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The diamond in your engagement ring might not be your first thought when thinking

about sustainability, but like everything else, where your jewelry comes from does

make a difference. Natural diamonds are formed through intense pressure and heat, which changes the

molecular composition of the graphite carbon they are made from. Most were made

around one to three billion years ago, and then made their way to the surface via an

explosion of kimberlite magma. Today, they are collected from the ground by

workers in around 35 countries.

In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are exactly as they sound. They are made using

extreme pressure and heat, but in a controlled lab environment, rather than in the

core of the Earth. There are two ways to make a lab grown diamond: the first

involves putting a small piece of diamond into a high pressure chamber, and the

second involves putting the diamond slither into a chamber of carbon gas and

heating it. Now you know where diamonds come from – but why does it matter which type is in

your ring?

Natural diamonds

Mined diamonds become problematic when you take a look at the conditions the

workers operate in. Historically, there have been multiple civil wars which have been

fuelled and funded by diamond mining, and whilst that may not be the case right

now, the risk is still there in these volatile countries. Additionally, workers are often

placed in unsafe conditions, with little rights or protection, for extremely low pay – a

million diamond diggers in Africa earn under one dollar per day. However, it is possible to buy ethically sourced natural diamonds, where sellers ensure that workers are in a safe environment, are paid a fair wage, and the money for the diamonds is not used to fund those who might use it for violence.

Lab-grown diamonds

Whilst lab-grown diamonds dodge the issues surrounding unsafe and unethical

conditions for workers, they are not without their problems. Research has suggested that lab-grown diamonds produce three times more greenhouse gas emissions than mining natural diamonds.

However, it’s important to look at the whole picture, as the overall carbon footprint of

lab-grown diamonds is suggested to be lower than mined diamonds, due to the need

to move huge amounts of soil in order to extract mined diamonds. If you can, try and

ensure that you look for lab-grown diamonds that are produced using renewable

energy sources in order to reduce the impact of your gem.

It’s important to be aware of where your diamond is coming from. Whilst both mined

diamonds and lab-grown diamonds have their problems, the best thing you can do is

do your research before you buy, and aim for diamonds that are ethically sourced.

Alternatively, you could choose a vintage diamond, which ensures that you are not

funding a new, potentially problematic stone, and either keep this in the setting that

you’ve bought it in, or get it reset into a bespoke ring.


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