This post is sponsored by Clean Origin. All opinions expressed are my own.
I am among the growing number of women who believe that women shouldn’t wait for a romantic partner to gift them jewelry they desire. Like Ariana Grande says,
“I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” !
I’ve never bought myself high-quality jewelry, but I recently decided to treat myself to my very first diamond as a gift of self-love and congratulations for all that I’ve accomplished in the past couple of years.
There are an overwhelming number of beautiful diamond rings, bracelets, and earrings out there. But I knew I wanted to find a piece that was sustainably and ethically made. When I came across lab-grown diamonds from Clean Origin, I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to find out more.
How do lab-grown diamonds really compare to mined diamonds, and which is a better purchase? I did a deep dive into the differences between the two to find out.
Every Diamond has a story.
Billions of year ago, our favorite dazzling treasures began forming deep beneath the Earth’s surface. Volcanic eruptions brought them to the surface, where they remained until humans discovered them.
The ancient origins of diamonds have led to their use as a symbolic gesture of eternal love and commitment. The slogan “diamonds are forever” certainly holds some truth to it.
Unfortunately, beautiful jewelry often has an ugly side. For millions of people and living creatures around the world, diamonds are much more of a curse than a blessing.
The mystique and romance of sparkling diamonds are shadowed by dark origin stories full of violence, crime, pollution, and ecosystem collapse.
For this reason, more and more jewelry buyers are now choosing lab-grown diamonds over mined diamonds. This new form of diamond provides the same beauty and allure without the destruction.
For those who believe in the energetic power of gemstones and crystals, wearing a diamond with a clear conscience is an added benefit of lab-grown diamonds.
What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Lab-Grown Diamonds are real diamonds that are grown instead of mined from the Earth.
They are made by taking a tiny piece of diamond and adding high pressure, high temperature, and/or chemical vapor deposition.
This causes carbon to collect on the seeded diamond layer by layer, growing the diamond to the desired size. The process takes about two months to create each diamond.
Lab-grown diamonds are not fake or manufactured, they are real diamonds with the same physical and chemical structure as any diamond mined from the Earth. But since growing diamonds in a lab doesn’t have the same overhead costs as mining, lab-grown diamonds are about 30 percent less expensive.
Can You Tell The Difference Between A Lab-Grown Diamond And A Mined Diamond?
Diamonds are assessed using the four C’s: cut, color, clarity, and carats.
Since lab-grown diamonds are created in controlled conditions, they are almost completely free of impurities, making them some of the most brilliant diamonds on the market.
There’s no way to look at a lab-grown diamond with your naked eye or a standard microscope and know its origins. Only specialized microscopes and other instruments can distinguish which diamonds are lab-grown.
Larger stones get laser-inscribed so that they can be assessed more easily by diamond retailers and assessors.
It has taken diamond makers over 50 years to create clear, sparkling diamonds that are indistinguishable from mined diamonds. Just a few years ago, lab-grown diamonds were yellow or brown.
Although there was initially some skepticism around the quality and value of a lab-grown diamond vs. a mined diamond, high-end retailers and consumers are now recognizing the value of sustainability and protecting the planet. Why should a diamond that led to negative human and environmental impacts be considered more valuable than an even more sparkling diamond that didn’t?
There will probably always be a distinction between mined diamonds and those grown in a lab, but the demand for lab-grown diamonds continues to grow as people’s values shift.
The Environmental and Human Impacts of Diamond Mining
Traditional diamond mining comes at great cost to both people and the planet. It destroys landscapes, including habitats for countless plants and animals. Mining has wreaked havoc in parts of Africa, Canada, and other regions of the world.
Hundreds of millions of gallons of diesel fuel get burned each year in the mining process. The annual carbon footprint of just one mine is equivalent to more than 600 million car miles.
In addition to the energy, heavy machinery, and explosives used for diamond mining, there are impacts associated with exploration, mine closure, diamond cutting and polishing.
Diamond mining creates soil erosion, deforestation, loss of habitat, and can even cause entire ecosystems to collapse. When mines are abandoned, they become breeding grounds for water-borne diseases and the spread of malaria to local communities through mosquitos.
