by Suzanne Sachs • 5 min read
Lab-grown diamonds are often promoted as a more environmentally-friendly option than naturally mined stones, but they aren’t as eco-friendly as they may seem. A better understanding of lab-grown diamonds can help you recognize what is entailed in creating a diamond in a laboratory, so you can make the best decision you feel most comfortable with purchasing diamonds for an engagement ring, wedding ring, pendant, bracelet, earrings or any other jewelry.
What You Need To Know--
In this guide, we will explain the following:
- What are lab grown diamonds
- Why lab grown diamonds are not eco-friendly
- High carbon emissions
- Environmental cost
- Resale value
- Why natural diamonds are labeled bad for the environment
- Which diamonds are most eco-friendly
- Antique and vintage diamonds
- The most sustainable diamonds of all
What Are Lab Grown Diamonds?
In chemical vapor deposition, a carbon-rich gas is broken down in a vacuum chamber and bombarded with lasers or microwaves. A seed crystal in the chamber is used as a base for a new crystal to grow from the dissociated carbon atoms, and as those atoms accumulate, they create an identical crystalline and chemical structure to natural diamond. That rough diamond can then be cut and polished into a fine gemstone, just like a natural stone mined from the earth.
Why Lab-Grown Diamonds Are Not Eco-Friendly
Because naturally mined stones are associated with so much environmental damage, lab-grown diamonds are often touted as eco-friendly. It is true that the resources necessary to produce a laboratory gem are often less than the damage from natural mining operation, but the comparison is relative – lab-grown diamonds still require tremendous resources and can be responsible for significant environmental destruction.
• High Carbon Emissions
The different processes to create lab-grown diamonds and gemstones, for example, require high heat and intense pressure for the gem crystals to form as desired. This requires tremendous energy, often from coal or natural gas plants, which produce high carbon emissions. Similarly, a great deal of water is necessary to cool plants and run lab operations – another resource necessary to create these so-called eco-friendly stones.
• Environmental Cost
In order to produce lab-grown diamonds, appropriate facilities must be built, which means new construction and habitat destruction where the buildings and support facilities – parking, affiliated labs, office space, etc. – are located. Because so few labs produce these diamonds, the global shipping to bring the stones to retailers must also be factored in to any consideration of the gems’ overall environmental cost.
• Resale Value
Furthermore, lab-grown diamonds have very little resale value, and because there is so little interest in these stones for resale, new gems must be manufactured to meet demand. This is completely contrary to the much higher resale value for natural diamonds, which can be handed down in heirloom jewelry or reset into different pieces to create “new” jewelry with old, natural stones.
Why Natural Diamonds Are Labeled “Bad” for the Environment?
It is no secret or surprise that diamond and gemstone mining can be a very destructive process. Different types of mines can destroy habitat, create both air and water pollution, and produce tremendous amounts of greenhouse gasses. Explosives used in mining operations can be hazardous not only to workers but to surrounding communities, and the road construction to reach mining sites as well as to ship out the mined stones causes even more environmental and habitat damage. Rivers may be diverted or blocked to access alluvial deposits for mining, and chemicals used to facilitate mining may cause toxic contamination that may take years to clean up, if it is even cleaned up at all.
Regulations governing mining operations vary in different parts of the world, and in some areas where diamond mining is very lucrative, there may be few, if any, regulations. Furthermore, many companies take no steps to restore local ecosystems or habitats once a mine is no longer productive, but instead move on to their next operation without regard for what they may leave behind.
It takes approximately 250 tons of mined earth to produce just one carat of diamond, and the damage that mine may create can last for many years longer than even the most romantic proposal, most glamorous wedding, or happiest of anniversaries.
Which Diamonds Are Most Eco-Friendly?
Ultimately, both naturally mined and lab-grown diamonds can be tremendously environmentally damaging. While lab-grown gems may seem somewhat more eco-friendly, the lack of resale interest negates that slim margin of environmental friendliness.
• Vintage Diamonds
The most eco-friendly stones of all are antique and vintage diamonds. While these stones were naturally mined many years before lab-growing techniques even existed, the mining techniques decades ago produced fewer greenhouse gasses (due to less heavy equipment), and reusing the stones today creates no new environmental damage. These stones are the ultimate in recycling and reusing, particularly if the entire ring or other vintage jewelry piece is preserved and thus there is no new metal needed either.
The Most Sustainable Diamonds of All
By better appreciating and turning to vintage and antique jewelry, eco-minded diamond buyers can enjoy the beauty of these precious gems while knowing they are helping to preserve the earth’s beauty and limited resources at the same time.
Vintage Engagement Rings For Everyone:
No matter which gemstone is your favorite, these time-honored gemstone have a rich history and individualized character and will continue to have a timeless beauty and elegant appeal that is part of a legacy to pass on to future generations.
Find The Perfect Engagement Ring:
Antique rings are prized not only for their beauty but also for their exquisite attention to detailing and design. If you’re looking for a ring with a sense of glamour, sophistication and vintage charm, explore our collection of vintage engagement rings today!