When it comes to beautiful, elegant jewellery, diamonds are one of the number one choices, for anything from necklaces to engagement rings. But when it comes to these coveted, sparkling gems, how can you be sure that your jewellery is ethically produced or manufactured? It may be more complicated than you’d think to tell the difference.
This ultimate guide to ethical jewellery provides a little more insight into exactly what ethical diamonds are, and how you can tell the difference between gems that are ethically sourced and those that are the result of less moral practices. Read on to find out more today:
The mining and manufacture of diamonds
Looking at the beautiful finished product of diamond mining, with its pristine cut and elegant finish, it can be hard to believe that every natural diamond began its life in the earth as a far more rough version of the final product. Diamonds take an incredibly long time to form – millions of years in most cases – and are usually sourced in deep-earth mines, or through the ocean floor and some riverbeds.
However, in many of these cases, there are ethical concerns related to how the diamonds are mined. In African countries, many diamonds are collected under unregulated practices, with very low compensation to the miners, who often mine entirely by hand in unhealthy conditions. But it’s not just the miners themselves who are at risk because of how diamonds are mined. The degradation of lands and soil erosion is a big concern with unethical mining, as well as the draining of rivers and lakes for a similar purpose.
Once diamonds have been mined, they are then sorted according to their quality, size, value and colour. It’s at this point that each diamond is transformed from its dull, natural state into the cut and polished gems we know and love. At this point, the gems can be added to rings, necklaces and other jewellery ready for sale.
Making diamonds ethical
So, with so much issue and conflict surrounding diamonds, how can you ensure that the gem of your choice is ethically sourced and sustainable? Being more selective about the country of origin can go a long way. While African diamonds may be the result of conflict (known as ‘blood diamonds’), sourcing from other countries is far more responsible.
Diamonds sourced from Canada, for example, are the most environmentally friendly in the world, as the mines within the country are required to meet stringent safety and environmental requirements. Canadian mines Ekati and Diavik both use wind farms to reduce their impact on the environment further, and to ensure the process of mining is as ethical as possible. While not quite as green, similar sustainability rules are in place for Russian-sourced and South African-sourced diamond mines. The fair diamond mining scheme in Liberia also shows Africa making strides towards more ethical diamond sourcing.
One excellent way of assessing the ethicality of diamonds is The Kimberley Process, a specific scheme that ensures all diamonds meet the strict standards set out to be 100% ethical in sourcing, manufacturing and production. If you ensure any diamond purchase comes with the KP stamp of approval, then you’re choosing a diamond that’s sourced in the right ways. In fact, as this guide explains, since the creation of The Kimberley Process, they claim that the production of blood diamonds has been reduced over 99%.
Why human-made diamonds are a great alternative for ethical shoppers
An alternative to any form of natural diamond is to instead choose human-made diamonds for your engagement ring, necklace or earrings. These diamonds are created specifically in labs to mimic the clarity, appearance and shine of natural diamonds, and to the untrained eye, there is very little difference between the two. Synthetic diamonds have been around for years, and can now match the chemical properties of an organic diamond almost precisely.
Produced either through a ‘High-Pressure High Temperature’ process or through ‘Chemical Vapour Deposition’, HPHT or CVD, these processes manipulate carbon using pressure and temperature to transform a source of carbon into a perfect diamond. Each method requires a diamond seed – a single crystal – meaning its impact on the environment is far less, while the results are incredibly similar to mined diamonds.
If you’re considering how to be more ethical in your jewellery choices, we hope this guide has provided you with a little more insight into the options available to you. The best way to ensure you’re on-track with ethical jewellery is to keep an eye out for that KP approval – or to bypass real diamonds altogether, in exchange for a human-made alternative that has the same shine without any of the environmental concerns.