This might be the ultimate diamond conundrum: is a lab created diamond or a mined diamond the best choice for you?
You may have heard that a lab grown diamond is the most ethical option. They can’t be “blood diamonds”, they don’t need to be mined from the ground and they are identical in composition, appearance and durability to mined diamonds.
Fair warning: The answers aren’t always clear cut. However, with a little inside knowledge, it’s possible to choose a diamond that aligns with your values. To find out how, we talk to independent jeweller, Fairina Cheng, who specialises in alternative, sustainably made engagement rings.
“Both lab grown and mined diamonds can be ethically sourced if you know what to look for,” says Fairina. “The challenge comes when companies market their diamonds as sustainable, when they might not be as environmentally friendly as you think.”
“This was common when lab grown diamonds first hit the market, when they were promoted as the green alternative to mined diamonds. Unfortunately, most lab grown diamonds require a significant amount of energy to produce, resulting in a large carbon footprint. According to some reports, the carbon footprint of a lab grown diamond may be even higher than that of a mined diamond,” Fairina says.
“The good news is that sustainability-rated lab created diamonds exist. Sustainability-rated diamonds are independently certified according to a rigorous standard that covers environmental achievement, climate neutrality, sustainable production practices, traceability and sustainability investments that support vulnerable communities. The standards are designed for both lab and mined diamonds, but at this time, only a small number of lab grown diamond producers have stepped up to apply.”
According to Fairina, there are also a number of considerations when it comes to mined diamonds.
“Diamond mining can have significant impacts on ecosystems, local communities, and water and energy consumption.”
“The movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, also brought attention to the issue of “blood diamonds,” diamonds sold to fund insurgencies against legitimate governments. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was created to prevent these diamonds from entering the legitimate supply chain, however doesn’t address ethical mining practices, working conditions, or the use of child labour.”
“For a more ethical approach, choose a diamond that’s traceable to the source. This means that you know exactly where it was mined and can access information on labour standards, sustainability programs (such as whether they rehabilitate mining sites after use) and any support provided to benefit local communities.”
“Other considerations, when deciding between a lab created and mined diamond, might include what your budget is and the size and shape of the diamond you’re after,” says Fairina.
“A lab created diamond can be 30% to 70% lower in price than a mined diamond of the same size and quality, so cost might be a key determining factor. On the other hand, it can be harder to find lab grown diamonds in less common sizes and shapes, which may limit your design choices.”
“In the end, it comes down to knowledge and personal choice,” says Fairina. “Don’t take general sustainability claims at face value. When there is no one “right answer”, knowing the facts can help you decide what the right answer is for you.”
For more information about sustainably made custom jewellery, visit fairinachengjewellery.com.
More about Fairina:
Fairina Cheng is an independent designer based in Sydney who believes that in jewellery – just in as life – there are no rules. She specialises in unconventional designs for rule breakers and story makers. These are people who aren’t served by the traditional jewellery store and aren’t satisfied with stock-standard, mass-market accessories. Fairina has created bold story-worthy pieces for customers all over the world. For your own bespoke piece of jewellery, visit fairinachengjewellery.com.