More and more brides are taking a mindful approach to their nuptials and opting for plastic-free weddings.
Why not take the same approach when it comes to the engagement ring and wedding bands?
Avoiding unethically sourced diamonds doesn’t mean you have to accept an engagement ring that’s anything short of breathtaking. Choosing lab-grown diamonds and recycled diamonds are a responsible choice, given that no mining is required. Not only will you be impacting the environment, you’ll unite sustainability and luxury. What could be better than starting your happily ever after with an engagement that’s environmentally and socially sound? SIGNATURE BRIDE looks at the options available.
SECOND-HAND ENGAGEMENT RINGS
The most sustainable diamond is the one that’s already been owned. Speak with your love to see if there might be an heirloom stone in one of your families that could be repurposed into a beautiful and meaningful engagement ring. This is an extremely personal way to create a bespoke engagement ring together from scratch—if your family is down with changing the original setting for the diamond. If neither of your families has a diamond to pass down, look into recycled diamond options or antique rings, which are often extremely luxurious at local estate sales or on Linhaus, Bario-Neal or I Do Now I Don’t.
Lab-grown diamonds, also known as man-made or synthetic diamonds, aren’t just for the budget bride. They’re for the bride who would never support warlords, child labor or environmental destruction. They are not only a better value for your conscious, but for your wallet.
A recent study from consultancy MVI Marketing for the International Grown Diamond Association has found that 66 percent of Millennials actively shopping for an engagement ring would consider a lab-grown diamond. Furthermore, 23 percent said they would definitely buy a lab-grown diamond ring.
Man-made diamonds aren’t fake. They are grown in highly controlled laboratory environments using advanced technological processes that duplicate the conditions under which diamonds naturally develop when they form in the mantle, beneath the earth’s crust.
These diamonds have the same physical, chemical and optical properties as mined diamonds. The only difference is their origin and ethics. Lab-grown diamonds are grown from the tiny carbon seeds of pre-existing diamonds by a process known as Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD), which mimics the natural method of diamond formation. The process uses a heated reaction chamber and extreme pressure to create gem-grade diamonds. Swarovski, cubic zirconia and Moissanite stones are not to be confused with lab-grown diamonds.
In the past, lab-grown diamonds were small and lacked clarity. Today, the market has many options, making it impossible to decipher from natural diamonds. The only way to differentiate between mined and synthetic diamonds is to evaluate them at a molecular level to determine the speed at which the diamond grew.
WHERE TO BUY
Through tech and science many companies are now offering lab-grown diamonds in a variety of cuts and colors. Mined diamonds are terrible for the environment, as it uses 480 liters of water per carat while a lab-grown diamond uses just 70 liters. One hundred square feet of land is disturbed, and 6,000 pounds of mineral waste is created to mine a single carat of diamond. Mining for diamonds emits 57,000 grams of carbon emissions per carat of mined diamond while lab-grown diamonds emit just 0.028 grams per carat. Truly sustainable brands will use renewable energy to make the lab-grown process carbon-neutral.
Sustainable jewelry brand Vrai & Oro’s recycled gold bands feature diamonds grown through solar energy by Diamond Foundry. The eco-friendly process has resulted in Diamond Foundry becoming the world’s first diamond producer that’s received certification for 100 percent carbon neutrality. Vrai & Oro diamonds are I+ color and SI+ quality, are 0.01% rare and are individually graded by the 4 Cs Diamond Foundry and Vrai & Oro both offer customizable engagement rings.
Annually, one in every 1,000 diamond miners suffers an injury on the job. Via Legs4Africa, Lydia McCarthy-Keen provides a prosthetic limb to amputee victims of blood diamonds in Africa for every engagement ring sold. “This is my way of paying homage to the past and trying to go some way toward rectifying the atrocities which have happened (and are happening) in the diamond trade,” says McCarthy-Keen, who was a wholesale diamond broker and trained diamond grader who grew tired of working with miners and brokers who discourage lab-grown diamonds; so she decided to use her expertise to launch her namesake luxury jewelry company using the world’s finest hand-crafted diamonds.
Clean Origin has been a family-owned diamond business for more than a century and now offers exclusively 100 percent lab-created diamonds. The extensive offering includes gems of 2 carats expertly crafted with flawless colors. The Rare Find Collection includes lab-grown diamonds that fall into the top three colors, top five clarity grades, and the top cut grades and are certified by the International Gemological Institute (IGI). The True Radiance Collection has been certified by the IGI and graded “Triple XXX.” The prestigious grade means the diamonds have excellent ratings for polish, symmetry and cut.
Ahimsa London stands by its tagline, “Diamonds without the Guilt,” by exclusively selling pure carbon lab-grown diamonds. With the create-your-own program, you can craft your dream engagement ring with a clear conscious. Stones over 0.5 carats include certification. The company won the European Jeweller of the Year Award at the 2019 Corporate LiveWire Innovation and Excellence Awards, as well as winning the 2018 Lotus Sustainability Award.
Gem Breakfast exclusively uses ethically sourced diamonds that have gone through the Kimberly Process for its one-of-a-kind engagement rings. Their approach to creating diamond engagement rings also includes several social sustainability initiatives such as supporting small artisanal miners and avoiding third-party providers. The revenue remains in the hands of the miners and supports their communities. Additionally, Gem Breakfast manufactures the rings locally, resulting in funneling the funds into their community and allowing them to ensure fair working conditions and living wages for the production team. The result of Gem Breakfast’s commitment to sustainability is high-quality gems that are sure to dazzle any bride.
What about certifications to make sure what you are buying is legit? To ensure traceability, environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability and lab-grown diamonds, the Lab Grown Diamond Council (LGDC) is launching the first-ever certification in the market in 2020. Brands that pass the rigorous assessment of the lab-grown diamond production process, compliance auditing and diamond testing will receive the Sustainably Grown Diamond certification mark.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established in 2003 by the United Nations to combat the sale of conflict diamonds. KPCS ensures that diamonds aren’t financing violence, war or rebel movements. Some initial supporters of the movement have claimed the group isn’t being transparent in their efforts and question the impact of KPCS — so don’t rely on this program as your only way of vetting whether an engagement ring is ethical.