Sustainable Diamonds: Are They Truly Eco-Friendly?

sustainable diamonds

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Bottom Line

  • Sustainable diamonds are diamonds that will always be available without running out due to our ability to recycle, renew, and grow them in labs.
  • When talking about sustainable diamonds, most of the time, we refer to recycled and lab-grown diamonds
  • Unlike sustainable lab-grown diamonds, natural diamond mining damages the environment by ruining its natural characteristics and quality. Consequently, this renders the soil unsuitable for plants that help attract rain and purify the atmosphere. 
  • One pro of sustainable diamonds is that they are more affordable. Some customers will see it as a con because it’s not as rare or luxurious as a naturally mined diamond.
  • If done wrong, the growth process of lab-created diamonds can also cause environmental damage. However, as technology progress, less energy is needed. The shift to clean energy also helps to ensure these lab-grown diamonds are more eco-friendly.

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Table of Contents

It’s good news that diamonds can now be produced more eco-friendly and sustainable manner instead of mining them from the earth. This breakthrough is all thanks to;

  1. A new technology that allows scientists to manufacture these minerals in the lab
  2. Manufacturers’ ability to recycle these minerals. 

Here’s why you want to read this slightly long post to the end;

  • First, you’ll know what a sustainable diamond is and what sustainability means.
  • Second, you’ll understand the difference between sustainable diamonds vs. natural diamonds. 
  • Third, you’ll discover the significant environmental impacts of diamond mining.
  • Fourth, I’ll explain the different types of sustainable diamonds available to avoid confusion if you are looking for some.
  • Fifth, you’ll see the major pros and cons of these eco-friendly diamonds and make up your mind as far as whether to embrace them or not goes.
  • Sixth, I’ll reveal to you the future of diamonds when it comes to sustainable diamonds vs. natural diamonds.
  • Seventh, you’ll understand the biggest environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds. 

Having said that, let’s get to it;

What Are Sustainable Diamonds? What does sustainability mean?

First of all, the word “Sustainable” means two things, according to Macmillan online dictionary;

  1. Capable of continuing for a long time at the same level.
  2. Using methods that do not harm the environment.

Going by these two definitions, it’s, therefore, safe to say that sustainable diamonds are those whose supply will not deplete and produced by using methods that do not harm the environment. On the other hand, sustainability, again going by the definitions, refers to the ability of something to continue for a long time at the same level. 

In short, sustainable diamonds are diamonds that will always be available without running out. Similarly, these minerals are produced in an eco-friendly manner. That’s all that someone means when they say; “sustainable diamonds” or “sustainability.”

Types of Sustainable Diamonds

Sustainable diamonds can be categorized into two different classes; recycled diamonds, lab-created diamonds, and carbon-negative diamonds.

1. Recycled Diamonds

Just as the name suggests, these are diamonds that have been recycled. After the initial use, the original diamond is returned to the factory where it’s recut, cleaned, repolished, and then put into new use. There’s no limit on the number of times they can be recycled, which is why they are sustainable diamonds.

2. Lab-Grown Diamonds

Again, just as the name implies, these are diamonds created in the lab. Unlike recycled diamonds that are artificial, these are purely human-made diamonds. Similarly, they are sustainable because the raw material necessary to create them (carbon) is non-depletable.

Rows of lab grown diamond seeds that will become lab-grown diamonds
Rows of lab grown diamond seeds that will become lab-grown diamonds - by Lightbox Jewelry

Pros and Cons of Sustainable Diamonds

Let’s start with the pros before going to the cons:

Pros

1. Sustainable Diamonds Help Conserve The Environment

As said earlier, sustainable diamonds can be made from existing natural diamonds or by crystallizing carbon molecules in the atmosphere. Either way, each method helps conserve the environment. For example, recycling existing diamonds helps reduce the need to mine new diamonds from the earth. This process will otherwise ruin and cause the land to become derelict. Similarly, crystallizing carbon molecules purifies the atmosphere by removing thousands of carbon molecules from it.

2. Sustainable Diamonds Help Buyers Save Money

Manufacturers and buyers alike derive a huge cost-saving benefit from sustainable diamonds. For companies, recycling diamonds or growing diamonds in the lab is less expensive than mining the same. For buyers, recycled or lab-grown diamonds are more affordable than mined diamonds. This is despite all of these diamond types having the same chemical and physical characteristics.

sustainable diamonds price pros and cons

3. Sustainable Diamonds May Look Better

Jeweler Khadijah Fulton of White/Space suggests that a lab-grown diamond might look more clear compared to a mined diamond. Here’s what they said to Brides, a website that specializes in diamond engagement and wedding jewelry, 

"The clarity of lab-grown diamonds is excellent, so you are able to get a bigger, brighter stone with more fire for a lower price than using a traditionally mined diamond."

Khadijah Fulton

Cons

1.Sustainable Diamonds Are Undervalued

Jeweler Azra Mehdi who also spoke to Brides points out undervaluation as one of the biggest disadvantages of sustainable diamonds.

"Because lab-grown diamonds can be manufactured at will, their resale value is negligible"

Azra Mehdi

2. Lab-Grown Diamonds May Leave a Similar or Worse Carbon Footprint Than Minded Diamond if done wrong

Mehdi adds that sustainable diamonds may not help protect the environment.

"The possibility that the manufacturing process for lab-grown diamonds—replicating the high temperature and high-pressure environment under which a diamond is formed—may leave a similar or worse carbon footprint than natural diamond mining"

Azra Mehdi

However, there are two sides to the coin. Azra Mehdi mentioned lab-grown diamonds resale value is negligible – that’s true for most natural mined diamonds as well. If you want to learn more about lab-grown and natural diamonds’ resale value, make sure to watch my video below.

