Are Lab Grown Diamonds Better for the Environment?
Because diamonds are symbols of love and celebrations of moments to remember, most people want to be sure that they are produced in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, workers or the community. No one can feel good about wearing a conflict diamond or an engagement ring produced in a way that does lasting damage to the earth.
That’s why many consumers are turning to lab-grown diamonds. They are worried about the impact of mining in remote wilderness locations and potential exploitation of workers in impoverished and war-torn areas of the world.
But are lab-grown diamonds better for the environment? Mining companies argue that their operations provide employment and benefits for producing countries and that growing diamonds in the lab uses lots of energy.
Here are the facts on lab grown vs natural diamonds and the environment so you can decide if lab-grown diamonds are better for you.
Lab Grown Diamonds and Their Environmental Impact
Diamonds only form under extreme conditions of heat and pressure. That means creating diamonds in a laboratory requires a lot of energy. How much environmental impact that energy use has depends on how it’s produced. Energy produced by solar power, wind power, or hydropower has much less environmental impact than energy produced by fossil fuel plants, especially coal-fired plants in China where many lab-created diamonds are produced.
This means that not all lab grown diamonds have the same environmental impact. And many companies claim that their lab-grown diamonds are “eco friendly” just because they are lab-created, without anything to back up these claims.
Not mining isn’t enough to make any diamond producer “green.” We expect more. That’s why at Brilliant Carbon we’ve decided to buy our lab-grown diamonds from an SCS Certified Sustainability Rated Producer. This diamond grower has gone through a rigorous third-party audit of their environmental impact, employee and community relations and supply chain. They are certified climate neutral, with greenhouse gas emission offsets from United Nations Framework on Climate Change issued projects.
They also invest in artisanal mining communities and climate mitigation projects in order to contribute to a better future for all. If climate impact is important to you, make sure you ask for the details and documentation supporting any claims before buying a lab grown diamond, just as you would a natural diamond.
Natural Diamonds and Their Environmental Impact
The environmental impact of mined diamonds begins with the mine itself. Large open pit mining operations are huge projects, often in remote places with no infrastructure. The disturbance to the ecosystem of the mining pit itself is often less than the roads, buildings, housing water diversions, reservoirs, sorting facilities, power lines and other construction required for these huge operations in wilderness areas.
Large diamond mining companies do provide safe and rewarding employment in underdeveloped areas of the world. There are entire websites devoted to the good things that mining diamonds contributes to economies around the world: growth, education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Large mining companies protect 1,000 square miles of land, three times the area disturbed by mining and have pledged to use water and energy efficiency, to manage waste and to ensure surrounding communities have access to natural resources. But to this date, although some mines use some renewable energy, none has yet certified as climate neutral using SCS standards (or any other standards.)
Instead, diamond miners have concentrated on using blockchain to trace the origin of mined diamonds so you can ensure they were not mined in conflict zones. But the details of each individual mine’s emissions aren’t available. (And many producers don’t trace production back to a specific mine either.) There aren’t any third-party audits of energy use. The environmental impact of mining in general has not yet been addressed.
And the thousands of independent artisanal miners around the world mine in much more precarious conditions, subject to exploitation, environmental degradation, and lack of direct access to markets. An emphasis on traceability that favors large well-funded companies can end up making it more difficult for small miners to get a fair price for their diamonds, making their lives even more challenging.
A recent survey funded by the De Beers Group found that almost one-third of consumers value sustainability in their natural diamond purchases, even above price and design. Diamond mining companies could do more to reduce the environmental impact of their activities and offset their emissions by investing in projects that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Lab-Grown vs Natural Diamonds: Which is Better for the Environment?
In our opinion, SCS Certified Rated Diamonds are the best for the environment because they require producers and handlers to achieve climate neutrality by offsetting their emissions today, including past “legacy emissions.” We think sustainability is too important to wait for future action: we want to see our suppliers changing the way they operate today. We also want to trust, but verify: SCS audits its Certified Sustainability Rated Producers and checks to make sure they have actually produced all the diamonds they sell by testing samples for trace elements.
Because no diamond mining company has met SCS standards, no mined diamonds live up to our criteria of sustainability. That’s why we believe lab-created diamonds from SCS Certified Sustainability Rated Producers are the best diamonds for the environment.
Shop our sustainably created lab-grown diamonds, lab grown diamond engagement rings, and lab grown diamond jewelry to make sure your sparkle is beautiful inside and out.