How to be sure that a diamond has been ethically sourcedAuthor: Becky Waldron
With great power comes great responsibility – a reality that is increasingly apparent for both brands and consumers. Entire sectors are under the spotlight as social responsibility and environmental concerns become more pressing topics of conversation.
Not least because of the pandemic, consumers are waking up to the power of their spending habits and what it means to spend wisely. The mindset is well-intended, but the practice is much more difficult. How can you be sure that products are sustainable and, more specifically, how can you be sure that a diamond has been sourced ethically?
This is the question we’re answering below, to help conscious consumers make better and more positively impactful buying decisions throughout their purchase journey.
What is an ethically sourced diamond?
The term ‘ethically sourced’ is increasingly prevalent in the products we buy and in marketing. In the context of the diamond industry, ethical sourcing refers to the labour and environmental standards that a diamond must meet to be considered ethical.
Fair treatment through supply chains
The diamond industry has historically been contaminated with harmful practices. Hence, why there is greater emphasis on the ethicality of diamonds than perhaps other goods.
The sourcing and selling of rough diamonds historically have played a large role in funding rebel warfare and perpetuating civil war, giving these jewels the name ‘conflict diamonds’ or ‘blood diamonds’.
Through this kind of illegal trade, civilians are usually forced into labour under poor working conditions. Workers’ human rights are also violated, with torture and brutality being a common theme within the trade and along supply chains.
A commitment to ethical sourcing from diamond companies entails a fair treatment of the workers along supply chains and relevant communities, not exploiting vulnerable or marginalized people.
An ethical diamond will be harvested using environmentally-sound processes. Diamonds that are mined from the earth can greatly affect the surrounding environment, wildlife and biodiversity. They affect not only the earth, but consume large amounts of water and pollute any surrounding bodies of water.
Diamond mining also contaminates the air, emitting around 143lbs of air pollution per carat, and requires a colossal supply of fossil fuels. A report by Imperial College London explains the environmental impacts diamond mining has. Clearing forests – taking away carbon absorption assets, using diesel-powered vehicles for ore transportation and the amount of energy used for diamond exploration and mining are a few of the ways that diamond mining is exacerbating climate change concerns.
A company that avoids, or works to tackle, the big issues of high carbon emissions, biodiversity loss and waste is a sign that they are ethically conscious and a progressive company worth choosing.
Sustainability in processes is another key influence for how ethical a diamond may be.
This refers to both environmental sustainability and social sustainability. An environmentally sustainable diamond mining process must have longevity in mind, to ensure it’s not having an imbalanced impact on natural resources.
We've discussed how a commitment to ethically sourcing diamonds means treating supply chain workers fairly, with no tolerance for exploitation. However, this sentiment extends far beyond individuals. A socially responsible approach will consider all people involved and the impact on society as a whole.
What to look for when buying an ethical diamond
Whether you’re searching for ethical engagement rings or sustainable loose diamonds, there are a few ways that you can make sure your jewel is free from harm.
Know its origin
As with most consumer products, it can be difficult knowing its exact origin. However, with something as valuable as a diamond, the origin shouldn’t be mysterious. If it is, it could be a red flag - it is almost impossible to truly know the origin of most earth mined diamonds.
In the context of a diamond, the origin can refer to two things; where it has been mined from, for example, the earth or a laboratory, and where in the world it has come from. The country of origin can sometimes be an indicator as to whether or not it might be a blood diamond.
Look for certification
An ethical diamond brand should have some sort of proof or pledge stating that they are not contributing towards the conflict diamond trade. Kimberley Process certification is one of the most well-known schemes that has been established to regulate the diamond trade. The scheme represents countries that have taken a stance against being involved in the blood diamond trade, willing to implement necessary requirements.
There is, however, some criticism around The Kimberley Process and its effectiveness in banning forced labour and harmful diamond-sourcing practices. That’s why digging deeper into a company’s suppliers and production process yourself is a more reliable way to be sure your diamond has been ethically sourced.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you’re struggling to find information on the origin of a diamond or any kind of ethical certification, then don’t hesitate to ask the diamond retailer. A diamond retailer with nothing to hide will be happy to answer any questions you have and provide any possible proof of ethical sourcing.
If you’re about to buy one of the most valuable possessions you own, jewellers should be accommodating and ready to reassure you!
Choose an ethical jeweller
Buying a high-quality diamond that has been ethically sourced means choosing a retailer that is actively avoiding contributing to the blood diamond trade. If there’s any vagueness or invisibility regarding the source of a jeweller’s diamonds, then it’s unlikely they’re an ethical product.
Kimberley Process certification is somewhat lacking, so we recommend you look to brands who are demonstrating their own clear commitment to ethically sourced diamonds.
Brands such as James Allen and Blue Nile are both good examples of this. They each have published statements of their commitment to ethical diamond-sourcing practices, showing they are actively, not passively, opposing conflict diamonds.
Types of ethical diamonds
The type of diamond you are buying can be an indicator of whether it has been ethically sourced or not.
Although it is being seen in Canada, Botswana and Namibia, it’s uncommonfor a land mined diamond to be considered ethical. In fact, mining the earth for diamonds is an inherently intrusive process. We would not consider any earth-mined diamonds as ‘ethical’ diamonds.
Lab-created diamonds are a popular choice for conscious consumers as they don’t cause drastic environmental damage like land mined diamonds. Worker exploitation risks are also much lower (if not non-existent) with lab-grown diamonds than with artisanal mining.
Recycled diamonds are diamonds that are repurposed through recutting and resetting. While they may have initially been produced using unsustainable and unethical processes, recycling the diamond helps to prevent any harm from continuing.
A diamond from the sky is a new kind of diamond that has the exact same physical and anatomical makeup of a diamond, but without the harm. Our sky diamonds are sourced from the sky, formed using wind, rain, sun and CO2.
Powered with wind and solar energy, sky diamonds are made from atmospheric carbon dioxide, taking something harmful and turning it into something beautiful. There’s no forced labour throughout our processes, either.As an industry that has long been defined by these practices, we’re working to change that.
Shopping ethically, living sustainably
Having these conversations is important. Although it can seem like there’s a lot of doom and gloom, there are signs that the diamond industry is changing for the better. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when buying a diamond. If you want an ethically sourced diamond, it’s worth shopping around so you can get the jewel of your dreams, guilt free.
Searching for a sustainable diamond, or building an engagement ring? You can be sure that Skydiamond is entirely ethical, using a new kind of diamond mining to help look after people and the planet, while still being able to create the world’s favourite jewel - the diamond.
Stay up to date
We're on a mission to make diamonds sustainable! Sign up to our newsletter for updates on our progress, new diamond releases, facts, info and more...
Enter your details