Do Ethical Diamonds Exist? Blood & Diamonds Pt. 3

If you’ve been with me to learn the history of diamonds and how advertising created the modern diamond industry, you might be feeling a little down on all things sparkly. But don’t fear. Do ethical diamonds exist? Thankfully, the answer is yes.

 

 

Why I don’t recommend Kimberley Process Conflict-Free Diamonds

The Kimberley Process (KP)  is not foolproof. It attempts to ensure that diamonds aren’t coming from conflict zones, but the diamonds are certified in batches, and it’s relatively easy to have conflict diamonds certified through the process. Moreover, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme itself has warned that many of the KP certificates are forgeriesPartnership Africa Canada, one of the key organizations tasked with observing the Kimberley Process, has expressed deep reservations as to its effectiveness.

Also, it’s important to note that the Kimberly process only targets diamonds that fund conflict. It has nothing to do with child labour, slavery, or the genocide perpetrated against the bushmen of Botswana (the bushmen are just one group that has suffered tremendously as a direct result of having the extreme misfortunate to live on top of acres of diamonds). Stones certified through the Kimberley Process are not “ethical diamonds” – they are only certified to have not funded terrorist groups. All other ethical issues are beyond their purview.

Earth-mined diamonds from more peaceful regions – such as Canada – would seem like a natural choice. Except diamond mining also produces unnecessary environmental repercussions, with each 1 carat earth-mined diamond resulting in the displacement of 1750 tons of earth!

Child Labour

It costs approximately $100 per carat to cut diamonds in the united States. In India, that price is reduce 90%, to about $10 per carat.

India is home to the largest diamond cutting and polishing operations in the world. Today, 85% of diamonds by weight (and 51% by value) are cut and polished in India. NBC actually cites an even higher figure – 92%. Regardless of the exact number, nearly all diamonds are cut and polished in India, where children as young as six are found polishing diamonds and inhaling the black diamond dust.

It’s extremely hard to address child labour in the diamond cutting and polishing industry. Unfortunately, because of their small hands and excellent vision, children are ideal candidates for cutting small stones. As a result, they are used extensively in India’s diamond industry.

India offers highly competitive pricing, and it’s very hard to find companies that do not polish their stones there.

Diamond Simulants

This is my personal favourite alternative, simply because they are very affordable. Simulants are approximately 3% the cost of a diamond of similar size). Diamond simulants are not diamonds at all, but cultured stones with a hardness quite similar to diamonds (9.1 on the Mohs scale, vs. 10 for a diamond and 7 for cubic zirconia). When well cut and polished, they appear like diamonds to the naked eye. Of course, jewellers can distinguish between simulated and genuine diamonds on closer inspection.

These gems and are made in much the same way as a cultured pearl. A “seed” stone is used, and covered in layers of tough materials, usually moissanite. They are just 3% of the cost of a earth-mined diamond, and are my personal favourite option for ethical diamonds.

Lab Created Diamonds

The second option is lab created – or synthetic – diamonds. Don’t let the name fool you: these are genuine diamonds. No jeweller can tell the difference. Once they are cut and polished, these diamonds are identical to the earth mined variety. This was not always the case. Even ten years ago, lab created diamonds were smaller and tended to be yellower than their earth mined counterparts. But this is no longer true.

Today, flawless, colourless lab created stones can be up to 6 carats in size. These stones should be large enough for most diamond enthusiasts. Lab created diamonds are less expensive than their earth mined counterparts (comparable stones will be about 30% less expensive). But the real reason to buy these stones is to refuse to participate in a business rooted in the ruthless exploitation of people and the environment.

Furthermore, lab created diamonds are consistently higher quality than earth mined diamonds. For example, all of Miadonna’s diamonds are type 11a, meaning they are brighter and harder than 98% of earth mined diamonds.

This is definitely a less budget friendly option than diamond simulants, though they are more affordable than traditional stones. Lab created diamonds will cost you about 30% less than comparable earth mined diamonds, but they are structurally and chemically identical to earth mined diamonds, just more consistent quality.

Why choose a lab created diamonds?

Lab created diamonds

  1. Don’t disrupt the soil
  2. Use 10% of the water required to mine traditional diamonds
  3. No child labour (which even the Kimberly process

Vintage Diamonds

Vintage stones really are the most ethical diamonds. Among other things, this will always be the most environmentally sustainable option. If you have a family ring available to you, why not just use that? Estate jewellery is another option, and these rings are generally far less expensive than anything available on the standard retail market. If the idea of a “used” diamond is disappointing to you, I encourage questioning the origin of this belief. De Beers “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign convinced generations of women that “new” diamonds had special significance. All earth mined diamonds are thousands of years old anyway, so why not consider going with a vintage stone?

Final thoughts

I contacted two separate ethical diamond companies to prepare for this article: Brilliant Earth and MiaDonna. I have no connection with these companies. But MiaDonna is transparent about their business practices, which include cutting and polishing their stones in the United States. Unfortunately, Brilliant Earth was not willing to answer that question (representatives didn’t know, and when I emailed them, they did not respond. It’s been two weeks and I’m still waiting). MiaDonna’s makes all their settings from recycled metals. Brilliant Earth is more vague on this point as well, stating that they use recycled metals, but that they aren’t available for the finishings – prongs, etc. Regardless of which company you’re talking to, be prepared to ask a lot of questions!

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Thank you so much to the ModVegan Patreon community for supporting the making of this video – especially Artelio, Genevieve and Richard! If you would like to be part of the ModVegan Patreon group and get special access to Patreon-only livestreams, inside information and the latest news, check us out on Patreon.

 

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