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Ethically Sourced or Sustainably Grown? Which Diamond is Right for You?

Finding the perfect diamond has always been complicated. With the introduction of lab grown diamonds as a new option, it’s only gotten more difficult to absorb all the new terms and jargon being used to market natural diamonds and lab grown diamonds against each other. It can be very difficult to figure out what the differences are, and which option is right for you, but, we’re here to help set things straight for you.

WHAT ARE LAB GROWN DIAMONDS?

Lab diamonds are beautiful, sustainable, and significantly more affordable than mined diamonds. They’re better for the planet and better for your wallet. But are they real diamonds? The short answer, absolutely.

The slightly longer explanation is that the difference between lab diamonds and natural diamonds is where they came from, not what they are. Think about ice. You can make it in your freezer, or you can find it outside. Diamonds are like that too. Lab-grown diamonds are “grown” with electricity, carbon, and gas. The result? Diamonds that are checmically, physically, and optically identical to natural mined diamonds. They’re not cubic zirconia, they’re not simulants, they’re real diamonds albeit at about half the cost.

In contrast, mined diamonds are billions of years old and they come from the earth. They are fundamentally rare, and the famous ones are in the record books. It’s impossible to deny that natural diamonds have a certain romance to them, but, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay the premium. Aside from the higher price tag, there are some reasons you would choose a natural diamond over a lab grown one. Here they are.

A diamond mine in Canada that is known for producing ethically sourced diamonds.
A CANADIAN DIAMOND MINE
CREDIT: DOMINION DIAMOND MINES

THE TOP THREE REASONS TO BUY A NATURAL DIAMOND

If you want a vintage cut.

If your heart is set on a vintage cut like an old mine cut or an old European cut, you’re generally going to be limited to natural diamonds. While these shapes are starting to become available in lab grown, they’re still a niche. These shapes are best bought from an antique diamond dealer who specializes in rare and unusual diamonds. Even better, you can be sure your diamond is ethically sourced since you’re purchasing it second hand.

Old mine cut diamond on a hand as an example of why to buy a mined diamond vs. a lab grown diamond

If you have a diamond in the family

Maybe you have a diamond in the family but don’t like the setting. What are you waiting for? Any jeweler, us included, can recycle the setting and reset the stone in the design of your choice.

A vintage setting showcasing a recycled diamond.
CREDIT: ARDEN JEWELERS

You’re eyeing a fancy color

Fancy color diamonds are the only type of diamond that has actually increased in value over time. They’re expensive, but if you have the cash to burn this is one way to do it.

Fancy color diamonds that have been ethically sourced.

OUR TOP THREE REASONS TO BUY A LAB GROWN DIAMOND

To get a bigger diamond

If you aspire to purchase a larger diamond than your budget allows, going lab-grown is the easiest way to get a bigger diamond for less money. You can expect to get ~1.5x the diamond by carat weight which is a visible difference for the wearer.

Four oval cut diamonds on a hand that have been ethically sourced.

To get a higher quality diamond

If you aspire to purchase a higher quality diamond than your budget allows, again, going lab-grown is the easiest way to get a higher quality diamond for your money. Contrary to popular belief, lab-grown diamonds come in the full range of color and clarity grades and are graded as such by the IGI and GCAL.

A flawless emerald cut diamond.
A FLAWLESS EMERALD CUT DIAMOND
CREDIT: FOX NEWS

Ethical & environmental concerns

If you’re concerned about the ethical and environmental impact of mined diamonds, getting a lab-grown diamond could be the answer. While modern diamond mining has had a profound economic impact on countries like Botswana, and, for the most part, doesn’t look anything like it did back in the days of Blood Diamond, similar to oil, the diamond mining industry is inherently unsustainable.

A small diamond mining operation in Africa.

That said, there are good and less good ways to go about sourcing mined diamonds. The certification “conflict-free” isn’t enough on it’s own to know what you’re buying.

I’M BUYING MINED. ARE ALL CONFLICT-FREE DIAMONDS ETHICALLY SOURCED?

In short, no. All diamonds imported into the US are conflict-free, but, not all conflict-free diamonds are equally ethical. The Kimberly Process governs this designation and created standards for what “conflict-free” means. But, those standards haven’t evolved at the pace of consumer expectations.

