5 TIPS FOR SHOPPING FOR AN ETHICAL & SUSTAINABLE DIAMOND FOR YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING
Opting for an ethical and sustainable engagement ring was our priority when we got engaged and again later when we started the search for our wedding rings, but it was a tricky process and took many months before we found suitable suppliers. Not only was I very specific that I wanted a minimal design, I also wanted to know my ring was ‘conflict-free’, ethically sourced and sustainable.
So what is ‘conflict-free’?
A conflict or ‘blood’ diamond is a diamond that comes from areas—particularly in central and western Africa—controlled by rebel factions opposed to recognised governments, and these diamonds are often illegally traded and may be funding conflict or violence. Conflict diamonds have been know to sustain violence in Angola, The Ivory Coast, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe.
Any jewellers or diamond dealers worth cheering for will be honest and open about their business practices to ensure you have peace of mind when purchasing from them. Of course, the diamond industry will only become more transparent if consumers make it an expectation.
Taylor & Hart specialise in designing unique engagement rings and wedding bands for both women and men and are proud winners of the ‘Best Jeweller’ category in the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) Awards. They are passionate about changing the way people shop for engagement rings, providing a simplified and advisory shopping experience. They will guide you through the process of creating a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, crafted to last a lifetime. Using Gemological Institute of America (GIA) graded diamonds, Taylor & Hart ensure the diamond set in your engagement ring is traced from beginning to end. They understand that choosing a ethical diamond for your engagement ring isn’t an easy process and are committed to bringing more transparency to the process.
So what can you do to ensure peace of mind when sourcing your own ethical and sustainable diamond. Here are the questions you need to ask, according to Taylor & Hart.
1. Do You Have Certification?
Ask for source certification. Sadly, there are plenty of companies who won’t be able to provide you with this information. We can and we will. Each diamond search for our customers is bespoke and asking for source certification is something we can include in our search criteria, by working with suppliers who can inform us of the country your diamond was mined from.
We’re on the front lines of the transparency revolution in the diamond trade because we understand the unique power a diamond can have—for someone like you looking for a beautiful jewellery piece or engagement ring with a clear conscience, but also for the family in western Africa whose livelihood depends on an honest diamond industry. We have faith that you’ll choose to care. And we promise you can have faith in us to always do the right thing—never sacrificing our core value of transparency.
Many jewellers or diamond dealers will say their diamonds are ‘conflict-free’ citing their Kimberley Process Certification, a scheme set up in 2003, with the goal of ending and preventing the trade of conflict diamonds. Made up of 80 participating countries representing most of the nations involved in the diamond trade, it successfully reduced the conflict trade to less than 1% but it’s not perfect. Some countries have politely declined the invitation to be part of the scheme, whilst no regular monitoring and certificates liable to tampering, loss and imitation illustrates the need for more robust laws. Certification may not be 100% but its the first step in showing that your serious about knowing the origin and history of your diamond.
2. Where Does the Diamond Come From?
At Taylor & Hart we only sell diamonds mined in Botswana, Russia, Australia and South Africa as well as working with a handful of carefully selected producers of lab-grown diamonds.
We’re actively making an effort to not purchase Zimbabwean diamonds, even though they are now deemed Kimberley Process compliant. We’re using the Kimberley Process only as a benchmark – but we’re actually more discerning than the process itself.
For customers who are passionate about knowing the exact origin and history of their diamond, we have a couple of options including CanadaMark diamonds. These diamonds are mined in Canada and receive an additional certificate and laser inscription from the CanadaMark organisation which assures the integrity of the supply chain of Canadian diamonds from mine to retailer. The program supports local communities by investing in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and training for their employees.
Taylor & Hart also offer Diamond Time Lapse diamonds where each diamond has a detailed report exploring its journey and provenance, as well as who has planned, cut and polished it.
3. Is the Metal Fairtrade?
Like diamonds, metals such as gold and platinum are associated with exploitation and violence, as well as having a devastating impact on the environment. As an industry, there’s a growing desire for the jewellery supply chain to be Fairtrade certified at each stage, to ensure ethical standards are upheld industry-wide. Finding recyled or fairtrade gold and platinum isn’t as difficult as you might think, you just need to ask.
4. What Are You Doing to Ensure only ‘Conflict-Free’ Diamonds are Sold?
One of our investors and partners is Everledger. They’re working to transform the tracking of diamonds to the source. They’re using the innovative new Blockchain system (upon which Bitcoin is built) to securely track and store the data tracking diamonds through the supply chain, making that data available to customers and retailers. This system would also eliminate the demand for paper-based reporting using smart digital contracts instead—simultaneously eliminating the risk of tampering. As a relatively new company they have a long way to go, but we’re working closely with them to add further levels of transparency in our own sourcing policies.
We acknowledge openly that this is not enough and that the definition of “ethically sourced” now spans beyond just blood diamonds and is applicable to all materials used, manufacturing methods, and even the policies and actions of the government regimes in every country that is a part of our supply chain.
This acknowledgement is what transparency is. We’re doing everything we can right now, admitting that we’re not happy with the state of the industry at the moment, and chomping at the bit to do more at every opportunity we get.
5. Are Lab-Grown Diamonds More Sustainable?
Lab-grown diamonds, also known as synthetic diamonds or cultured diamonds, are made in labs using a range of techniques. These laboratories either replicate the high pressure and temperature found in the Earth’s mantle where natural diamonds are formed or they use superheated gas to grow the diamond. However, because these new lab-grown diamond companies don’t yet have reputations to maintain, we’re treading carefully in selecting which of these suppliers to partner with.
At Taylor & Hart, we’re fascinated by the story of each mined diamond. What better symbol for your love and commitment than a diamond formed in the heart of the earth that has endured for millennia through the most extreme conditions?
Diamonds are also a source for good in most countries that make up the supply chain. Negative media rarely mentions this, but the truth is that destroying the natural diamond industry would be detrimental to the incomes of many people all around the world (from the people who work in the mines, to the polishers and cutters who transform the rough diamonds into the ones we find in our jewels).
Natural diamond mining should, of course, be more regulated to protect and develop the communities where the mines are located.
The lab-grown diamond industry hinders the opportunity to help and support countless communities, who depend on the natural diamond mining trade to earn a living.
We think the solution is somewhere between the two, similar to the public-private partnership in Botswana and leave the decision on which is better with our customer–what matters for us is that you have all the facts.
Congratulations on taking the first step to sourcing your own ethical and sustainable engegement ring. By reading this article you’ve armed yourself with everything you need to know but don’t stop here. Stay tuned into our sources, the news, and share what you’ve learned with friends, family, and colleagues. Knowledge is power!