Can diamonds ever really be green, sustainable and ethical?
Diamonds have always had a mixed reception from the public. While many celebrities and everyday individuals enjoy these beautiful stones, there has been controversy too.
Blood diamonds have made the news many times in the past. Conflict-free diamonds are almost the only type available today, but there is still a stain on the industry. Mining is another area of concern for many, especially with people being far more conscious of the environment.
The first diamonds that were ever discovered were in India, well over 2,000 years ago. That country’s news outlet, The Economic Times, reports that production levels of diamonds are expected to reach over 120 million carats in 2022. While this is lower than pre-pandemic levels, it will still involve heavy mining activities.
Is diamond mining sustainable?
Many of us have read about bitcoin mining in the past. When bitcoin was invented there were a finite amount of them available. As each coin is mined, it gets harder and takes longer to mine the next one. This is precisely what is occurring with real mining and diamonds.
Since the start of the industry, there have been six billion carats mined from the planet. This is depleting the known reserves and means that every carat mined takes longer.
The longer it takes to mine diamonds, the more energy is used. Fossil fuels are used in mining, as well as explosives. Fossil fuels in themselves are running out and when used they cause harmful emissions.
In short, diamond mining is not sustainable, so alternatives should be looked at.
When will diamond reserves run out?
The news was bleak for diamond producers and their fans in 2010 when DeBeers announced that the world’s diamond reserves would be depleted in 20 years. If this estimate was correct, then there would be just eight years’ worth of diamonds left in the world now.
According to Statista though, the world’s diamond reserves are estimated to be at around 1.2 billion carats. This would mean that the last diamonds would be mined in approximately 18 years’ time. However, the search for more reserves continues.
Another concern for diamond miners is that the longer it takes to mine, the more expensive the gemstones will become. There is a possibility that consumers will no longer be able to afford diamonds long before the mines run dry.
How is it possible to buy ethical diamonds?
Fortunately, blood diamonds have been pretty much removed from all marketplaces. Every reputable dealer on the planet sells only conflict-free diamonds now, so this ethical dilemma has largely been removed.
When it comes to the planet though, there is concern that buying a diamond means contributing to the damage mining does. Therefore, it could be worth looking at synthetic or lab-grown diamonds.
A simple search for the best place to buy lab-grown diamonds in the UK will reveal all.
What are lab-grown diamonds?
There are two methods for growing diamonds in a laboratory, but they both start the same way.
Growing a diamond means using a diamond seed. This is a tiny sliver of a diamond about as wide as a strand of hair. Then either chemical vapour deposition or another method involving high pressure and temperature is used to grow the diamond.
Carbon is used to add to the diamond seed until a larger rough diamond is grown.
Can laboratory-made gems truly be classed as diamonds?
Lab-grown diamonds are perhaps a fashion trend worth investing in for those concerned about the viability of mining. These diamonds have the same make up and properties as those that are taken from the ground.
The GIA, who are leading authority on gemstones, states that lab-grown diamonds are the same as those that are mined. The official ruling now says that they are classed as diamonds, and they should be graded in the same way. This means that they fall under the four Cs of clarity, colour, carat and cut.
Are laboratory-made diamonds really green and eco-friendly?
It seems that every time something is declared sustainable, holes appear. Solar panels, for instance, are a touchy subject for some due to the minerals used in them having to be mined. Lab-grown diamonds have also come under scrutiny.
Clearly, mining is damaging to the planet. There are huge holes across the surface areas where mines have been dug and the carbon footprint of a mined diamond is extremely high. Nevertheless, a lot of energy is consumed to grow a diamond in a lab too.
The trouble with synthetic diamonds is that some producers aren’t using clean energy sources. A lab-grown diamond can actually create three times the greenhouse gas emissions that a natural diamond does.
While lab-grown diamonds are potentially far more sustainable, some research from consumers should take place to see how the producers are operating their labs.
What are other sustainable options for buying diamonds?
Lab-grown and new natural diamonds aren’t the only choices for consumers. Other options are to buy existing secondhand jewellery. This removes the need for mining or producing any new gemstones.
Another idea is to recycle, taking diamonds from existing jewellery and having them reworked into rings or bracelets as desired. Recycled or reclaimed diamonds are often considerably less expensive than their new retail cousins, so they won’t hurt the wallet or the planet.
Lab-grown diamonds have the potential to be eco-friendly if a clean energy source is used. They are clearly more sustainable than mining and far more carats can be produced in a lab than remain in the ground.
People are wising up to the need to protect the environment and manufacturers are adjusting their practices. There is a bright future for sustainable clothes for instance and now jewellery producers are also taking notice of green trends.
It was estimated that around 9% of the world’s diamond market was made up of lab-grown stones in 2019 and this figure is expected to double in the next few years as consumers look for more ethical and sustainable jewellery options.
The editorial unit