Do lab-grown diamonds compare to what’s made in nature? And, just how are these diamonds more ethical and sustainable than mined diamonds?
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For centuries we have been enamored by the beauty of diamonds. They are a status symbol of beauty, love, and wealth. And, while there are many copycats- white topaz, white sapphire, cubic zirconia, and even glass- nothing mesmerizes quite like a diamond. After all, they are a girl’s best friend. But as a girl who takes conscious steps to shop more ethically and sustainably, diamonds feel more like a friend whose moral code leaves me conflicted and worried. So, what’s a girl to do when she wants to shop for sustainable diamonds?
Recently, I heard about ‘lab-created diamonds’. Certified by a team of scientists and gemologists, these diamonds are unequivocally the real deal. One thing that is appealing to conscious shoppers is that they are created in a lab without the environmental and human rights violations that plague the diamond mining industry. Still, I was skeptical about whether or not a lab-grown diamond could really beat the allure of a natural one. Chemically and physically they are considered the same based on their density, hardness, dispersion, refractive index, crystalline structure, and chemical composition. And, as looks would have it, the answer is ‘yes’. I was gifted a diamond heart pendant by NYC-based jeweler Stefano Navi and was enamored by its brilliance.
Previously, Maja researched and wrote about ethical jewelry brands, Sabine, the jewelers working with recycled gold, and Matthew researched sustainable jewelry brands for men. Yet, to date, The Wellness Feed hasn’t fully tackled the sustainable difference with lab-grown diamonds. This time, I’ve researched the answers to my own questions about how close they are to mined diamonds and whether or not they really do make a difference.
This bracelet features 75 lab-grown diamonds with VS/SI clarity $1225
What Is A Natural Diamond?
Geologists believe that diamonds formed deep within the Earth between 1 billion to 3 billion years ago. While not all of the exact details are known, it is known that the creation of diamonds begins with carbon dioxide that is exposed to pressure as high as 727,000 pounds per square inch and heat as high as 2,200 degrees nearly 100 miles beneath the Earth’s surface.
An estimated 142 carats of diamonds were mined in 2019 contributed $79 billion dollars into the global economy.
This ring is made with lab-grown diamonds, recycled metals, and from a certified CarbonFree company (1 ct. tw.) $1990
How Are Lab Grown Diamonds Made?
There are two main differences between how mined diamonds are created and lab grown diamonds are made- time and location. Natural diamonds are created over centuries and embedded deep within the earth. Lab grown diamonds, as the name suggests, are grown in a lab and can take up to 10 weeks to grow.
Lab grown diamonds have been around since the 1940s, but didn’t go into mass production until the 1980s. Over the last few years technology has advanced to close the gap to make lab grown just as brilliant as what mother earth creates herself.
The process of creating lab grown diamonds begins with a diamond seed. This piece of a diamond is as thin as a single strand of human hair. It is placed into a chamber where it is exposed to temperatures around 800 to 1500 degrees Celsius. The diamond seed is either pressurized or exposed to carbon-rich gases that enable it to slowly crystallize. Basically, the process of what happens beneath the earth’s surface is recreated in a lab by a team of scientists and gemologists.
This necklace is made from 21 VS+ lab-grown diamonds and 18k recycled gold. Choose your letter. $695
The Unethical Impact Of Mined Diamonds
It’s no secret that mined diamonds can devastate both the environment and the lives of the people working for them. The industry, having been largely unregulated for decades, has contributed to wars, forced labor, and environmental atrocities. This has led to the term, ‘Blood Diamond’ being used to signal that what lies beneath their sparkle is often times chaotic and painful for the lives of the people who mined them. And, despite regulations and human rights organizations standing up to the industry, an estimated 5-10% of diamonds are still traded illegally.
Mined diamonds are also a big risk factor when it comes to climate change since they have such a big impact on the environment. Deforestation, soil erosion and the loss of precious farmland plays a negative role in the livelihood of local communities and animal life that depends on the ecosystem that diamonds sit on. The large infrastructure of pipes and drills disrupts land and seabeds and results in the displacement of sea life. Opening pit mining, one of the oldest techniques, can displace around 1,700 tons of earth just for the search for a 1 carat diamond. Some diamond mines create holes so big that they can be seen from space.
Here are statistics about the impact from producing a 1 carat mined diamond.
- 126 Gallons of water are used during the mining process for 1 a carat diamond.
- 538.5 Million joules of energy used.
- 125 Pounds of carbon produced.
- 1 Injury for every 1,000 workers annually.
These are made from 26 VS+ clarity diamonds and 18k recycled gold. $655
How Are Lab Grown Diamonds More Sustainable?
Looking at the statistics and data, lab grown diamonds are unanimously the more sustainable choice when compared with mined diamonds. The Diamond Foundry supports the claim that lab grown diamonds have a smaller footprint than mined diamonds.“It takes an entire factor more energy to extract an underground diamond from Earth than it takes to create one above ground… On top of this, the energy used in mining is generally dirty diesel versus renewable energy in our above-the-ground production,” their website states.
But, lab grown diamonds are not without fault. The Federal Trade Commission has stepped in to warn companies about ethical and sustainable claims that aren’t backed by evidence. A report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association ( and representing some of the biggest Diamond producers in the world – De Beers and Rio Tinto) suggest that lab grown diamonds produce 3x more CO2 emissions than diamond mining. Yet, it should also be noted that companies like De Beers are not without fault themselves for their diamonds with one report stating that the company killed over 18,000 fish in a Canadian lake due to their diamond mines.
Here are statistics about the impact from producing a 1 carat lab grown diamond.
- 18 Gallons of water is used to create a 1 carat lab created diamond.
- 250 Million joules of energy used per carat.
- 6 Pounds of carbon produced.
- 0 reported injuries from employees.
Bario Neal Lash Diamond Ring .50ct
This .50 ct ring is made from IGI or GCAL-certified lab-created diamonds. I color/SI1 clarity. $1940
How Can Consumers Shop Sustainably?
When it comes to diamonds, the conscious consumer of today has more options to choose from to ensure that their brilliance isn’t cheapened by human and environmental conflicts. Lab grown diamonds offer one sustainable solution. As an added bonus, more often than not, these companies also blend a social and environmental purpose with earning a profit.
As a conscious shopper, I always suggest others should carefully research a company. Look at their credentials, certifications, and sustainability reports. These are a few things to consider when deciding whether or not a brand is sustainable and ethical. Having a foundational knowledge about the different options and an understanding of what makes a product sustainable will allow you to purchase a conflict-free heritage piece that may once again prove that diamonds really can be our best friend.