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Your Guide to Conflict-Free Diamonds, Ethical Gemstones & Diamond Alternatives

October 31, 2020

Your Guide to Conflict-Free Diamonds, Ethical Gemstones & Diamond Alternatives

Ethical metals come up a lot in the conversation about sustainable jewelry, but ethical gemstones and conflict-free diamonds are a big part of sustainable jewelry too. Sourcing conflict-free diamonds, alternative diamonds, and ethical gemstones can be tricky when it comes to making sustainable fine jewelry as reliable ethical certifications are limited. If you are wondering how to find conflict-free diamonds, what makes ethical gemstones...well ethical, or where to get these sustainable pieces, then this article is for you. First, let's take a look at what it means for gemstones, diamonds, and alternative diamonds to be ethical and conflict-free.

 

What does it mean to be conflict-free, ethical, and sustainable? This means the gemstones or diamonds are mined and cut ethically. It also means that everyone in the supply chain is treated fairly.

Let’s break that down: Before your beautiful piece of jewelry hits the store, it has to be created right? Did you know that most diamonds change hands so many times before they come to market that it is virtually impossible to trace where it was mined or cut?

Sustainable products start with the people who mine the materials to use in your jewelry. In order for materials like gold and diamond to be considered ethical, those who are mining these materials must be paid a fair living wage, have consensual work, and come from conflict-free areas rather than countries that are funding civil wars through the sale of gemstones or gold. Added bonus, is when the production process is sustainable, low impact or uses renewable energy to produce the materials. 

How can you tell if the gemstones and diamonds you are purchasing are ethical and sustainable?

Now that you know what sustainable jewelry is, how can you tell if the super cute alternative engagement ring stone you have your eye on, wasn’t mined by abused workers? It’s time to do a little homework on the jewler. Ask the jeweler or look up the answers to the following questions: 

  • Is this gemstone traceable?
  • Were these materials mined or lab grown?
  • If these materials were lab grown, was it made with renewable energy?
  • If these materials were mined was it done by a large corporation or a small one?
  • Do these mining companies have environmental safeguards or use artisanal equipment?
  • Do these companies pay their workers fair wages and treat them well?
  • Who cut the stone? Were these workers paid and treated fairly?

Believe it or not, most engagement rings are not ethically made and pollute the planet. Many fine jewels made with diamonds or precious gemstones are not sustainable. They are mined and cut in places with very poor working conditions and or created in a lab that uses a ton of precious resources. 

Which gemstones are ethical, conflict-free and sustainable?

ethical diamond rings - traceable diamond rings - conflict-free diamond rings - sustainable diamond rings

Ethical Brilliant Diamond

Most diamonds are mined though giant corporations on just about every continent in either big mining operations or a vast network of small scale mines. Classic brilliant cut diamonds are extremely difficult to trace because they change hands so many times before coming to market and also because the corruption is very widespread. Kimberly process is the only available certification that is supposed to help curb these corruption issues however it has been proven to be unreliable. 

Be weary of greenwashing and the overuse of the term "Conflict-Free", conflict-free stones are just one part of unethical mining and the majority of the issues happen in non war torn areas. 

What to look for: Canadian Diamonds, Australian Diamonds, artisanal small scale mines, or traceable diamonds. 

What to avoid: Kimberly process diamonds. New diamonds with no verified origin. Large corporation diamonds like De Beers or Gemfields. Diamonds only labeled as "Conflict-Free" and nothing else. 

Read about why Kimberly Process doesn't work here. 

Read more on the human rights violations that De Beers contributes to here.

heirloom diamond engagement ring - rose gold diamond stacking ring set


Recycled Diamonds, Vintage Diamonds and Heirloom Diamonds

A great diamond alternative for engagement rings or heirloom jewelry is certified recycled diamonds. Recycling in diamonds and gold for jewelry is more of a neutral solution rather than an active one as it does not decrease the demand for destructive mining operations. The reason being diamonds and gold are not comparable to plastic and the demand far exceeds the supply. Traceability is an issue for certified recycled diamonds, as there is no way to know the age of the finished diamond or if it came from unethical sources in the last hundred years. However, definitely consider repurposing grandma’s diamonds before setting out to buy a new rock for your next piece of jewelry. Most jewelers would be happy to use your heirloom stones.


