Posted on June 21 2020
For many people in countries like the United States, diamonds represent love and happiness. Though of course, a diamond engagement ring is optional, 80% of brides receive one when they get engaged.
In the countries where these gems originate— especially on the continent of Africa, which provides 65% of the world's diamonds — diamonds can represent hardship and displacement. This fact has helped lead to a growing interest in conflict-free or lab-sourced diamonds.
What Are Conflict-Free Diamonds?
Conflict-free diamonds are certified to adhere to certain professional and ethical guidelines, such as originating in conflict-free areas and being brought to the market legally. Consumers who buy conflict-free diamonds gain peace of mind from knowing they have supported peaceful policies and legal, violence-free diamond trading. Diamonds labeled as conflict-free are known to have no connections to civil war or rebel organizations. They are mined and transported through processes that are free from associations with these types of violence.
In the 1990s, the civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone famously generated "blood diamonds" — meaning diamond sales provided funds for these conflicts. More recent conflicts in other countries on the African continent have gone similarly, with both sides using diamonds to buy weapons and fund their troops. The humanitarian issues that resulted from theses diamond sales made it difficult for many consumers to feel good about buying diamonds.
Conflict-free diamonds are the perfect way to acquire breathtaking, quality jewelry while abiding by your conscience and supporting sustainable global diamond-trading practices. You can feel good about the gems you're wearing — both because the diamonds are beautiful and because they have come to the market through a humane and ethical process.
Just like mined diamonds, conflict-free lab grown diamonds come in a variety of different cuts and styles. There is a lab-grown diamond that's perfect for every taste and every budget. Whether you're looking for a single, scintillating rock for an engagement ring, a necklace of brilliant tiny diamonds or a dazzling pair of earrings for your next night out, lab-grown diamonds offer gemstones you can look great in and feel good about wearing.
How Did Conflict-Free Diamonds Start?
Efforts to keep blood diamonds off the international markets began fifteen years ago. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established in 2003, at the height of the Angolan civil war, in an attempt to make sure that the diamonds on the market were ethically sourced.
The Kimberley Process allows countries to join as participants so they can sell their diamonds legally on the global market. To sign on to the Kimberley Process, countries must take three discrete steps. First, they must attest that their diamonds come from sources that are not involved in armed conflict. Second, they must provide each of their exported diamonds with an official certificate so observers can easily trace the diamonds back to their conflict-free origins. Third, they must ensure that they do not import diamonds from or export diamonds to any markets that have not yet signed on to the Kimberley Process.
These requirements are an attempt to make diamond sourcing as transparent as possible and ensure a legal and nonexploitative diamond market. Experts estimate that at the peak of the blood diamond trade, as many as a quarter of the diamonds on the market were traded illegally. Today, that number has shrunk to only 5% to 10%.
In the United States, the Clean Diamond Trade Act of 2003, which former president George W. Bush signed into law, implemented the Kimberley Process for United States diamond sales. With the CDTA, the United States committed to trading only in conflict-free diamonds from known, reliable sources.
Limitations of Efforts to Keep Conflict Diamonds off the Market
Despite these legislative actions, the diamond trade is still troubled by connections to conflict. For example, the U.N. estimates that 140,000 carats worth of diamonds has been smuggled out of the war-torn Central African Republic, or CAR, via Congo and Cameroon, totaling $24 million in value. It is estimated that armed militias raise $3.8 million to $5.8 million from the illegal diamond trade.
The official definition of "conflict" also excludes some instances of violence. The Kimberley Process defines conflict diamonds as "rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments." This narrow definition includes no other types of conflict. Forced labor also does not disqualify diamonds from the market under the Kimberley process. These guidelines mean that mining organizations can reap the profits on the international market and return none of the profits to the men, women, and even children who labor in the mines.
For these reasons, many countries, diamond industry leaders and NGOs have put pressure on the Kimberley Process to expand its definition of conflict. One complicating factor, however, is that major diamond-producing countries are signatories to the Kimberley Process. Some of these countries are unwilling to insert human-rights clauses that would interfere with revenues.
Another issue with keeping conflict diamonds off the market involves the difficulty of tracing the diamonds' true source. Rough diamonds can sometimes, to the extremely trained eye, be distinguishable by their area of origin. Once they are cut, those distinctions disappear. There's also the fact that rough diamonds change hands many times before even leaving the country.
Some observers also argue that diamond bans give consumers a false sense of security about their choices. Boycotting diamonds from certain countries does not diminish the problems that citizens of those countries face. In the DRC, 10 million people — 16% of the population — rely on mining for their livelihood and would struggle to support themselves without it. One potential idea for the Kimberley Process is to take it a step further and help countries form mining collaboratives so that workers can profit. This step would also help consumers gain the option of buying diamonds whose purchase will directly benefit workers' lives.
Why Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Conflict-Free
Lab-grown diamonds, as their name suggests, don't come out of the earth. Like mined diamonds, they form from a single element, carbon. But scientists grow them in controlled laboratory settings, using specialized processes to form the carbon into diamonds.
