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Caveat on using the term “recycled gold”:

While I am very careful to source my precious metals only from SCS® certified suppliers, who are also members of the Responsible Jewellery Council, I want to point out that ‘recycling’ gold is not what is commonly understood by the term.

True recycling avoids things ending up in landfills. Gold, of course, wouldn’t.

Instead, gold is simply melted, refined and repurposed.

Although SCS certified refineries must maintain auditable records of their suppliers, there are loopholes globally which make it very easy for gold from irregulated and/or illegal sources to enter their supply chain.

This makes even certified recycled gold untraceable, or guaranteed free of human suffering.

Further reading:
Is Recycled Gold Ethical?
Materials, Sustainability, & Fairmined Metals

Diamonds on black

Are Lab-Grown Diamonds more Ethical?

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Labgrown Diamonds

I hear and read it again and again: claims that laboratory-grown diamonds are more ethical, more sustainable, greener.

Did you know that – according to the Competition Bureau of Canada, it is illegal to make a sustainability claim about something unless it has been proven to be sustainable? And the above claim has not been proven – not by a long way. This is why you should always dig deeper when you read such claims.

But let me back up.

What is a diamond?

First let’s clarify the difference between imitation diamonds and lab-grown diamonds (also correctly referred to as ‘synthetic diamonds’). Lab-grown diamonds have the exact same properties as natural diamonds; they consist of the same molecules, both have varying qualities as expressed in the 4Cs, and are an equally hard material.

In contrast, imitation diamonds (also called diamond simulants, as they merely simulate a diamond, but do not have the same properties) such as Cubic Zirconia (CZ) and Moissanite, are exactly that: imitations of diamonds, made from artificial materials. The most important thing for you to know as a consumer: while they may look great the first day, they will, due to their softness, not retain their sparkle – not in the least. I have seen some very sad examples of this.

But diamonds are diamonds: lab-grown or earth-mined, they are identical in every respect (chemically, physically and optically), except for their birthplace, so to speak, and the amount of time they took to come into existence. For full transparency, though, I will point out: laboratory-grown diamonds are real, but synthetic diamonds.

Whether in nature or in a laboratory, diamonds are made up of carbon atoms, with the addition of 3 ingredients: heat, pressure, and time. In the natural world, this would involve the heat and pressure from deep under the earth’s mantel, and millions of years. I mean .. wow, right?

Diamond in Tweezers

How are diamonds grown in a lab?

Since the first rudimentary efforts in the 1950s, it took decades to develop quality lab-grow diamonds. Today, they are made in one of two methods: the CVD method (Chemical Vapour Deposition), or the HPHT method (High Pressure/High Time).

The fastest way to grown diamonds in a laboratory is the HPHT method. As the name suggests, high temperature (1300-1600 °C) and high pressure (870,000+ pounds sq inch) are used to grow a 1ct diamond in only 2 weeks.

My new suppliers grow in the CVD method (Chemical Vapour Deposition), where a sliver of excellent quality diamond is set as a ‘seed’, and carbon vapour is added slowly, under much less intense heat (900-1200°C) than in the HPHT method. Every few days, the diamonds are removed briefly to polish their outer surface in order to remove any carbon which hasn’t formed into diamond.

Are lab-grown diamonds more sustainable, more ethical, more green?

Finally we are back at the questions at hand. And the answer is:

not necessarily at all.

Because of the tremendous amount of energy used for growing diamonds in a laboratory, the question of sustainability hinges largely on how that energy is created. Since most diamond growth factories are located in China and India, the energy sources and environmental protection is highly questionable.

I also have human rights and other ethical concerns.

Much of this I did not find out until quite recently. If you know me, you know that I continually dig deeper. That is definitely part of being an ethical jeweller: to keep asking questions and learn more. 

Please be careful not to simply believe sustainability claims!

Some of my pieces with labgrown diamonds are from a time before this new learning. Going forward, though, I will only source diamonds from an ethical and sustainable diamond supplier I am very happy to have found, after months of digging.

So are there any truly ethical lab-grown diamonds?

The answer is:

YES!

I found you some.

As you can well imagine, fighting my way through greenwashing and sustainability claims was quite the journey. But I always ask suppliers hard questions, and when I bump into walls where they cannot answer, I go back to the drawing board and start again.

Finally my long search has paid off: the diamond growers I found in the end have really done their homework. 

Conflict-free and Climate-Positive Diamonds

Through a patented process, they transforms air pollution into laboratory-grown diamonds – yup! 
This happens in 3 steps:

STEP ONE: CARBON CAPTURE 

A thermochemical process is used to capture CO2, which is then purified and pumped into high-pressure cylinders for storage.

STEP TWO: CHEMICAL CONVERSION

Captured CO2 is combined with green hydrogen to produce high-purity methane which is not fossil-fuel derived like methane used in generic diamond growing.. 

STEP THREE: ROUGH DIAMOND GROWTH

This clean methane is pumped into specialized CVD growing chambers, where the diamond start to take shape, one ambitious atom at a time.

STEP FOUR: FINAL POLISHING

Once the diamond material has been grown, it is rough-cut into small cubes. Advanced software maps the material and produces a cutting plan. From there, the stones are sent to India to cut and polish using traditional methods.
One of my new, ethical lab-grown diamond suppliers has them cut and polished in an equitable facility which includes a women’s collective. The other is a certified B Corp.

Alternatively, I am an accredited SCS-sustainability-rated-diamonds retailer.

So here we go: if a jeweller looks carefully, they can source actually ethically laboratory grown diamonds.

Summary

Having said that, I will probably never get over the awe of a natural diamond that grew over millions of years deep in the earth. I source only ethical natural diamonds – there are guaranteed no blood diamonds here!

Therefore, I will continue to support and work with certified natural Canadian and Botswana diamonds. But now I can finally also offer you truly sustainable lab-grown diamonds I am willing to put my name behind.

I create jewellery using ethically-sourced gold and diamonds

Making diamonds from the carbon captured from the atmosphere:

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