Under the Kimberly Process, a conflict-free diamond is one that has not funded a rebel group in a civil war. “It is made up of 54 participants, representing 81 countries, and observers from the diamond industry and nongovernmental organizations. Although the Kimberley Process has made important progress in curtailing the trade in “conflict diamonds,” the group’s long-term credibility and relevance have been undermined by a narrow focus on the activities of anti-government rebel groups and its unwillingness to incorporate human rights protections into its standards and operations.” Human Rights Watch

Beyond the overly narrow definition of “conflict” there is little active monitoring, governance, or oversight of diamond supply chains. The Kiberly Process i a consensus-driven organization in which any change to legislation has to be agreed on by all participating parties. Unfortunately, some of the countries producing what we would label “conflict” diamonds are part of the board that governs Kimberly Process legislation.

So in short, while “conflict-free” doesn’t tell you everything, it’s a start. The reality, however, is that diamonds pass through many hands on their way from mine to market. Because they are small and high in value, they are nearly impossible to trace. That means you often don’t know where they’re from, or where they’ve been. There is a large and active wholesale marketplace for diamonds. With all those middlemen, it also makes them more expensive.

SO HOW DO I BUY A TRULY CONFLICT-FREE, ETHICALLY SOURCED MINED DIAMOND?

The best way to know where a diamond is from, and if it’s been ethically sourced, is to buy it from the source.

We buy our diamonds from cutting businesses with exclusive rights to buy rough diamonds directly from mines in the countries that we approve of: Canada, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. These countries have all made big strides in environmental, economic and social responsibility. Read more about our sourcing policy and how we go beyond the Kimberley Process.

A school built in Botswana from diamond mine funding showcasing the economic advances certain countries have made thanks to diamond mining.
A PHOTO OF A SCHOOL BUILT NEAR THE DIAMOND MINE IN BOTSWANA.
CREDIT: DEBEERS GROUP

If you’re still unsure, buy recycled! The diamond industry goes out of its way to conceal diamond recycling. Diamond companies buy old diamonds, recut them, get them a new certificate, and voila, “new” diamond. There’s a 10% chance any diamond you buy had a previous life.

We go out of our way to source reclaimed diamonds. Reclaimed or “heirloom” diamonds are the most environmentally friendly purchase option and are valued exactly the same as “new” diamonds. Diamonds are literally billions of years old, so being “new” is relative.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOLD? HOW DO I KNOW IT’S BEEN ETHICALLY SOURCED AS WELL?

A gold mine.
CREDIT: US GOLD BUREAU

While diamonds get more attention from the news, gold mining is one of the dirtiest kinds of mining today. Over 20 tons of toxic waste is generated to mine enough new gold for a ring. Waste is often dumped directly into nearby water, releasing toxic substances like cyanide and mercury into the environment.

Newly mined, ethically sourced gold is extremely challenging. Because of this, we’ve chosen to use 100% recycled gold. We buy from post-consumer sources where the gold has been reclaimed and refined, resulting in a zero new damage and a neutral environmental footprint.

WHERE ARE YOUR RING’S MADE?

Right here in New York City. We know who crafted your ring, and they’re good people. Frank Darling rings are all made in the USA by a family-owned business in Queens that has been making fine jewelry since 1982. Crafting your engagement ring locally gets us access to experienced craftspeople with more attention to detail than working overseas. It also happens to be more cost effective for you. Frank Darling makes every ring to order, from scratch. We don’t have to keep big piles of rings around, which saves everyone a lot of money.

Many rings sold online, especially at lower price points, are mass produced and machine made in factories overseas. Their prongs are then bent to accommodate gemstones they weren’t designed for, which can result in quality that looks imperfect and can fracture or loosen around your gemstones over time.

Frank Darling rings are custom designed using 3D CAD software for the measurements of your unique gemstone. Then they’re cast, handset, and polished by our talented team of artisans in New York City. Your ring is designed and crafted to last a lifetime. It’s not that we don’t want to see you again. We just like to get it right.  Ready to get started? Why not book a free consultation or browse our selection of ethically sourced diamonds or see them for yourself, right here in NYC.

A gorgeous stack of ethically sourced lab-grown diamonds.
LAB GROWN OR ETHICALLY SOURCED? WHO CAN TELL?