What to look for: Certified recycled, or your own heirloom stone.

What to avoid: Non-certified recycled diamonds.


Lab Grown Diamonds

Lab diamonds are increasing in popularity as an accessible, possibly sustainable, fully traceable, and ethical diamond solution. Lab diamonds are diamonds that are grown using special machinery mimicking the exact same process that formed diamonds billions of years ago but condensing it into a week. Under magnification lab diamonds are indistinguishable from earth grown diamonds. The only difference is that lab grown diamonds lack the drama and heroic story of a naturally earth grown diamond. Because jewelry is all about story some may find it hard to get behind lab grown diamonds. But Lab Diamonds are are definitely an option for a lot of people that don't care that they are machine made. Lab Diamonds have been under criticism as of late as the process to make the diamonds can be very environmentally taxing because they use a ton of water and energy making the argument that earth diamonds are somewhat better. 

 

What to look for: Certified Lab Grown from a company that uses renewable energy and has an offset program.

What to avoid: Lab Diamonds made with non-renewable energy resources and no environmental action plan.

 

rustic diamonds - alternative diamond engagement rings - pear cut rose cut diamonds

Diamond Alternative: Rustic Diamonds

The best diamond alternative is actually a diamond! Rustic diamonds or alternative diamonds or salt and pepper diamonds are diamonds that are heavily included, and come in a large variety of warm romantic colors and creative cuts like hexagon, kite, pear, or bullet. Rustic diamonds are very unusual and do not have the look of a traditional diamond and each one is one-of-a-kind. Rustic diamonds are also an accessible price point because they are typically less costly than traditional brilliant cut diamonds. Rustic diamonds have an ethical and environmental edge over the brilliant cut diamonds because they are less in demand and usually come from smaller mining companies. 


What to look for:  Look for a traceable rustic diamond for the ultimate ethical stone. 

What to avoid: Rustic diamonds that have no traceability.

ethical teal and blue montana sapphire engagement rings diamond alternatives
Diamond Alternative: Sapphires & Rubies

Sapphires and rubies are a great diamond alternative because they are accessible in price, they come in many beautiful vibrant colors that fit any style and they are almost as hard as a diamond. In fact they are the 2nd hardest gemstone with #1 being a diamond. This means they are suitable to stand up to everyday wear and tear. Fun fact: Rubies are actually red sapphires! So same rules apply to them too. Buy your sapphires and rubies from a reputable source that uses small scale mining over giant corporations with no traceability or disclosure of working conditions. 

What to look for:  Montana sapphires, Australian Sapphires, traceable sapphires, artisanally mined sapphires, 

What to avoid: Materials from Burma are often linked to sales that could be funding militaries that the United Nation accuses of genocide. Avoid sapphires and rubies from Gemfields, a giant corporation that is fueling the ethical issues with colored stone mining.

Read more on the human rights issues with Gemfields here.

In Closing

Many sustainable and ethical brands like us at Valley Rose are very transparent about the source of the materials. Ethical and conflict-free brands will usually include their sourcing in the description of the jewelry. If this information is not there, do some of your own research before you buy. When you support sustainable, ethical and conflict free brands, you’re supporting mother nature and are contributing to a healthy, equitable, and sustainable world. Happy shopping!

 


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Sizing & Care

 

Ring Sizing Guide

Print and download this chart to find your ring size. Make sure you use exactly 8.5"x11" letter paper. You can use a string or a piece of paper and wrap around your finger or nuckle to measure the circumference and match to your size.

Brilliant Earth Ring Sizing Guide ↠

 

Necklace Sizing Guide

Follow this chart to see where the necklace will fall. All necklace sizes are described on the product pages. We suggest getting a piece of string and measuring necklace on your neck to ensure best fit. 

 

 

 

Special Care Instructions

To keep your jewels looking their best please keep these tips in mind to extend the life of your pieces.