Our new website is officially Live! Be sure to signup for the Eco-Warrior Newsletter and grab 10% off your first purchase!

by Sophia Domingo 6 min read

Overview 

The perfect diamond traditionally has 58 facets, which are the flat surfaces made

from precise cuts in the stone. The proportion and symmetry of a diamond’s facets gives it its brilliant sparkle.  However, once you learn about the diamond industry and the violence it represents, that perfect diamond doesn't seem so perfect anymore.  


But, you don’t have to ditch this beloved stone all together.  Just like the diamond itself, the industry has many different facets as well, and there are ways to find ethically sourced and conflict-free diamonds. In order to understand ethical diamonds, we must examine all sides of the industry. 


About Diamonds 

Diamonds have been one of the most highly desired and sought after gems for thousands of years. They were formed deep within the earth’s crust, where extremely intense heat and pressure caused carbon atoms to crystallize. 

When diamonds are extracted, they are called “rough diamonds” because they have not been cut or processed yet. There are many different styles and ways to cut a diamond, and the way it is shaped impacts how it reflects light. The shape of the diamond’s cut determines how much of the stone is lost during processing.

This is referred to as thepolishing loss.  The most expensive diamonds have a large polishing loss and require a very highly skilled craftsman. In addition to the shape, the carat, color, clarity, and quality are all important characteristics to consider when choosing a diamond.

Another reason diamonds are so expensive is because diamond mining is extremely difficult and dangerous. Diamond miners face unsafe conditions and often lack adequate training or safety equipment and tools. 



What are Blood Diamonds? 

The United Nations defines blood, or conflict diamonds as “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.” In other words, blood or conflict diamonds are used to fund aggression or violence of any kind. These definitions were formed in the 1990’s when vicious civil wars were being waged throughout central and western Africa. The profits from diamonds mined in these harsh conditions were used to buy arms and fund militia and rebel groups. Not only were civilians hurt in these conflicts, but often children were used to mine the diamonds funding their destruction.

Eventually concern grew throughout the world that once a diamond had been mined and processed, it was nearly impossible to trace where it was mined from and how. The largest diamond markets and companies were criticized for not verifying the origins of their diamonds. In the face of this worldwide disapproval, diamond associations joined the UN along with human rights groups in order to establish a certification called the Kimberley Process.

The Kimberley Process 

The Kimberley Process (KP) is an international, multi-stakeholder initiative created in 2003 to increase transparency and oversight in the diamond industry in order to eliminate trading of conflict diamonds.There 56 participants in the Kimberly Process, who represent 82 different countries, which include all the major rough diamond exporting and importing countries.  

Under the terms of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), participants must establish national legislation and institutions to control imports and exports.  They must commit to transparent practices, track and share statistical data, trade only with fellow members who satisfy all terms of the agreement, and provide conflict-free certification for all shipments. This certification shows where the diamond was mined from, how it was mined, and all the parties involved with processing the diamond. These guidelines are strictly enforced, and today, about 99.8% of the rough stones on the open market are accounted for by the KPCS. 


Labor Exploitation

Even though the Kimberley Process has been fundamental in changing the diamond industry, it is not a perfect solution.  The Kimberly Certification focuses on preventing conflict diamonds from mining and distribution, but it does not implement regulations to create better working conditions and eliminate human labor exploitation.  Child labor, slavery, and unsafe working conditions are still a major issue.  Avoid diamonds from Zimbabwe and Angola, where human rights abuses are frequently recorded. On the contrary, Canada, Botswana, and Namibia are known for having the strictest enforcement of both environmental and labor standards. Botswana and Namibia are also committed to investing money from diamond mining back into their communities.

Because the Kimberly Process does not regulate labor conditions, It is extremely important to purchase from companies that are dedicated to ensuring their suppliers are trustworthy.  Brands like Access 79 have close relationships with their suppliers to guarantee that they are truly conflict free and do not support labor exploitation. 

 

Environmental Damage 

Unlike other forms of mining, diamond mining does not use toxic chemicals, but it still disrupts and pollutes ecosystems, especially lakes and streams. 