Sustainable Diamonds vs. Mined Diamonds

Sustainable diamonds vs natural diamonds. What are the differences between these two types of diamonds? Well, I’ve got a few things to point out here. 

First, sustainable diamonds are largely artificial or natural. In other words, they are either manufactured in the lab using carbon molecules or recycled in factories using used natural diamonds.

The fact that they are manufactured as opposed to mined from the earth is why they are sustainable. After all, we will always create them in the lab or recycle them in the factory as long as:

  1. we have the right equipment
  2. we have a supply of raw materials
  3. we have the technology necessary for the job available. 

How about the raw materials? Aren’t those depletable? And if they are, won’t the sustainability of these diamonds be cut short? 

Well, these are excellent thoughts that may cross the mind of an intelligent person like you when you read that lab-created diamonds or recycled diamonds are perpetual. 

However, there’s something you need to keep in mind. All kinds of diamonds (lab-grown and natural) mainly constitute crystallized carbon. This material is what gives them their unique appearance, as well as physical and chemical characteristics.

Now, two types of crystallized carbon exist;

  • Natural crystallized carbon, a combination of diamond, graphite, and fullerene. It’s found in mined diamonds. As you may already know, all of these minerals are depletable. So, this form of crystallized carbon cannot be said to be sustainable. 
  • Lab-created crystallized carbon was created using a new technology that allows scientists to crystallize carbon particles from the air. Since carbon is impossible to deplete from the air, scientists can always create artificial crystallized carbon anytime they want, provided they have the necessary resources. 

 

I forgot to mention earlier that lab-grown diamonds are made from this sustainable artificial crystallized carbon. With that in mind, we can understand that the raw material for lab-grown diamonds is nondepletable.

On the other hand, natural diamonds exist naturally under the earth. All precious minerals that exist naturally are prone to depletion. This can occur after a short or very long period: depending on the quantity of the mineral deposits on earth and the rate at which they are mined. 

However, make no mistake about lab-created and natural diamonds’ chemical and physical properties. Keep in mind that both types of diamonds are made up of crystallized carbon.

 

What Is the Environmental Impact of Diamond Mining?

Unlike lab-grown diamonds, natural diamonds are obtained through mining. Unfortunately, this practice presents a negative impact on our environment. But before explaining it, allow me to me first explain what the environment is. 

Simply put, it refers to earth together with the resources it provides for our survival and that of animals as well as plants. These include land, water, the atmosphere, and so much more. 

As you already know, we need land to cultivate crops that provide us with food. Similarly, we need water for hydration and many other purposes. Likewise, we depend on the atmosphere for oxygen. 

All these are vital earth resources whose depletion would lead to our extinction. And they all form part of the environment. So when you come across the word “Environment,” you know someone is referring to them collectively. 

Returning to how mining diamonds affects the environment negatively, it’s important to remember that this activity directly damages the soil’s natural characteristics. This ruins the quality of the soil, rendering it unusable and/or unsuitable for plants. We call this type of land wasteland. As such, plants, an essential resource for the environment, can no longer grow in this wasteland.

 

As you already know, plants play a key role in maintaining the environment. They do that by taking carbon monoxide away from the atmosphere and replacing it with oxygen humans and animals need to breathe. Plants also help with the process of rain formation, which leads to rain, the primary water source on earth

Without this vital environmental resource, all the water bodies on earth including the seas and oceans, would dry up. Even underground water wouldn’t exist either. 

Plants also help prevent what’s known as the greenhouse effect: 

A process that occurs when hot temperatures from the surface and subsurface of the earth get trapped beneath the atmosphere, leading to extremely warm or hot temperatures. This phenomenon occurs typically when the ozone layer is formed just above the atmosphere, preventing the heat from escaping into space. Many things can lead to the formation of the toxic ozone layer, characterized by hydrocarbons/volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ozone molecules(O3) made up of three oxygen atoms

A lot of things on earth are serious sources of hydrocarbons or volatile organic compounds. These include machines such as vehicles and factories that release greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, from the fuel they consume. 

Plants rid the atmosphere of these toxic gasses by effectively absorbing them through their pores or ‘pores’. This filters the atmosphere, hampering ozone layer formation. 

Environmental Impact of Lab-Grown Diamonds

If not carried out properly, growing diamonds in the lab can result in the same or even worse environmental impact than in the case of mining diamonds. As you’ve seen above, lab-created diamonds may leave a similar or worse carbon footprint than minded diamonds due to energy consumption.

That being said, the growth process gets more efficient as technology evolves. In other words, less energy is needed. Eventually lab-grown diamonds will get more evo-friendly, as well as more affordable.

The Diamond of the Future: Sustainably Lab Grown Diamonds

As calls for environmental protection continue to grow louder, more countries worldwide adopt and/or embrace policies that align with them. Since sustainable diamonds generally cause less impact on the environment compared to mined diamonds, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that these diamonds may become mainstream.

Conclusion

Sustainable diamonds are gradually gaining traction as more people become aware of them, plus their advantages over mined diamonds. Not only do these lab-grown diamonds or recycled diamonds help protect the environment, but they also come at a lower price compared to their mined counterparts. Despite being more affordable, they boast the same or even better quality than mined diamonds. That, plus the growing calls for environmental preservation, may see them become the future of all diamonds.

However, that is not to say sustainable diamonds are without some faults. One of their biggest disadvantages is that they are valued less than their natural counterparts. That’s despite them having similar or even better characteristics than the latter. Also, if not carried out properly, the process of creating sustainable lab-grown diamonds can be more damaging to the environment than mining diamonds.

But all things considered, the advantages of lab-grown and recycled diamonds far outweigh those of mined diamonds.

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