Diamonds have captivated humans for centuries with their unparalleled beauty, rarity, and symbolism. I recently entered a diamond jewellery shop, and my profession drove me to seek sustainability. Hence this article.
Diamonds have been used in jewellery, industrial applications, and even as a currency. However, the traditional diamond mining process has controversies, including environmental concerns, human rights issues, and the ethical implications of mining natural diamonds.
Enter lab-grown CVD diamond, a groundbreaking technology revolutionizing the diamond industry. CVD stands for Chemical Vapor Deposition, the process used to create diamonds in a controlled laboratory setting. This process involves using a gas mixture to deposit carbon atoms onto a substrate, allowing them to crystallize and form a diamond.
Lab-grown CVD diamonds are virtually identical to natural diamonds in their chemical composition, physical properties, and optical characteristics. They are made of pure carbon atoms arranged in a crystalline structure, just like natural diamonds. However, lab-grown diamonds are created in a matter of weeks or months, as opposed to the millions of years it takes for natural diamonds to form deep within the earth’s crust.
One of the biggest advantages of lab-grown CVD diamonds is their sustainability. Traditional diamond mining can have a significant environmental impact, including deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, and carbon emissions. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are created using a controlled and environmentally friendly process that requires significantly less land and water and produces minimal waste and emissions. This makes them a more sustainable and eco-friendly choice for consumers who are concerned about the environmental impact of their jewellery and other diamond-related products.
Another benefit of lab-grown CVD diamonds is their ethical and social impact. The natural diamond industry has been associated with human rights issues, including labour exploitation, unsafe working conditions, and even conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are produced in a controlled environment without human exploitation or conflict. Therefore, they are a more ethically responsible option for consumers who value transparency and social responsibility in their diamond purchases.
Lab-grown CVD diamonds also offer greater affordability compared to natural diamonds. Natural diamonds are priced based on their rarity, with larger and more flawless diamonds commanding premium prices. However, lab-grown diamonds are created using controlled processes that can produce diamonds of consistent quality, size, and colour. This means that lab-grown diamonds are generally more affordable than natural diamonds, making them accessible to a wider range of consumers.
In terms of quality, lab-grown CVD diamonds are on par with natural diamonds. They possess the same optical characteristics, including the famous “fire” and “brilliance” that diamonds are known for. They are also graded using the same criteria as natural diamonds, known as the 4 Cs: carat weight, cut, colour, and clarity. In addition, lab-grown diamonds are available in various sizes, shapes, and colours, offering consumers a diverse and customizable selection for their jewellery and other diamond applications.
Lab-grown CVD diamonds are also gaining recognition and acceptance in the jewellery industry. Several renowned jewellery brands and designers have embraced lab-grown diamonds as a sustainable and ethical alternative to natural diamonds. Additionally, organizations such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have recognized lab-grown diamonds as legitimate and distinguishable from natural diamonds, further validating their place in the market.
Despite their many benefits, lab-grown CVD diamonds do face some challenges. One of the main challenges is consumer perception and education. Many consumers still hold traditional beliefs about diamonds and may hesitate to accept lab-grown diamonds as a viable option. However, with increasing awareness about sustainability, ethics, and affordability, lab-grown diamonds are gaining acceptance among younger generations. These diamonds offer several significant environmental benefits compared to traditional diamond mining. These benefits include:
- Reduced Land and Water Usage: Traditional diamond mining often requires the removal of large areas of land, including forests and habitats, to access diamond deposits. This can result in deforestation, habitat destruction, and soil erosion, harming local ecosystems and wildlife. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are created in a controlled environment in a laboratory, requiring significantly less land and water. This reduces the ecological footprint associated with diamond production and helps preserve natural habitats.
- Lower Carbon Footprint: Diamond mining is energy-intensive and often involves using fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In contrast, lab-grown diamonds are created using more energy-efficient processes, such as CVD, which can be powered by renewable energy sources like solar or wind power. This results in lower carbon emissions and a smaller environmental impact than traditional diamond mining.
