If you're looking for a diamond ring, ask your jeweller a LOT of questions. As a diamond buyer, the best thing you can do is ask questions. A million questions await you. Diamond policies can advance slowly but steadily if consumers push them in that direction. If consumers demand ethically sourced diamonds, industry players with less pristine inventory will see a drop in demand and adjust their practises. Vote with your money.
What exactly is a "conflict diamond"? What exactly is a "blood diamond?" I'm not interested in one of those...
A "conflict diamond" is a more dramatic term for a "blood diamond." Sometimes consumers require a more graphic mental image to help them understand how their purchasing decisions affect the lives of people in other countries.
Oh. Ok. So, what exactly is a "conflict-free diamond?"
"Conflict free diamonds" were defined by the Kimberley Process in 2002 as "diamonds that have not funded official war against recognised governments." The bar for this definition, however, is lower than you might think. "Conflict Free" simply means that the diamond's sale did not fund official conflict, not that it prevented all human rights violations or environmental destruction.
So, what exactly is the Kimberley Process?
The Kimberley Process is a coordinated international system of verification and certification that seeks to exclude all diamonds from unofficial channels that could have been used to fund an official war against a recognised government from the global supply chain. This UN resolution was useful in cleaning up the diamond trade in the early 2000s, but there are now many unofficial conflicts surrounding the diamond trade, and the KP does not act as a watchdog over unofficial conflict (like human rights abuses).
The Kimberley Process is no longer relevant, but phrases like "conflict-free" still sound legitimate. Unfortunately, the majority of diamond jewellery consumers simply do not understand the nuances of this definition, and most major wedding industry behemoths and deep-pocketed national jewellery chains do not spend time conducting research, investigating, or engaging in meaningful public dialogue. When major publications and retailers get the facts wrong, they end up perpetuating some dangerous myths about the true meaning of "conflict free."
Who is selling "conflict-free diamonds?"
Purchasing a "conflict-free diamond" is extremely simple. All legally sold diamonds in the United States are officially labelled as "conflict free." The diamond pipeline to the United States ensures that all diamonds are deemed "conflict free" so jewellers have no choice but to sell you "conflict free diamonds." Unless they go to the trouble of avoiding their regular suppliers and sourcing blood diamonds from an international arms dealer, you can bet they're selling standard-issue "conflict-free diamonds." That's great, except that the term "conflict-free" may not meet your ethical standards.
What can I do to ensure that I purchase an ethical diamond?
You want to find a jeweller who encourages you to ask questions and is eager to provide answers. If you are concerned about the origins of your diamond, Canadian diamonds are an excellent choice. Mining companies in Canada are collaborating with scientists and the government to limit environmental damage. Progressive programmes are also taking root in parts of Africa, Russia, and Australia. Some companies have made it their mission to only sell ethically sourced diamonds, so you don't have to get your master's degree in global politics just to buy a ring. Finally, it is up to you to ask the pertinent questions of any jeweller with whom you choose to work. If pressed, they can locate a stone with a verified ethical origin. It's conceivable. It simply requires effort.
Can diamonds mined naturally be "sustainable"?
No. A diamond grows within the earth for millions to billions of years. Surprisingly, there are a lot of diamonds down in those volcanic pipes, but most of them are out of reach, even with our modern equipment and invasive mining methods. Diamond pipes are less likely to run out of diamonds than they are to reach a depth beyond which continuing to dig costs more than the diamonds are worth. At that point, a company will close the mine and relocate to a new location.
Diamond mining companies are constantly looking for new areas where diamonds can be mined easily and cheaply. In short, mining is never "sustainable" by definition. Some businesses are better than others at managing destruction. Look for diamond companies that are at least concerned with their environmental practises and aiming higher than the status quo.
Are lab-grown diamonds better for the environment than naturally mined diamonds?
If the power source is handled responsibly, lab-grown diamonds can be more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds. Because it takes a lot of electricity to grow a diamond, look for solar-powered diamond labs. Otherwise, power is generated by a hydroelectric dam, coal, or nuclear power.
What about recycled diamonds?
Reusing an existing diamond is, by definition, environmentally friendly. The three D's (divorce, death, and debt) are usually involved in the removal of a diamond from its original piece of jewellery. If this is an option for you, request a "post consumer diamond" or consider an antique engagement ring.
If you're a shopper, remember that where there's a will, there's a way. We are here to assist you in navigating this process. Because we are unaffiliated, we are in a unique position to provide you with our unbiased opinion and to assist you in defining your values. We work with many designers and diamond retailers who make it a point to use ethically sourced gemstones. We can assist you in researching your concerns and connecting with retailers who specialise in the type of ethical product you seek. Almost all jewellers have access to more socially and environmentally conscious options. All you have to do is ask! The question "Is this diamond conflict-free?" is insufficient.
Brush up on your diamond knowledge if you're a jeweller or diamond retailer. Consumers are passionate, thoughtful, and increasingly willing to prioritise their principles when deciding between options. Prepare to answer increasingly nuanced and complex questions about your entire industry. Retailers who provide meaningful answers, information, and access to the type of material that customers demand will have a significant advantage over those who do not.