Let’s talk about ethical engagement rings.
It’s not a topic covered all that often, nor is it spoken about that much in public spheres. That’s because mined diamonds are almost synonymous with engagement rings. But this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.
When I proposed in 2020, I decided to go for an ethical engagement ring from Etsy UK – and what a great decision this was (and yes, my partner agrees too!).
Buying a more ethical ring is a great way to support sustainability and environmentally friendly action. Not just this though, you’ll also be buying a fantastic, high quality item that is just as good, if not better, than a conventional diamond. Keep reading to find out why.
My knowledge can only take you so far, so I have to thank Lily Arkwright, for their help with this blog post. Lily Arkwright are a premium online jewellery shop based in my home city of Manchester, who specialise in the highest quality, ethically produced jewellery.
Why are mined diamonds bad for the environment?
Diamond mining comes with a lot of negative environmental impact.
Diamonds are mined using open pit or underground mines. If you look at any pictures of diamond mines, you’ll notice how large these operations are.
Mined diamonds are bad for the environment as it involves completely levelling the area of any vegetation, exposing the earth and digging down. Some of the negative impacts of diamond mining on the environment include:
- Natural habitat loss
- Huge reduction in biodiversity
- Soil erosion
- Water source contamination
The impacts of diamond mining on the planet versus the minimal impact of lab grown stones is another big advantage that makes lab grown gems better from an ethical point of view. You can have a closer look at the lab grown diamonds vs mined diamond debate here.
What are ethical engagement rings?
Ethical engagement rings is a broad term that captures a number of different elements.
To consider whether a ring is ethical or not, you need to look at four main areas:
Gem Material – perhaps the biggest area for ethics is the gemstone itself. With ethical engagement rings, materials such as moissanite and lab grown diamonds are used. These high quality gems are produced in the laboratory, which means there is no need for any mining at all. This cuts out a whole load of harmful and environmentally damaging practices, not to mention poor working conditions.
Sustainability – mining for diamonds and transporting them to all corners of the globe uses a lot of energy. Ethically made rings have a much lower carbon footprint, which makes them more sustainable.
Traceability – do you know exactly where your gemstone has been sourced from? Traceability is a cornerstone of ethical buying and selling. If there’s nothing to hide then all steps of the supply chain should be accessible.
Affordability – thanks to the reduced costs involved in physical mining and transport, moissanite and lab grown diamonds cost less than traditionally mined diamonds.
Where are ethical engagement rings made?
As ‘ethical engagement rings’ is an umbrella term, where they are made is dependent on the style, cut and gemstone.
The most ethical gemstones are produced in a specialised laboratory under controlled conditions.
Let’s consider an ethical, lab grown diamond as an example.
As the name suggests a lab grown diamond is ‘grown’ under highly regulated conditions in a laboratory. This process uses advanced technology that replicates the development of a mined diamond under the Earth.
Diamonds are formed when carbon atoms crystallise under certain conditions – namely heat and pressure. The diamonds grown in lab conditions follow suit.
Lab grown diamonds are made up of actual carbon atoms, arranged in the same characteristic diamond crystal structures as natural diamonds. This means they perform and exhibit the same brilliance and sparkle as a mined diamond.
Moissanite engagement rings are also a very popular type of lab grown gemstone. Although appearing very similar to a diamond, moissanite has different chemical and physical properties when compared to diamond.
Every lab diamond set by Lily Arkwright, an jeweller in Manchester for example, is fully certified and accompanied by an industry standard – GIA, IGI or GCAL – grading report. This includes the cut, colour, clarity and carat weight specifications. This means all lab grown diamonds and moissanite stones are fully traceable.
This isn’t forgetting the metal ring itself too. It’s important that the precious metal has been UK hallmarked, which means it has been verified by an independent party.
Is ethically mined diamond a sustainable alternative?
The biggest gem diamond mining countries in the world are South Africa, Botswana and Russia.
In most instances, ethical diamond mining usually refers back to the societal impact rather than environmental impact. It’s clear that all mining will harm the local natural environment.
For this reason, ethically mined diamonds are generally referred to as ‘conflict free diamonds’. This is because money made from mining diamonds in certain countries helps finance civil wars and other human rights violations.
With mined diamonds in many countries, there’s also a severe traceability downfall after they are cut. When the process isn’t transparent, it’s generally not sustainable.
Buying conflict free diamonds is definitely a step in the right direction.
The Kimberley Process is a certification scheme that was started to try and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream diamond market. This scheme is named after the kimberlite rocks where diamonds are naturally found.
When compared to lab-grown diamonds, they still aren’t as ethical or sustainable.
Are there other ethical gemstones?
Yes, it is possible to get other ethical gemstones.
Lab grown diamonds, moissanite and coloured gemstones can all be bought ethically. A key indicator to look out for here is gemstones sourced and produced by Chatham.
Chatham are a company founded over 75 years ago who are the world’s leading source of high-quality laboratory-grown gems. Their production process ensures that all ethically produced gemstones are rich in colour and have just as much sparkle and clarity as their mined variations.
Lily Arkwright, for example, are proud Chatham partners. It’s here where they source all of their coloured gemstones.
The precious ethical gemstones available here include: Emeralds, Blue Sapphires, Aquamarine Sapphires, Champagne Sapphires, Alexandrite, Pink Sapphire, Ruby, Padparadscha and Yellow Sapphires.
I hope that has given you a much better understanding of what ethical engagement rings and the key points that make them better, certainly from a people and environment position, than mined gemstones.
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