- Minimal Water Usage: Traditional diamond mining can require substantial amounts of water for processing, including washing and separating diamond-bearing rock. In water-scarce regions, this can strain local water resources and contribute to water scarcity issues. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, require minimal water usage as the process is controlled and takes place in a laboratory setting, reducing the strain on local water resources.
- Reduced Environmental Contamination: Traditional diamond mining can result in environmental contamination, including water pollution and soil degradation, from using chemicals, heavy machinery, and waste disposal. In contrast, lab-grown diamond production uses controlled processes that generate minimal waste and do not require harmful chemicals, reducing the risk of environmental contamination.
- Elimination of Ecologically Sensitive Mining Practices: Some diamond mines are located in ecologically sensitive areas, such as rainforests or marine environments, where mining can have severe environmental impacts. Lab-grown diamonds provide an alternative to mining in these sensitive areas, helping to protect vulnerable ecosystems and biodiversity.
- Avoidance of Conflict Diamonds: The issue of conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, has been a significant concern in the diamond industry. These are diamonds that are mined in war zones and sold to finance armed conflicts, resulting in human rights abuses and funding of violence. Lab-grown diamonds are produced in a controlled environment, eliminating the risk of conflict diamonds and providing consumers with a more ethical and responsible option.
Where you can find CVD Diamonds and why to buy these?
Many companies are actively producing lab-grown CVD diamonds. Some notable ones include Diamond Foundry, Pure Grown Diamonds, MiaDonna, Scio Diamond, ALTR Created Diamonds, and Limelight Diamonds. These are just a few examples of companies actively producing lab-grown CVD diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are becoming a popular alternative to natural diamonds, and more companies are getting into the market to offer them. These companies’ sales pitches differ, but one thing they all have in common is sustainability. For example, Diamon Foundary communicates that “No Mining, No Carbon Footprint, No Cartel Pricing, No Conflicts Funded, No Land Displacement, No Wildlife Displacement, No Animals Harmed, No Ground Water Polluted, No Local Communities Displaced” are associated with these diamonds. Limelite Diamond, which positions itself as “globally the first exclusive CVD diamond jewellery brand from India”, presents an even more interesting sustainability case on its website. It says, “1 carat of lab-grown diamond can save 109 gallons of water, 250 metric tons of land, and 50% of your money”.
Each year, 150 million carats of natural diamonds destroy 16.3 billion gallons of water and 37.5 billion tonnes of land. According to the International Gem Society (IGS), the world’s top resource for gem professionals, mining companies move on average 250 tons of earth per carat of a mined diamond. As per a study report, “The Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of Large-Scale Diamond Mining,” produced by S&P’s Trucost for the Diamond Producers Association, 160 kg of greenhouse gases are released per polished carat of a mined diamond. As per cleanorigin.com, mined diamonds result in 1 injury for every 1,000 workers annually, while lab-grown diamonds result in zero. Energy-wise, mined diamonds use 538.5 million joules per carat, while grown ones use 250 million. Much of the energy used in creating lab-grown diamonds is renewable.
If more and more people become aware of how their choices affect the environment, lab-grown diamonds could become more eco-friendly and sustainable for people who want diamond-related products.
The most interesting fact about lab-grown diamonds that I noticed is that they not only cost 50% less, but you can also have a lifetime buy-back guarantee for up to 80% of your purchase price.
So, if you have to buy a diamond next time, would you consider buying a sustainable one?
Praveen Anant is a Sustainability Assurance Practitioner (SAP) and Environmental Lawyer. With over two decades of professional experience in Sustainability, CSR, EHS and ESG risk and compliance management, Praveen has played a pivotal role in shaping ESG initiatives within major energy companies in India. He holds a master’s degree in Environmental Science, an M.Phil in Natural Resources Management, and an Advanced Diploma in Industrial Safety, solidifying his expertise in various domains. Currently, he provides invaluable insights and support to JointValues ESG Services in its endeavours.