Both open pit mining and underground mining contribute to a large displacement of soil and create a big disturbance to the ecosystem.  Underground mining involves digging a pathway of tunnels beneath the earth’s surface. Two layers of tunnels are built with one level directly on top of the other, connected with funnels. The ore in the top tunnel is blasted and then funnels to the bottom tunnel, where the diamonds are hand picked. To blast the ore, miners use water, which helps to remove the diamonds from their host rock. A lot of dust and pollution contaminate this water, and these practices are often used in water scarce areas. 

Open pit mining involves blasting a big pit into the ground to expose the ore. This method strips the area of its fertile topsoil and causes a lot of erosion. It also poses a health risk because if left open, the pit fills up with stagnant rainwater, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes and waterborne viruses or parasites. Environmentally responsible diamond miners refill the mining pits and work to rehabilitate the ecosystem with its native plants and animals. 

 

Alluvial mining is less environmentally disruptive, however, it still causes detrimental impacts. This process involves mining riverbeds where years of erosion have started to expose diamond deposits. A big wall is built to dam the river, which interrupts the river ecosystem. Workers sift through the gravel that collects in this area to find diamonds. Sometimes, the entire river is diverted to expose the riverbed which destroys the river biodiversity.  It is important for mining companies to be aware of the habitat loss created from diamond extraction processes so that they can remediate the damages as best as possible afterwards. 


Lab-Grown Diamonds

Known by names such as cultured diamonds and synthetic diamonds, lab grown diamonds have the same chemical and physical properties as mined diamonds. The diamonds that we buy today are thought to have formed approximately 90 miles below the Earth’s surface and have taken between 1 to 3 billion years to reach us. The process to replicate the conditions in which diamonds are formed is extremely complex to recreate in labs. This process includes the following two methods: High Pressure-High Temperature (HPHT) and Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD); which is essentially a combination of high temperatures and pressure to carbon. 

While it takes billions of years for mined diamonds to form and make their way to us, lab grown diamonds typically take less than a month to grow. Under the proper care and conditions, these diamonds are formed without having to mine them from the ground. However, if the process is rushed in any way, the crystal will be imperfect or fracture.

Being from a lab, these diamonds can be easily traced to be authentically ethical and sustainable without any of the grey areas that mined diamonds tend to have. 


Recycling Antique Jewelry

Using antique diamonds can be more sentimental and original than getting new diamonds. For centuries, diamonds have been extracted from the earth, and today there are millions of diamonds set into jewelry.  By reusing diamonds, you are helping to reduce waste and aren’t contributing to conflict, unethical labor, or environmental destruction. This is also a great way to keep family heirlooms. You can reset stones into jewelry that fits your style!  Either go to your local jeweler, or find a company that recycles diamonds. They will often use heat treatments to enhance the color or drill it to remove flaws and increase clarity.  If you have diamonds that you no longer want, you can sell them to jewelers or companies that recycle jewelry. 


A Brighter Future

With so many steps involved in extracting diamonds and preparing them, the process in creating a single finished diamond is extremely intensive. If these processes are not transparent, it is impossible to know if your diamonds are sourced ethically and free from inhumane labor or hazardous environmental practices. Luckily, there are many companies who are devoted to transforming the diamond industry and rethinking the way we shop for fine jewelry.  Ethical suppliers are working to funnel money back into the diamond mining communities, organizations are committed to increasing the transparency of diamond extractions through certifications and legislation, and jewelry companies are expanding to use lab grown or recycled diamonds. At Clear Givings, we are excited to expand our ethical jewelry collection in the future and provide you with all the options you need to find your perfect diamond, free from conflict, human rights abuses, and environmental damage.

Sophia Domingo
Sophia Domingo


Tell us what you thought!


Also in The Eco-Warrior

What Is Sustainable Fashion, And Why Does It Matter?
What Is Sustainable Fashion, And Why Does It Matter?

by Natalie Michel 5 min read

Fixing Fast Fashion: Reusing Your Old Clothes
Fixing Fast Fashion: Reusing Your Old Clothes

by Aria Crane 2 min read

A woman is stunned as she learns the top five cosmetic ingredients to avoid.
Top 5 Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid: Starting Your Clean Beauty Journey

by Sophia Domingo 3 min read