Being such a symbolic and sentimental purchase, it is often important to people that an engagement ring meets particular moral requirements in terms of sustainability. Fortunately, there are a few different options these days when trying to find an ethical stone for an engagement ring. What they all have in common is that they are lab grown, and more sustainable options continue to increase as technology advances. Currently, the most ethical choices are either lab grown diamonds or gemstones, and in the case of diamonds: specifically those grown using green energy, not fossil fuels.
What does it mean to buy ethical?
At the very least, this means that the products we buy shouldn’t have a negative impact on the environment, animals or people who are linked to the creation of the product. But better still, looking for products and companies who go one step further by having a positive impact and support positive changes is when it actually feels good to spend your money. That’s when products are truly ethical. After all, if you are going to spend money, you may as well choose companies who make you feel good about doing so and ensure your money is being used to support something good, right?!
Here at Ethica Diamonds, we have been in the industry for over 11 years and we were one of the first companies in the UK to offer an ethical alternative to mined diamonds – the foundation on which our company was built. We wanted to provide consumers looking for an engagement ring with a truly ethical choice, not using mined diamonds in any of our jewellery, whilst not compromising on quality or aesthetics; a combination which didn’t exist 11 years ago! We have grown and adapted as time has gone on, have won various awards along the way and have been recognised as a disruptor within the traditional jewellery industry, meaning we have a pretty good idea as to what defines a stone for an engagement ring as “ethical”! It is our passion after all!
So, let’s dive straight into it!
Are Diamonds Ethical?
If you are referring to lab grown diamonds, then yes! Undoubtedly, the most ethical stone to present to your loved one is a lab grown diamond. But not just any lab grown diamond; not all lab diamonds are created equal and it is important to choose one that is sustainably grown.
What is a lab diamond? And are some more ethical than others?
A lab diamond is a diamond grown above ground. As the name suggests, lab grown diamonds are grown in a laboratory and a lot of energy is required to mimic the conditions in the earth’s crust (intense high pressure and temperature) to form the crystallised form of carbon known as diamond. If this energy is supplied from burning fossil fuels, then those lab grown diamonds, although still more ethical than mined diamonds, cannot be called 100% ethical or sustainable.
However, there are a few select diamond growers in the world who have addressed this dilemma within this rapidly changing industry, and they do that by sourcing the energy required to grow diamonds from renewable sources. By using green energy to grow diamonds, their diamonds can be called truly ethical and sustainable, and we think that is pretty cool!
To take it one step further, there is a company based in America who are extracting carbon from the atmosphere to grow their diamonds. The carbon extracted for a 1 carat diamond is more than the average carbon footprint for a person in the UK for 2 years! (A 1 carat diamond grown using carbon from the atmosphere removes 20,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, and the average person in the UK has an annual carbon footprint of ~10,000 tonnes per year). These lab diamonds are soon going to be available through us, so keep your eyes peeled for when we introduce them to our inventory of truly ethical stone options!
How can you tell if a lab diamond is sustainable?
Ensuring that the lab diamond you choose comes from a sustainable diamond grower is important if you are looking for an ethical, sustainable lab diamond. At Ethica, we select diamond growers who use renewable energy or offset carbon in some way, making them more sustainable than most other lab diamonds on the market. We are always looking for the latest innovations within the lab grown diamond and gemstone industry which match our company ethos and we’re proud to offer the most ethical options available, and when the diamonds grown from the atmosphere become available, we will be offering those, too! (Again, keep a close eye on our “news” section of our blog or social media platforms on when these will be available through us!)
When you buy a diamond through us, you can choose which supplier you’d like your lab diamond to be sourced from, as this will influence the price. We can provide details of each supplier and their sustainability efforts, meaning you can make an informed decision which suits your wishes and budget.
What is an ethical alternative to diamonds for an engagement ring?
If you don’t want a diamond for your engagement ring, but still want an ethical stone, then a lab grown gemstone is what you should be looking at. You could consider lab grown sapphires, lab grown emeralds, lab grown rubies, or lab grown moissanite. For an ethical alternative to diamonds that still looks like a diamond, then our lab grown diamond infused moissanite is a really great consideration.
