Why Lab Grown Diamonds Are Sustainable
The world of diamond mining and manufacturing has historically been fraught, to put it mildly. From the prevalence of child workers in the world’s unregulated mines to conflict diamonds – often called “blood diamonds” – harvested in the midst of political violence, to false marketing claims about their rarity, they are tied up in a web of exploitation.
And yet they have, since at least the early twentieth century, been the world’s most popular symbol of love and commitment, delicately set in engagement and wedding rings and placed upon the finger of one’s beloved.
Diamond rings are ubiquitous regardless of income level; they’re a unifying social monument to marriage. Even my husband, when he proposed at the tender age of 20, in a sea of undergraduate debt, made sure to buy me an engagement ring containing (teeny tiny) diamonds.
There are, of course, companies that use traceable diamonds, which means that they monitor the supply chain for things like labor abuse and unsustainable or corrupt practices. But, as we have seen time and time again, it is rather difficult to monitor an international supply chain, especially when mined materials are involved.
Increasingly, the ethical and sustainable solution points to lab grown diamonds.
What are lab grown diamonds?
Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds produced using the same process as nature, albeit in a controlled (and comparatively speedy!) lab environment.
The result is the same sparkle and quality, but with several benefits that make them the sustainable and ethical preference for most:
- Lab grown diamonds are better for workers in the supply chain: the safe, regulated lab environment ensures that no workers are harmed, a marked difference from mined diamonds.
- The supply chain is traceable: the lab grown diamond industry requires a much smaller operating scale, and isn’t reliant on following the mines for new raw materials, which means it can be regulated to a much greater degree.
- Lab grown diamonds use vastly less water: Mined diamonds require 126 gallons of water per carat, versus 18 for lab grown.
- Carbon emissions are vastly decreased: Lab grown diamonds produce only 4.8% what mined diamonds produce.
- Lab grown diamonds cost less: according to Clean Origin, lower risk and a more integrated supply chain result in diamonds that cost up to 40% less than traditional, mined diamonds.
As lab-grown becomes the increasingly popular choice, you may be wondering what happens to the mines. Whitney Bauck addressed this for Fashionista. While she and the industry experts she interviewed indicated that closing down a mine carries with it several considerations about long term environmental health, Bauck points out that the luxury companies that operate these mines have a vested interest in maintaining positive reputations with would-be consumers. There are resources to do this responsibly, and the long term effects for both local ecology and communities are beneficial.
The net positive of lab grown diamonds – and the ability to trace the supply chain carefully – makes them the obvious choice for new diamond purchases. Clean Origin, my sponsor, carries a large selection of engagement rings, wedding and anniversary bands, and tennis bracelets at competitive prices for lab grown diamonds.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.
Tuesday 28th of April 2020
I just got engaged (not being able to celebrate with loved ones due to social distancing has been rough), and I was happy to see a lot of ethical alternatives to diamonds out there. I ultimately went with a vintage garnet option, but it’s awesome that ethical bridal jewelry is becoming more and more popular.
Sunday 3rd of May 2020
I agree! Having both ethical new options and vintage options gives people access to so many good alternatives.