Consumers are more informed and educated than ever. They have access to virtually unlimited intel that they can use to make informed decisions, and increasingly, they want - indeed, demand - that brands act with greater transparency. 

Seventy percent want to know what the companies they buy from are doing in terms of social and environmental issues, and almost half pay close attention to these factors when making a purchase decision. There is a great push for ethically and sustainably sourced diamonds that go beyond “conflict-free.” 

But what exactly does “ethically sourced diamond” mean? 

sustainably sourced diamonds

Ethically Sourced Diamond Meaning

When a consumer is looking for a diamond, there are several terms that come up. Conflict-free. Ethically sourced. Sustainably sourced. Natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds. It can be confusing trying to parse the language and know what you might be able to offer. Let’s start with the easy one:

Natural diamonds versus lab-grown. Natural diamonds are those that are mined from the earth. They formed under natural conditions over hundreds of millions to billions of years. Lab-grown diamonds are chemically identical to natural stones but they are grown in a lab in a fraction of the time. 

They have become a popular choice for many, but even as their chemical composition is the same, they are not natural diamonds. It is important that this distinction is clear to consumers. Many people also refer to lab-grown diamonds as “sustainable diamonds” or “sustainably sourced diamonds.”

Here’s where marketing comes into play. By calling lab-grown stones “sustainable diamonds,” it implies that natural stones are not sustainably sourced. This is simply not true - which brings us to our next term: ethically sourced diamond. These are sustainably sourced diamonds! Confused? We don’t blame you, and it is often intentional!

An ethically sourced diamond is one that is mined in compliance with strict regulations around labor and the environment. That means:

  • No child labor was involved in the mining of the diamond
  • Workers receive fair wages
  • Work environments are safe and highly-regulated 
  • Diamond mining companies adhere to stringent environmental regulations (e.g. use of water, filtering and cleaning water used in production to supply the community, etc.)
  • Supply chain protocols are followed closely to ensure that diamonds are not used to fund violence

To put this into perspective: companies that engage in “informal alluvial mining” or “artisanal mining” use nonunionized labor to perform this backbreaking handwork. They are paid starvation wages, and children are very much part of the workforce. 

Often, they are coerced or threatened into working in these dangerous conditions, and violence is not uncommon. Further, there is a “scorched earth” mindset, and environmental destruction is part of business as usual. Communities are scarred, and profits flow directly and solely into the pockets of the rebels or militia groups running the mines.

Ethically and sustainably sourced diamonds, meaning those that have been mined according to these principles, are an industry that provides solid jobs for people, as well as benefits to the surrounding communities (e.g. improved infrastructure). 

What About Conflict-Free Diamonds?

Now we need to look at yet another term you will hear as you shop for the right diamonds to offer your customers: conflict-free diamonds. Nearly 99% of the diamonds on the market are conflict-free today, thanks to protocols such as the Kimberley Process. This means that their sales do not benefit those promoting and engaging in violence.

However, just because a diamond is conflict-free does not mean it is ethically sourced. The mine could still be paying substandard wages or subjecting workers to unsafe conditions. They could still use child labor. They could still wantonly destroy groundwater, habitats, etc. While it is essential that your diamond is conflict-free, it is not enough. To address critical social and environmental issues, it must also be ethically sourced. 

Make an Informed Decision

Consumers want to know where their products come from, and this is doubly true for diamonds. The best way to ensure that you are getting an ethically sourced diamond is to be ultra-selective about your suppliers. They will have stringent processes in place to follow the supply chain and provide you with as much information about the origin of your diamond as possible.

By pushing for ethically sourced diamonds, we can help stop the widespread abuses to people, communities, property, and the environment that has gone on for far too long. 

To learn more, contact K. Rosengart.