When a couple decides to buy an engagement ring, they are committing to a purchase of up to several thousand dollars. It’s an investment many are willing to make.
But here’s the bad news: The diamond and gold industries are beset with problems from child labor to toxic waste to a plethora of human rights abuses and unfair labor practices. The Kimberly Process, which is the current certification, has far too many loopholes and cannot guarantee ethical diamonds. Diamonds are generally mined in large industrial mines in countries like the Congo, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Many consumers think that the popularity of the movie Blood Diamond in 2006 has helped to right the wrongs of the diamond industry; however, it still has a ways to go before it is a clean, transparent process for buying ethical diamonds.
The best way to keep the engagement ring ethical and green would be to find an antique or heirloom. This doesn’t require a diamond or gold to be newly removed from the earth. The gold for one engagement ring creates 20 tons of mine waste that include mercury and cyanide.
If this isn’t an option, there are a couple of things to consider. The first is a gemstone that isn’t a diamond. Colored gemstones are generally mined in smaller, more informal digging sites that have less of an environmental impact and less human rights abuses. Another option is a synthetic gemstone. The raw material still needs to be mined, but it uses less energy than mining gemstones. In addition, these raw materials, like aluminum and graphite, are mined for a variety of other purposes as well and in much larger quantities.
Brilliant Earth is a company that sources its diamonds from Canada or small mines in Namibia and Botswana. They hold their mines to high labor and environmental standards to provide verified origin diamonds. They also create jobs in the original countries by cutting and polishing the stones before exportation. The Diamond Development Initiative International is also a group working to support small scale diamond operations.
When making a large purchase such as a ring, hold your jeweler to high standards before handing over so much money. They should know every part of the path from the mine to their store. Don’t let them off with vague answers or a Kimberley Process certification. The consumers hold the power to influence change in this industry by demanding clearer information and ethical diamonds.