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Ethical Gemstones - What are my options? Part One

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Ethical Gemstones - What are my options? Part One

Sharon Zimmerman

Five years ago when I launched my jewelry business, I thought “hell yeah/ damn right/lucky me/I got this!”--a life where I can make art, grow with a like-minded community, and work with amazing, kick-ass clients all the while using the most beautiful materials as my medium. Five years later, I’m grateful to be part of an industry that is trying to be accountable and still asking hard questions like, “where can we get ethical stones from?”

As you know, the answers aren’t easy to come by or to explain, but I love having the conversation. Over the coming months, I’ll be talking about your options for ethical gemstones (and shedding some light on issues for my globally-conscious consumers).

Option one: Recycled Diamonds (aka - post-consumer, upcycled, antique diamonds, vintage diamonds):

Antique DIamonds, Old Mine Cut Diamonds and Old European Cut Diamonds from Perpetuum Jewels

Antique DIamonds, Old Mine Cut Diamonds and Old European Cut Diamonds from Perpetuum Jewels

Recycling the diamonds and stones from your antique jewelry and family heirlooms is a great way to design your own one-of-a-kind piece. Once you’ve had the diamonds or stones assessed for cracks and chips, they can be reused for a piece that fuses the vintage and the modern. And, antique diamonds often feature beautiful cuts that can’t be found today, and best of all, no new mining took place for the creation of the piece. Recycled diamonds are readily available, and you might already have some on hand that can be re purposed into new jewelry and given new life. Some of my favorite commissions have been from clients who want to use existing diamonds. 

Option two: Newly-Mined Natural Diamonds

Sadly, to date, there is no certification for Fair Trade Diamonds that satisfactorily answers the question of “where did this come from?”. And without knowing a diamond’s country of origin and traceability through its process, we can’t be sure of who or what was harmed during the mining, cutting, and polishing of said diamond. The Kimberly Process (some of you might have seen my previous post about this certification) is what we have, though some countries are making efforts to address consumer concerns. Diamonds from Canada can be traced back to Canada, but they are mined at great costs in a delicate part of the world near the Arctic Circle where the environmental consequences will be felt by later generations. As for Botswana, the government there has taken far more steps than many other countries to provide decent wages for its workers and environmental protections for the land, and is considered by many to be a leader in the industry for sustainability, but it has been estimated that the main diamond mine there has only 15 years of supply left. 

So--at this time, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend newly-mined diamonds from any country in the world, and before we deplete the earth’s resources of its natural diamonds, are you thinking what I’m thinking?--- “What are my other options for ethical and conflict-free diamonds?” Many in the jewelry industry (myself included) think that the future may lie in lab-grown alternatives or cultivated diamonds, and I’ll be talking about these and other ethically-sourced stones next time. I hope you'll follow along!

Check out Part Deux of my series on Ethical Gemstones - Up next, What is the Deal With Lab-Grown Diamonds?