Scientists can use extremely high amounts of heat and pressure to squeeze the element carbon into dazzling diamonds. Alternatively, they can use a small crystal called a "diamond seed" and grow more layers of diamond crystal on top of it. These creation practices are safe for employees to use — they do not cause adverse health effects or injuries.
Scientists can experiment with the colors of these diamonds as well, using small amounts of gases to turn their lab-crafted diamonds pink, yellow, green and blue. They focus on the quality of the diamonds and the characteristics that will appeal to consumers, not on what the proceeds from the diamonds can accomplish.
In the lab, scientists monitor the diamond creation process from beginning to end. Labs are located in peaceful regions and engage in legal, conflict-free transactions. And the lab employees work in safe, healthy environments, work under their own free will, and receive fair compensation for their labor.
When the diamonds are ready to leave the laboratory, thorough documentation means that industry officials can track them to different locations as they travel to jewelers' shops. Most diamond labs are located in countries that have signed on to the Kimberley Process, so they come with certification attesting to their ethical origins.
All of these safety features and precautions mean that lab diamonds' origins are well accounted for. When consumers buy lab-grown diamonds, they can be sure they are not supporting conflict with their purchases.
Lab-Grown Diamonds vs. Mined Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds have a few different pros and cons in the minds of consumers.
Benefits of Lab-Grown Diamonds
Lab-grown diamonds offer a host of benefits:
1. Conflict-Free Purchase
Lab-crafted diamonds' ethical origins make them conflict-free. Conscientious consumers can rest easy knowing that their diamonds have funded no violent uprisings halfway around the globe.
2. Known, Trustworthy Source
Even some diamonds that claim to be conflict-free have dubious origins. Because they grow in a specific laboratory, lab-created diamonds have a known, ethically responsible source. When consumers buy a lab-created diamond, they know precisely where it came from. They can be sure that no blood was spilled there and that workers received fair wages.
3. Environmental Considerations
Realistic debate exists about whether lab-grown diamonds are more eco-friendly than mined diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds do require significant carbon use. However, there's no doubt that the deforestation, erosion and land upheaval associated with mined diamond mining damages the environment and the habitats of many wild, and even endangered, creatures.
Lab-grown diamonds are less expensive than mined diamonds, even while maintaining every bit of the same sparkle and luxury. Typically, a lab-crafted diamond is 30 to 40% less expensive than a mined diamond of comparable size and quality. So consumers can save money while sacrificing nothing in terms of luxury — or they can spend the same amount and get a heftier diamond to show off.
5. Premium Quality and Purity
Because lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical composition and crystal structure as mined diamonds, they have the same high quality and purity. No two diamonds are alike: the vast majority of gem-quality mined diamonds contain tiny imperfections, and the diamonds are priced accordingly. Lab-grown diamonds are the same. Both types of diamonds, being made of carbon, are also extraordinarily hard and will last for many years without becoming scratched or worn.
In addition, lab-created diamonds come in a variety of colors. Colored diamonds are extraordinarily rare in nature and therefore command a kingly price. With lab-crafted diamonds, it's easy to introduce nitrogen or other gases into the growing environment to create diamonds of vibrant hues. These colored lab-created diamonds are not much more expensive than traditional white diamonds.
Myths About Lab-Grown Diamonds
Negative descriptions of lab-grown diamonds often come as part of a defensive strategy from major diamond companies.
1. Lab-Grown Diamonds Are "Not Real"
Critics may claim that lab-grown diamonds are not real because they did not form for millions or billions of years underground. A recent survey found that 74% of Americans incorrectly believe synthetic or lab-grown diamonds are fake diamonds. However, both chemically and optically, the lab-grown diamonds that have been cut and crafted into gems are the same as mined diamonds. The two types of gemstones are indistinguishable to the human eye and even to many jewelers' instruments.
In their structure and appearance, lab-created diamonds are 100% as real as mined diamonds.
2. Lab-Grown Diamonds Have "No Value"
Critics may say that lab-crafted diamonds have no value, but the market disagrees. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast that the market share lab-grown diamonds occupy will increase exponentially, growing by 2020 to over seven times the size it was in 2018. This growth is equal to billions of dollars in value. Especially in light of the growing interest of millennials, lab-grown diamonds' value is here to stay.
Lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical and crystal structure that mined diamonds have. If that structure has a value in the form of mined diamonds, it has that value in the form of lab-created diamonds too.
Buy Conflict-Free Lab Diamonds From Little Switzerland
Little Switzerland has been a retailer of fine jewelry for over half a century. We have knowledgeable staff members who are happy to work with you and answer your questions about conflict-free diamonds. Customers can enjoy the convenience of shopping online, or they can shop at physical boutiques while vacationing in the Caribbean. Shop Engrace by Little Switzerland our newest collection of lab-grown diamond jewelry and loose stones.