Our lab grown moissanite (a type of lab grown gemstone), we’ve branded the Ethica Diamond, is lab diamond infused and the only moissanite in the world to be IGI certified, making it a very suitable option for an engagement ring in terms of its longevity and provenance. Ethica Diamonds are not tied to any fixed pricing structures, tainted with environmental or humanitarian harm and are cheaper than lab diamonds, making them the most accessible ethical alternative to diamonds, if you are looking for something that look as close to diamond as possible.
Natural gemstones, on the other hand, are not such great ethical alternatives to diamonds, as their origins are very tricky to trace. We will explain in more detail below…
Are gemstones more ethical than diamonds?
The answer depends on what type of gemstone – mined gemstones or lab gemstones? And yes, in case you didn’t realise, it is not just diamonds that can be grown in a lab these days!
The short answer to this question is simple: lab grown gemstones are definitely 100% more ethical than mined diamonds. With regards to natural gemstones, the answer isn’t so clear cut…
Are natural gemstones an ethical choice for an engagement ring?
Unfortunately, the coloured natural gem mining industry is associated with negative conduct towards people and the environment, and there are no schemes in place to monitor and regulate conditions. Of course, not all gemstone mines will be linked to violence, forced labour and other social issues, but it is a fact that mining of any sort has a negative impact on the environment. The biggest issue with trying to find a natural gemstone that has been sourced from a “good” mine is: how does one trace a gemstone unless buying it directly from the mine, and guarantee it’s origins?
As summarised in this BBC article: “The journey of coloured gemstones are the most difficult to follow… They come from dozens of different countries and each has its own economic and political situation… You’ve got massive disparity which makes it hard, if not impossible, to implement a global solution.” Furthermore, coloured gem mining is mostly done by small-scale and artisanal mines, doing most of the labour using small machinery and their hands, which may sound like a good thing, but in reality for the workers, it is not. Driven by poverty, this is where conditions are at their worst, and over a million children work in these artisanal mines, where they are at risk from respiratory diseases from dust and physical injury from carrying heavy loads.
The choices are also narrowed when the GIA, one of the biggest gemstone grading laboratories in the world, limits gemstone origin reports to only five types of gemstone: ruby, sapphire, emerald, paraíba-type tourmaline and red spinel. With no regulations in place to protect the environment and workers, and little in the way of traceability supply chain documentation, although not all natural gemstones are going to have come from scrupulous origins, it is nearly impossible to guarantee otherwise. The only way you can be sure a natural gemstone’s provenance is 1. by buying a gem that has been certified with an origin report, as mentioned above, 2. Choosing a gem that only comes from certain countries in the world, ie Australia (at least this way, you can be assured of good social practices) or 3. choosing a gem from a mine yourself (which is not always a viable choice!)
What’s the difference between natural and lab grown gemstones?
Lab grown gemstones are REAL gemstones. They are exactly the same, chemically and physically, as natural gems and they cannot be told apart by even the most highly trained gemologists, since it takes sophisticated equipment to tell them apart. Lab grown gemstones are just as beautiful as their mined counterparts, and also cost a lot less. This is why, if you don’t have your heart set on a natural stone, opting for a lab grown gemstone is a better, more ethical choice (and much less exhausting!). In fact, lab grown gemstones tend to be even more beautiful and actually more durable, since they have a lot less flaws which cause weaknesses within the structure – the culprit for many chipping natural gems. Lab grown gemstones also don’t have the environmental devastation that comes with mining, making them a perfect choice for an ethical engagement ring.
So to summarise, currently there is more than one ethical stone option for an engagement ring. There are a few different options you could choose from, and what they all have in common is their origin being from a laboratory rather than the earth. This does not make them less romantic as some people may worry. In fact, the more you learn about the processes involved behind each option, it makes the lab grown option more beautiful, because they haven’t been involved with momentous land displacement to mine them. If you have a look at photos of diamond and gemstone mining, you will see that there is nothing romantic about the reality of digging something out of the earth on such a large scale. Eventually, when the diamonds grown from the atmosphere become available, these will be the most ethical stones in the world, but they will carry a higher price tag, too. Just as long as you opt for a stone that is lab grown, using renewable energy, you can rest easy knowing that you have chosen a far more ethical choice.
Get in touch with us about any options you would like to discuss, or any further questions you may have, we are always happy to help!