Diamond mining also takes place in the Atlantic Ocean, where parts of the seabed are dug up and then dumped back into the Ocean, causing disturbances that take decades for ecosystems to recover from.
About a decade ago, ‘Conflict-Free’ diamonds came on to the market. These diamonds have a certification that ensures they aren’t ‘blood diamonds,’ meaning they were not sold to fund rebel militias. These militia groups have funded violent conflicts in Africa that have led to the death and displacement of millions of people.
However, Conflict-Free certifications don’t protect workers from abuses of rights or unsafe mining conditions. The majority of mining workers live in dire poverty, and some of them are children and trafficked slave workers. It’s also very difficult to track diamonds, so many ‘Conflict-Free’ diamonds may in fact still be blood diamonds.
One positive aspect of diamond mining is that it brings jobs and economic growth to developing nations. As the lab-grown diamond industry grows and more scrutiny is placed on mining, some mining companies are making greater efforts to improve their practices.
Some diamond companies put money into land conservation to compensate for the land they use. And environmental regulations in certain countries reduce their water usage, pollution, and waste.
But at the end of the day, mining a diamond from the Earth always requires the destruction of landscapes, and the jobs it creates are dangerous and low paying.
Some people feel that the jobs supported by diamond mining are worth the destruction it causes because there aren’t other jobs available in developing nations. They view this as a reason to continue buying mined diamonds rather than supporting the lab-grown diamond industry.
However, diamond reserves are running out, and once they do, those jobs will be eliminated anyway. The mining industry may be a temporary source of income, but it is not a sustainable one.
Lab-grown diamonds have very little carbon footprint and don’t come with the negative social impacts associated with mining.
The Impact of Lab-Grown Diamonds
It does require energy to grow diamonds in a lab. However, some labs are already running on renewable energy, and they have high standards of safety and cleanliness. Certain lab-grown diamond companies have been certified carbon-neutral, which even includes the impacts of their employees’ commutes to work.
Mined diamonds use about 538.5 million joules of energy per carat, while lab-grown diamonds use 250 million. And more than 125 pounds of carbon are produced per carat of mined diamond, compared to just 6 pounds for a lab-grown diamond. Mined diamonds also create Sulphur oxide, while lab-grown diamonds do not.
It takes about 18 gallons of water to create one carat of lab-grown diamond, as opposed to 126 gallons for a mined diamond. The water used in mining is also sometimes discharged into the soil and waterways, creating extensive pollution.
The choice between mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds isn’t clear cut if you take into account the jobs that mining provides to people in developing nations. It is clear that lab-grown diamonds are better for the environment, and mining leads to violence, crime, child-trafficking, and other human devastation. One can make the argument that the jobs are not worth the human and environmental costs.
More transparency is needed from both mining companies and lab companies to truly compare energy expenditure. But lab-grown diamonds eliminate the violence, crime, dangers, and planet degradation associated with mining.
Fortunately, the lab-grown industry is creating competition for mining companies, and this is resulting in greater transparency and scrutiny for both. The more consumers care about the origins of products they buy, the more companies improve their practices.
Personally, I don’t want to wear a gemstone that holds negative energy and a tragic backstory. Especially a wedding ring that’s meant to be a symbol of joy and new beginnings!
I’m still in the market for a man, (anyone invented lab-grown men yet?) but I see a lab-grown diamond in my future.
My Pick: Lab-Grown Diamonds from Clean Origin
After comparing lab-grown and mined diamonds, lab-grown come out on top on pretty much all accounts. They’re structurally and aesthetically the same, lab-grown diamonds are less expensive, equally or more pure, and ethical.
There are several companies producing lab-grown diamond jewelry, but my favorite is Clean Origin. Their online purchasing process is amazingly straightforward, and you have the option to fully customize your own piece or choose from any of their beautiful pre-designed styles.
Every diamond comes with official certifications and a full grading summary, just like a traditional mined diamond.
I would be willing to pay more for an ethical and sustainably formed diamond, but a diamond from Clean Origin costs about 30% less than a mined diamond. The reason for this is that growing diamonds in a lab cuts out the costs of exploration, mining equipment and workers, transportation, broker fees, and other costs associated with mining.
Lab-grown diamonds are an exciting new alternative to mined diamonds, and I look forward to seeing how the industry grows in the coming years.