When it comes to jewellery, diamonds are a bit of a rarity for me. Don’t get me wrong – I love a little sparkle. But I’ve always been a little bit worried about diamond sourcing, which has led me to going for recycled gold or openly ethical jewellery instead. Well, no more. As it turns out, lab-grown diamonds are an ethical girl’s best friend.
Natural Diamonds: Not So Kind To People Or Planet
As you may be aware, most diamonds are naturally formed, deep in the Earth’s crust. It takes a combination of extreme heat and extreme pressure to turn simple carbon molecules into the glassy, all-enticing diamonds that adorn our favourite pieces of jewellery.
One of the biggest issues around natural diamonds comes from the way they are sourced. Because of the way diamonds are naturally formed, they tend to be found through mining in specific locations around the world. According to the Greener Diamond, there are four common types of diamond mining techniques: “open pit mining, hard-rock mining, alluvial mining, and the marine diamond mining as the latest technique, all of which leave damaging effects on the earth, sometimes irreversible.”
On top of this is the issue around conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds. With their high value, natural diamonds have a history of causing problems over conflict, smuggling and child labour. In TIME’s guide to buying an ethical diamond, they provide steps on how to investigate where your diamonds come from – but wouldn’t you rather know for certain that there’s no environmental or social consequences of your purchase?
Lab-Grown Diamonds: A New Ethical Standard In Jewellery
I’m going to be honest – years ago, I swore off ever buying diamonds, or having a diamond wedding ring, because of these exact issues. So I’m delighted to say there is now an innovative alternative, in lab-created diamonds! (Boyfriend, take note!)
Lab-grown diamonds (also known as lab-created, synthetic, or cultured diamonds) have been developed over the last few years as a new, ethical, and inexpensive way to craft diamond jewellery. I see this as a total win, because they look the same, feel the same, and come without any of the impact, and all of the sparkle!
The differences between lab-grown and natural diamonds can only really be seen by a gemologist using technical equipment. If you hear differently, I recommend seeing lab-grown diamonds for yourself – they’re honestly beautiful, and cannot be told apart. (The cynic in me wonders whether the growth of the lab-grown diamond industry is under threat from the natural diamond industry, because they threaten the current diamond economy, which is powerful due to what used to be a finite number of diamonds available, and their high prices).
The diamond earrings I’m wearing here are gifted by The Diamond Store, who launched their new range of lab-grown diamonds earlier this year. Not only do they have an ethical story, and exquisite look, but they’re also relatively affordable too.
Let’s Not Forget About Repurposed Diamonds
If you’re looking for the diamond equivalent of recycled gold or silver, look for repurposed diamonds. These are reclaimed from existing jewellery and other sources, and made good as new again. As diamond is the hardest natural material on the planet, you can be sure that there’s not a scratch on these babies! New York jewellery brand, Wwake, exclusively uses repurposed diamonds as a way to reimagine the existing jewellery industry, and demonstrates a truly circular approach to diamonds.
Diamond Mining Isn’t Going To Disappear
As a subsequent edit to this piece, I received an insightful message from Francesca Kippax of ANUKA Jewellery*, who explained that jewellery mining isn’t going anywhere fast. She raises a good point: “We do still need to support mining done in the right way, as a force for good, which lowers the environmental impact and supports communities dependent on it for income.”
To better support a sustainable step away from diamond mining, there are programmes such as the Mines to Markets programme at Pact, an NGO specialising in aiding development in impoverished countries and helping resource-dependent communities work more sustainably and effectively. Cristina Villegas, Director of the Mines to Markets, said in a British Vogue interview: “Walking away from responsible miners in far-flung communities and prioritising jobs in the global north is literally the opposite of responsible sourcing.”
As a customer, the best way to find ethically minded diamonds and precious metals is look for Fairmined, Fairtrade, or Nineteen48 certifications – these apply to the precious metals and gemstones in jewellery.
And similarly, for lab-grown jewellery, there’s still a vagueness as to the impact of the growing process. I’ll be sure to update this piece when I know more!
Where To Buy Lab-Grown Diamonds & Jewellery In The UK
To compliment my guide to ethical jewellery, I thought I’d put together a quick list of lab-grown diamond ranges that I know of and would be totally happy to shop from, in case you’re looking for a little added sparkle in your life right now:
Anna Fine Jewellery*: Independent ethical fine jeweller using recycled gold and silver alongside lab-grown diamonds.
The Diamond Store: Shop their lab-created diamond collection, providing a fusion of art and technology.
Lark & Berry*: Jewellery made with cultured diamonds, guaranteed conflict-free.
Nomis: Experimental Ukrainian jewellery brand only using laboratory-grown diamonds.
Vrai: Beautiful jewellery featuring diamonds created with renewable energy.
Disclaimer: This post contains gifted items (denoted with 'gifted') and affiliate links (denoted with '*').