Buying Diamonds the Socially Ethical Way

As conscious shoppers, social and environmental considerations have a growing influence on our everyday purchases. From paper straws to reusable bags, we as consumers have the opportunity to become informed buyers and incorporate factors such as product longevity, sustainability, and ecological impact into our decision making process.

For many, this approach and mindset to shopping extends to diamond buying and shapes how we think about buying a socially ethical diamond.

This guide provides an introduction into the social factors of diamond buying and provides options to make an informed choice for a socially ethical diamond purchase. In this guide, we also explore the merits of lab grown diamonds and other ethical purchase options.

Ethics of Diamond Mining

When thinking about socially ethical diamonds, most consumers tend to think about where a diamond was sourced from, who’s hands they’ve touched, and who’s benefiting from the sale of diamonds. What’s less commonly thought about is the environmental impact that the diamond mining process has. This process has alarming implications due to its destructive nature, but is also one of the best opportunities for change when buying a diamond.


Moving Mountains in Search of Rocks

It should come as no surprise that diamonds are rare (see Diamond Clarity for more info). Their extreme rarity in nature is the reason why they are so sought after and why they command such a high price. As diamond shoppers, we are often unaware of the fact that the diamond mining process displaces tones of earth for every carat of diamond found. Given the million carats that circulate and make up our jewelry pieces, the amount of earth moved and the manpower required to do so has a huge impact on the earth and our environment.


Mining Practices and Standards

Mining takes place in diamond mines carved in the earth and is typically done by advanced mining technology which can reach miles into the earth. Diamond mines found around the world differ in their mining practices and their commitment to the environment, labor and trading standards. While some corporations adhere to strict standards, both environmental and ethical, there still exist mines which extract diamonds by hand in troubling conditions. These conditions subject miners (who receive a fraction of the worth) to unsafe conditions and processes which degrade the landscape. The results of these unregulated diamond mining processes is acres of farmable land destroyed and eroded.

Environmental Impact of Mining

Lab Grown Diamonds: A Mining-Free (and Cheaper) Option

Lab grown diamonds have emerged in recent years as a great alternative to traditional “natural” diamonds which are mined. Thanks to their growing global popularity and increased availability, price points for lab grown diamonds are below those of natural diamonds. In contrast to natural diamonds, lab created diamonds are created under immense pressure within a laboratory setting and thus requires no mining – no earth is moved and no mining labor is required. This mine-free option provides an attractive opportunity when purchasing a socially ethical diamond.

Natural vs. Lab Grown Diamonds (coming soon)

Similar to how farm raised fish and wild fish are indistinguishable (without a microscope), so are lab grown and natural diamonds. Lab grown diamonds are real diamonds and share all the properties and chemical composition of it’s traditional counterpart. The number of retailers that offer lab grown diamonds continues to grow and includes:

A Sample Lab Grown Diamond

Here’s a great example of a 1.06 carat, SI1 clarity lab grown diamond.


The price for the stone is $1,200 USD.  A simliar real diamond starts at $4500 USD (at the time of this writing)

Other Options for a Socially Ethical Purchase

For those looking to go beyond consideration of just the diamond mining process, several other options exists which allow you to make your purchase socially ethical.


(1) Consider recycled gold

Just as aluminum soft drink cans can be recycled, refined and reused, gold and other precious metals can be recycled and chemically refined back to their natural state. This process of refining recycled precious metal can be applied to platinum, silver, and gold and brings with it the added benefit of generating a pure element without the environment impact associated with the mining of these elements. Recycled gold provides an opportunity to turn out-of-style jewellery pieces and gold used in industrial electronics into new brilliant jewelry pieces.


Learn more about recycled gold at Brilliant Earth


(2) Fair Trade Certified Gold

Similar to fair trade coffee, buying fair trade gold means that artisan and small scale miners were paid a fair price for their products and efforts in the gold mining process. This goes a long way to creating a sustainable environment for the miners, their families and the communities they are a part of. Buying gold certified as fair trade is one way of contributing to the ongoing projects in the mining community such as medical, environmental and educational programs.
Fairtrade Gold Information


(3) Organizations with Good Will Policies

Good will policies helps ensure your purchase helps fund programs and initiatives that contribute to charities that support local organizations, educational programs, agricultural farms in diamond mining communities to help balance and restore economic opportunities.


(4) Purchase from a retailer with solid tracking

Retailers work to track every diamond from where it is mined, to the workshop it’s crafted in and to the end destination retailer. The goal is to ensure that each diamond comes from verifiably ethical and environmentally sound sources


(5) Increased awareness

Sharing awareness and education with the community around us is another key opportunity.

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Making Your Contribution

As shoppers we are always presented with options when it comes to our purchases.  Understanding the history and impact of the mining process and ways to reduce our footprint makes a difference.  Don’t forget to check out our recommend retailers who subscribe to many of the socially ethical practices above


Happy Shopping!