and trade, on communities and the environment?

What are ethical diamonds and how can you make sure that's what you will get when you invest in a new piece of jewellery?

The ethics of precious gemstones and metals has been the subject of much discussion in recent times, and it's a great development that many consumers want to have a clear conscience about the jewellery they are buying.

The word 'ethical' is used pretty broadly in the jewellery industry, but it is not necessarily used appropriately.  Conflict, or 'blood diamonds' have been at the forefront of the debate since the 1990s, but the issue is more complex than that, and encompasses matters such as child labour in artisanal alluvial mines and huge environmental impact in industrial mines.  The Nyurbinskaya pipe in Russia, for instance, is mined through open-pit methods with its current depth reaching 345m and designed depth being 750m.

This is further complicated  when you consider the political backdrop to the mining operations and trade in diamonds.  Do you want to unwittingly prop up a regime that has no time for human rights?  You might therefore want to know the origin of a diamond, but you may not always get a straight answer to your question.  For example, did you know that there is a difference between 'origin' and 'provenance'?  The former means where the diamond was mined whereas the latter usually means its last stop before it got to you. The Kimberley Process Certification System was established in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the diamond supply chain. However, this is a narrowly defined certification process and is not watertight.  Moreover, “conflict-free” diamonds are only regulated to avoid the rebel-funded diamond trade, without regard to ethically or environmentally sound sourcing. By and large, with some exceptions, diamonds are not traceable to their origins like fair trade coffee beans or organic produce. From mining to cutting and selling, diamonds pass through many hands, not all of them honest. Parcels get mixed along the way, and there is still no technology to scientifically analyse a diamond and determine where it came from.

So how can you make sure that you are buying an ethical diamond?

Option 1: Lab-Grown Diamonds

Completely man-made, these diamonds look identical to natural diamonds, and, since they’re “grown” in a lab, they are formed without any risk to miners or the environment (in terms of mining activity).  The demand for this type of diamond is growing fast and it is even recognised by the GIA which has been grading laboratory-grown diamonds since 2007. Since July 1, 2019, GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamond Reports and identification reports no longer use the term “synthetic.” The GIA Laboratory-Grown Diamond Report includes the standard GIA colour, clarity and cut grading scales for reference purposes.  It is, however, worth bearing in mind that just like all industrial activity, the manufacture of lab-grown diamonds still has an environmental impact.  For this reason, I source all my lab-grown diamonds from a supplier that is certified and independently verified as being 100% carbon neutral.  Moreover, From 17 January 2022, over a period of three months, this company will plant a tree in the name of their customer for every €250 spent with them. The trees will be in the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios in Peru. All diamonds used in my Molten Drops Collection are lab-grown diamonds (but you can also request a Canadamark or recycled diamond to be used).  Click here to view collection.

Option 2: Canadian diamonds

Canada, which is a relatively new name in the diamond mining world, has emerged as a major source of high-quality diamonds, many of them completely traceable to their source. What’s more, all Canadian diamonds are mined in line with the country’s strict environmental and fair labour laws and with respect to local indigenous people. The CanadaMark diamonds are not only polished in Canada, but they can be traced from mine to market with a unique ID number.  I have used CanadaMark diamonds recently and hope to work on more bespoke commissions featuring them. 

Platinum twig ring with Canadamark diamonds and montana sapphire

Option 3: Recycled diamonds

This could be an option that is pretty easy on your conscience. A diamond is removed from its setting in an existing piece of jewellery and re-purposed in a new one.  Such a diamond can be re-cut or polished and also re-certified.  I have had many bespoke commissions where a diamond has been extracted from an heirloom or inherited piece (most commonly grandma's engagement ring) and found a new life in a contemporary piece.  Such a piece can be doubly precious – both because of the sentimental value and the clear conscience of knowing that you haven't unwittingly supported an unethical trade.

Willow Wedding Ring Set with Heirloom Recycled Diamond Ring

What about the mining communities in Africa that depend on this industry?

There is often tension between pursuing one objective but inadvertently causing harm elsewhere. If the diamond trade shifted exclusively to lab grown or Canadian diamonds, this would have a detrimental effect on many other communities that rely on mining.  A new structure is needed where the diamonds stay within the same organisation from mining to polishing, providing the local population with work – not just back-breaking mining activity but more skilled work such as sorting and cutting.  In addition, such mines would also need to provide safe working conditions, fair pay, environmental impact mitigation and eventual remediation once a mine is exhausted.  And finally, a structure is needed where mines invest in projects to improve their communities such as healthcare, better water supply and access to education, even re-training so that the local population can develop other economic activity once mining operations have ceased. A number of these benefits are already in place for FairTrade certified gold, and I am proud to be a registered FairTrade gold jewellery supplier.