Diamonds are a girl’s best friend but the environment’s foe

The mining of diamonds has grown in controversy as more light has been shed on the exploitative working conditions and negative environmental impact that comes from this area of work.  Diamonds are often linked back to colonialism: Queen Elizabeth II’s crown possesses the biggest diamond in the world – ‘Cullinan I’ aka the ‘Star of Africa’ – because it was mined in South Africa in 1905. The diamond possesses 530.2 carats, it has a weight of 621.35 grams, and is worth around $400 million.  Mining diamonds releases diesel fuels, electricity, and hydrocarbons into the air, which causes: smog, climate change, and potential other environmental damages.  So maybe you’re thinking diamonds aren’t so ideal, and maybe that $150,000 USD Tiffany & Co 2021 advent calendar might not be the most sustainable, but what is the alternative? Well, thankfully, there is one! The solution is to buy laboratory-grown diamonds instead.

What are laboratory-grown diamonds?

It is essentially what the title suggests, it is diamonds that are synthetically produced in laboratories. They use cutting-edge technology to create a diamond that is the same chemically, optically, and physically, as mined diamonds. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines a diamond as ‘pure crystallised carbon in the isometric cubic system, whether it is mined from the earth or grown in a lab’ – meaning you are still buying real diamonds even if they are grown in the lab.

Why lab-grown diamonds are more ethical:

Diamond mining has a history of being unethical, and the term ‘blood diamonds’ came about when it was revealed that diamond mining industries were using diamonds in order to fund military actions in war zones.  Whilst it is now estimated that 99.9% of natural diamonds are now conflict-free, this is still a practice that did occur.  Diamonds are also frequently linked to modern day slavery and exploitative working conditions.  Most diamonds are found in African countries and a million diamond diggers across Africa earn less than a dollar a day, many of whom are still children. 

How lab-grown diamonds are more sustainable:

In order to mine diamonds, between 88,000 and 176,000 pounds of dirt must be sifted through to find a single 1-carat diamond.  It takes considerably less energy to grow a diamond in the lab than to dig it out of the ground.  The production of mining diamonds releases carbon into the atmosphere, which contributes to the current climate crisis, and this is only exacerbated by the transportation of diamonds.  It is also cheaper for laboratories to produce diamonds than it is to naturally extract them from the earth: currently it is 40% less expensive to grow diamonds in a lab, than it is to traditionally mine them – a figure that is likely to increase as technology improves and the process becomes more advanced.  Mined diamonds have a long supply chain: miners, distributors, cutters, polishers, jewellery manufacturers, retailers. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds can remove the miners’ process and the actual diamond has fewer steps on the supply chain; making it ultimately cheaper (although not cheap) to produce. Also, by depending on natural diamonds it becomes more of a rarity to find enormous nine-carat diamonds so they can sell for millions; Weindling (co-founder of ‘Clean Origin’ – a company that sells lab-grown diamonds via the internet) states that he “could sell that for $200,000 instead”, because it does not depend on being found naturally. 

Lab-grown diamonds are becoming the future, as it is already increasing in popularity due to the more ethical, sustainable, and less expensive aspects of it. The absolute cherry on top of this innovation is the fact that they are legitimately still real diamonds!  So next time you casually decide to buy some diamonds, perhaps save your millions and opt for just the hundred thousands instead that provide a more sustainable and ethical future, by choosing lab-grown diamonds.

Featured image: Gregory Phillips on Wikimedia Commons with license 

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