This post is generously sponsored by Clean Origin lab grown diamonds. As always, EcoCult only works with companies we believe are doing good, innovative things.
When my now-husband proposed to me three and a half years ago, I made sure he knew how much getting an ethically-sourced diamond was important to me. I planned on wearing this thing every day for a really, really long time. I had a design picked out from an ethically-sourced diamond company, and he purchased the exact one I wanted.
So when claims surfaced about that company’s lack of transparency and potential lies about their ability to actually verify where their diamonds came from, I couldn’t even read the articles or watch the videos. I was so disappointed to have been duped, and that I might actually be wearing a conflict diamond on my finger.
Since then, I’ve learned that this lack of transparency isn’t just with that one brand. This is the risk we take whenever we buy “ethically-sourced” diamonds from any company. The unfortunate truth is that even if these brands try really hard to be as transparent as possible in the origin of their diamonds, they still have to blindly trust someone, somewhere along the way. There’s just no way to truly know. And when transparency is the biggest selling point for conscious diamond buyers like you, this is a real problem.
That’s why if I knew about lab-grown diamonds back then, I don’t think I would have risked the unknown! The opportunity to get a real diamond, at almost half the price, with way less environmental and social degradation… well, I can’t think about that now. But maybe you can.
A Diamond is Forever?
How did we even get to the point where a diamond equates to love? Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the greatest marketing campaign of all time, when we were all sold the fact that “A diamond is forever.” Even though diamonds are not actually all that rare and have not always been a symbol of eternal love, they have become an accepted statement in our culture through super smart marketing and a monopoly-controlled industry.
But even knowing that, I’m not here to judge you for wanting that sparkle on your finger! So why not just get one that’s mined ethically and sustainably? It turns out that’s difficult (as in, virtually impossible) to do.
The Problem with Ethically-Sourced Diamonds
The “ethical” jewelry world has been fraught with problems of its own. The Kimberley Process was developed in 2003 in order to prevent “conflict diamonds”—that is, diamonds that are “not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments”— from entering the mainstream diamond market. However, it turns out that because of loopholes in the process used by corrupt and violent governments, the Kimberley Process can’t be trusted.
What about the “beyond conflict free” diamonds you might have seen? This seems like a great option. But here’s the problem: no matter what ethical jewelry brand you purchase from, the unfortunate reality is that there is no way to truly guarantee where your diamond is coming from, no matter how hard these companies work for transparency and how wonderful their intentions. Yes, these diamonds may really be sourced ethically and humanely! Or, they may not.
So why is it impossible to ensure ethical sourcing? Diamond companies have to work with a number of suppliers and intermediaries when sourcing their diamonds. The majority of these intermediaries are based in India, where there is an unfortunate lack of oversight. As these diamonds pass through an entire chain of custody, ethical diamond companies essentially just have to blindly trust their suppliers and third-party contractors without solid proof. Without that transparency, the value proposition of ethically-sourced diamond companies is lost.
Then There Are the Environmental Costs…
We haven’t even touched on the environmental impact that diamond mining takes on our planet. There are three primary ways in which diamonds are mined, and all of them have their own flaws:
- Traditional, open-pit mining requires digging miles beneath the earth’s surface. This process can displace about 1,700 tons of earth for just one carat of rough diamond, leading to deforestation and soil erosion.
- Another common type, alluvial mining, redirects water flow to capture diamonds that have reached the surface of river beds. This leads to the deterioration of water quality, biodiversity, and the overall health of aquatic life.
- The third type of mining, which is most common today, is marine mining. Using this method, huge ships with powerful pipes drill deep into the seabed, sucking up everything in their path and displacing sea life. Companies, including De Beers, argue that because all of this material is dumped back into the sea and it eventually resettles, it’s not harmful. Ok.
Enter: Lab Grown Diamonds
It seems like the best solution to all of this craziness and fraud might be to just forego buying diamonds altogether… or at least ones that were mined from the earth. Lab grown diamonds are almost exactly the same as mined diamonds—the chemical makeup is identical, the FTC has ruled that lab grown diamonds are real, and only a professional can tell the difference under a microscope. In fact, synthetic diamond companies use the exact same process to make lab grown diamonds that the earth uses to make real ones, except that in a lab, they can speed the process up so it takes weeks instead of millions of years.
We’re not talking about simulated (a.k.a. fake) diamonds like cubic zirconia, clear quartz, or moissanite. These lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds.
Since they’re grown in a lab, you don’t have to worry about the ethical and environmental costs of making or extracting these gems. In 2013, Frost and Sullivan, a global research and consulting organization, did a comprehensive study analyzing the diamond industry and comparing mined and grown diamonds. They found that:
- A mined diamond requires, on average, about 126 gallons of water to produce, whereas lab grown diamond requires about 18.
- When it comes to carbon emissions, a mined diamond produces more than 125 pounds of carbon and 30 pounds of sulphur oxide for every single carat, but lab grown diamonds emit just 6 pounds of carbon and no sulphur oxide at all.
- For every mined diamond, there is on average 97 square feet of land disturbed, compared to 0.07 square feet of land disturbed for a grown diamond
- When it comes to human rights and safety: mined diamonds result in 1 injury for every 1,000 workers annually, while lab-grown diamonds result in zero. The diamond mining industry also sees 80 days of lost work time (per 1,000 employees) every year due to injury.
All in all, according to Frost & Sullivan’s study, “mined diamonds represent more than seven times the level of impact as compared to grown diamonds.” Plus, the cost of a grown diamond is currently up to 40% lower than earth-mined diamonds.
But, Are Lab Grown Diamonds Less “Special?”
Part of what makes a diamond so valuable is that it’s rare, right? Well, no. Like we talked about before, although the availability of diamonds have gone through ups and downs, the idea of ‘scarcity’ has mostly just been a marketing ploy. Natural diamonds are actually pretty abundant.
Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, aren’t easy to whip up or DIY. First, you need a $500,000 plasma reactor. Lab grown diamonds only take up 5% of the diamond industry at the time of publication, so if you really want that notion of scarcity, lab grown diamonds actually fit the bill better than mined ones.
Clean Origin is Paving the Way for Lab Grown Diamonds
Since lab-grown diamonds are still a really new thing, you shouldn’t trust just anyone with your purchase. The founder of Clean Origin is a third generation jeweler, so he is extremely familiar with the ins and outs of a perfect diamond, along with all of the woes of the industry, which is precisely why they’re doing things differently.
Not only is Clean Origin—as its name implies—offering a much more ethical and environmentally-friendly alternative to mined diamonds, but they’re doing it in a way that prioritizes customer satisfaction to the highest degree.
- Their diamonds are independently certified for quality (cut, color, clarity, and carat weight).
- Everyone on Clean Origin’s customer service team has at least five years of experience in the jewelry trade. They are there to help you through the entire process of buying a diamond, whether it’s to explain the Four Cs of diamonds or to answer any other questions you might have about lab-grown diamonds.
- They offer free shipping, free resizing, and have a 100 day return policy if you’re not satisfied.
- They offer a Lifetime Manufacturing Warranty.