— by Cullen Jewellery
Are Diamonds Ethically Sourced?
At Cullen Jewellery, we are committed to providing sustainable, fair and ethical fine jewellery to our clients. We will never supply gemstones that have funded armed rebel movements or activities that contribute to human suffering.
How are diamonds formed?
Diamonds are made of pure carbon and are naturally found within the Earth’s surface. Deep inside the Earth’s mantle (approximately 150 kilometres below the planet’s crust!), natural diamonds are formed in a high-pressure zone where temperatures reach over 1000 degrees Celsius. The extreme heat and pressure induce carbon atoms to crystallise, forming the first seed of the diamond. It is unknown exactly how long it takes for a diamond to grow but scientists estimate it could be between a few days to millions of years. Embedded in huge chunks of rock (xenoliths), natural diamonds are then brought to the surface by seismic events such as volcanic eruptions.
Natural diamonds have been mined from every region, climate and location around the world. Though small, natural diamonds are of incredible value and have been a source of controversy in trade and conflict for decades. Up until very recently, diamond mining was largely unregulated, resulting in ‘blood’ or ‘conflict’ diamonds. Blood diamonds are mined in African war zones with the use of forced labour and used to fund armed rebel movements.
In 2003 the Kimberley Process was developed, establishing an international certification system created to guarantee clients that the diamonds they bought were conflict-free. Though this process has reduced the number of conflict diamonds on the market, almost 20 years later loopholes still remain, allowing warzone mined diamonds to be sold internationally. There are also concerns over the narrow definition of a conflict diamond which focuses solely on the mining and distribution of conflict diamonds. Worker exploitation is not addressed in the definition, meaning the health and safety of working conditions, the use of child or slave labour, and fair pay is neglected. It also neglects to consider the upheaval of entire populations from their ancestral homes in order to make room for new mines.
Thanks to modern technology, diamonds can now be produced in a laboratory environment. Grown under simulated conditions that mimic the intense heat and pressure found in the Earth’s mantle, lab grown diamonds are formed with the exact same physical, chemical and optical properties of a natural diamond. After crystallisation has occurred, the diamond seeds will mature in 6-10 weeks within the pressure chamber. With the exact same look and feel as a natural diamond, lab grown diamonds come with the added benefit of being 100% conflict-free. Lab grown diamonds are fully traceable and will never involve mining, environmental damage, community displacement or unethical labour practices in their creation.
Furthermore, did you know that roughly 250 tons of earth must be mined and sifted through to find just one carat of diamond? Lab grown diamonds do not require the use of mining and do not have the same environmental impact as a natural diamond does. Therefore, the only true way of knowing you’re purchasing a conflict-free diamond is to purchase a lab grown diamond.