Why lab-grown diamonds are the sustainable, environmentally, and ethical diamond choice
Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Rolf Hartmann
Learn why lab-grown diamonds are the sustainable, environmentally, and ethical diamond choice and the better alternative to mined diamonds. And why lab-created diamonds have gained popularity among consumers, celebrities, and even royals. In the following, we break down everything you need to know about lab-grown diamonds, how they’re created, as well as why lab-grown diamonds are the sustainable, environmentally, and ethically responsible alternative to the mined ones.
- What is the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds?
- Why mined diamonds are so bad
- Why lab-grown diamonds are a sustainable, environmentally-responsible choice
- The rising trend of lab-created diamonds
- Pressure on the traditional mined diamonds
- Where to buy ethical and environmentally sustainable diamonds
What is the difference between lab-grown diamonds and natural diamonds?
First and foremost, let’s start with what’s not different between a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds. They are chemically, physically, and optically the same as mined diamonds. And they are cut, polished, and graded with the exact same tools and processes as mined diamonds. Even professional gemologists are unable to distinguish between the two without highly sophisticated devices as those developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
The only difference between lab-grown and mined diamonds is their origin. Lab-grown diamonds are created in a laboratory that relies on the same process as Mother Earth. Using advanced technology, diamond laboratories can shorten production time dramatically. More importantly, the process eliminates the need for mining.
Grossly simplified, heat and immense pressure squeeze pure carbon atoms together to form a diamond. A newer method is more closely related to 3D printing in that carbon atoms are added around a seed diamond to build up the diamonds slowly. Both ways produce astonishing diamonds of just as high quality as any mined diamond.
Learn more about how lab-grown diamonds are created.
Natural mined diamonds are extracted from the earth, where they were created by the earth’s massive pressure and heat making their way up to the surface through volcanic activity through billions of years. They are then dug out from the depth of earth through mining, a process that involves high costs and often disastrous effects on the local communities and the planet.
Why mined diamonds are so bad
The unfortunate and harsh truth about mined diamonds is that the conditions under which diamonds are mined can be ruthless. The problems include punishing use of primitive methods, child labor, and gruesome violations of human and workers’ rights. Moreover, people living near mines are often forcibly relocated, upending their livelihoods, and mining has funded civil war and conflict. Mines have contaminated the soil and water supplies, disrupted ecosystems, wildlife, and left huge holes in the earth. Many of them are so gigantic they can be seen from space.
Mines have polluted waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, harming the health and livelihoods of whole communities.Human Rights Watch
The Kimberly Process Protocol, an incentive to create transparency in the diamond industry (and often used by the diamond mining industry as a cover story), notoriously has significant flaws. As long reported by media and researchers, it merely addresses the distribution of conflict diamonds. For instance, the Kimberly Proces Protocol ignores unfair labor exploration, the use of child labor, and other human rights abuses.
“So when, in 2008, the Zimbabwean army seized a major diamond deposit in eastern Zimbabwe and massacred more than 200 miners, it was not considered a breach of the Kimberley Process protocols. Thousands had been killed, raped, injured, and enslaved in Zimbabwe, and the Kimberley Process had no way to call those conflict diamonds because there were no rebels,” says Ian Smillie, a conflict diamond expert and one of the architects of the Kimberly Process, to TIME.
Contrary to popular belief, the mining industry often does not benefit the local community or workers. Instead, countries blessed with natural resources often end up worse off. This is referred to as the “resource curse”. Read more about that here in our article on why you should buy a lab-grown diamond.
The fact is that there is no way of tracking the entire supply chain of a mined diamond. The only way to know that a diamond is conflict-free is if it was created in a laboratory.
Why lab-grown diamonds are a sustainable, environmentally-responsible choice
The established diamond industry is a billion-dollar industry with powerful lobby groups. Throughout time, consumers have been led to believe that there is something romantic about “natural” diamonds dug up from the earth and that lab-created diamonds aren’t the real deal.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds and are entirely identical to mined diamonds. But in contrast to minded diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are guaranteed conflict-free, and you can be sure that there haven’t been any unethical work practices or harmful deforestation involved in the process.
There is nothing beautiful or even remotely romantic about a diamond extracted from grueling underground and underwater mines using forced labor, causing human rights violations, exploiting local communities, harming the surrounding environment and wildlife, fueling conflict, and benefiting abusive armed forces.
But the hard truth is that years after the term blood diamond breached the public consciousness, there is almost no way to know for sure that you’re buying a diamond without blood on it.TIME
In contrast, many lab-grown diamonds are created using renewable energy and are produced in zero-emission foundries, making them significantly more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds.
- On average, mining requires 25 times as much energy to produce 1 carat of diamond as it does in the laboratory. And on top of that, many diamond labs are increasingly using renewable energy.
- Diamond mining has significant adverse effects on the local environment and animal habitats. Excavating diamonds from the depth of earth leaves behind massive holes, and can finance conflict and encourage corruption.
- For every carat of mined diamond, an estimated 250 tons of earth is shifted.
Best of all, due to the more efficient and cleaner process of creating diamonds in the laboratory, they are also cheaper to buy than mined diamonds.
Learn more about why you should choose a lab-grown diamond over a mined diamond.
The rising trend of lab-created diamonds
The mined-diamond industry is tainted by a dark and brutal past (and present). Concerns about the environment and mining industry working conditions have led to an increase in demand for alternatives to mined diamonds.
More consumers have become aware of lab-created diamonds and the benefits over their mined counterparts in recent years. Especially the millennials are keenly aware of their carbon footprint and the potential ethical implications of mined diamonds.
Actor and environmentalist, Leonardo Dicaprio, who starred in the movie “Blood Diamond,” which depicts the conflicts in war-torn mining industry regions of Africa, became so horrified that he has since invested in one of the largest diamond laboratories.
The movie itself raised awareness about so-called blood diamonds, and many consumers have discovered how lab-grown diamonds are a more ethical and environmentally responsible alternative.
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood A-list celebrities have embraced the ethical jewelry choice. Among many, the Duchess of Sussex, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Penelope Cruz, Jeniffer Lopez, and Emma Watson have chosen to wear lab-created diamond jewelry on and off the red carpet.
The trend, and rising awareness, have led to more jewelry brands using lab-grown diamonds because they understand both the benefits and the consumer demand. For example, the world’s biggest jeweler, Pandora, announced in 2021 that they are shifting from mined diamonds to lab-created diamonds.
Even the world’s largest diamond producer, DeBeers, which once had a near-monopoly on global diamond production and long fought hard against lab-grown diamonds, finally jumped on the bandwagon and founded their own lab-grown jewelry brand Lightbox Jewelry (more on that later).
Pressure on the traditional mined diamonds
The brutal reality of the diamond business is that the mining process is damaging and that there is no way of knowing where your mined diamonds came from, under which grueling conditions, or which warlords prospered. Essentially, consumers can not be sure that their mined diamond comes free of human or workers’ rights abuses.
Legacy diamond mining companies are spending a lot of effort trying to build up a story around mined diamonds being “natural” and that lab-grown diamonds are inferior to mined diamonds. That, of course, is not true as lab-grown diamonds are 100% identical to mined diamonds.
Instead, the diamond industry heavyweights spend billions on advertising. As lab-grown diamonds continue to disrupt the industry and diamonds’ affordability, they’ll continue to undermine (pun intended) diamonds that are not extracted from the earth.
They have even desperately lobbied for governments to enforce that lab-grown diamonds not be referred to as “diamonds” but have not been successful. That’s because lab-grown diamonds are diamonds, which The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rightly ruled in 2018.
While the diamond industry of yesteryear desperately tries to convince us that mined diamonds are superior to lab-grown diamonds, they are also investing in lab-diamond production. To avoid inflating their existing brands (and thus their fat profits), they create separate lab-grown diamond brands that typically target a younger, less-affluent audience.
One example is the world’s largest diamond miner and retailer, DeBeers, that for long was a very outspoken critic of lab-grown diamonds – until they created their own lab-grown diamond brand Lightbox. Read our Lightbox Jewelry review.
Luckily, eco-conscious consumers and savvy millennials know better than trust marketers who want people to believe mined diamonds are superior to lab-grown diamonds. The growth in demand for lab-grown diamonds tells us that the future is lab-grown.
Where to buy ethical and environmentally sustainable diamonds
At Labgrowncarats.com, we help consumers find the perfect diamond and jewelry without compromising the earth and its people. Several diamond sellers and jewelers now offer climate-friendly and sustainable diamonds, either by offsetting the (lower) emissions from lab-created diamonds or by using renewable energy in the production process.
James Allen, Ritani, and Clean Origin are our favorite picks among all lab-grown diamond sellers for their customer service, low prices, great designs, and huge inventories. Read our James Allen review, Ritani review, and Clean Origin review.
With Clarity is our top-rated place to buy lab-grown diamond engagement rings. Read why in our With Clarity review.