For many, buying a diamond engagement ring is the most expensive piece of jewellery they will ever purchase or wear. But far outweighing the cost is the significance of the act, but we also take into account the latent cost of our diamonds on a wider scale.
Diamonds are a time tested cultural way to show someone you love them; you want to be with them forever and everything about the symbol of this most precious of materials and most heart-felt of feelings is joyous and beautiful.
These statements of our sentiments do not sit well with the ideas of blood, war, conflict, exploitation and pollution.
Here is our advice on how to avoid your diamond engagement ring representing these things, as well as your undying love.
The terms “blood diamonds” and “conflict diamonds” have become well-known, entering the terminology of current affairs through recent events. Supermodel Naomi Campbell received global publicity when she testified in the UN-backed war crimes tribunal of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, who stood accused by prosecutors of trading in “blood diamonds” to fund Sierra Leone’s brutal and bloody civil war.
One diamond can look much like another to the untrained eye - especially when cut.
The answer is in traceability. It is very important to do business with a reputable jeweller who knows the exact origin of every stone they sell. In an attempt to stop blood diamonds reaching the market, all major producing and trading nations adhere to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. This now accounts for 99.8% of diamonds traded in the world.
When searching to buy ethical diamonds, the first question to ask the jeweller is: “Where did it come from?” If they don’t know, you would be advised to look elsewhere.
The second question is: “How was it made?” Some mass-produced jewellery is made in sweat shops or using child labour. Some mass-produced rings are not produced by a jeweller at all, but by a CAD computer programme feeding instructions to a factory casting machine. Not necessarily unethical, but something you may want to avoid in favour of a ring lovingly created by a master-craftsman. Again, we would advise you to ask your jeweller - if he knows the exact place and method of manufacture, they you are in good hands.
Most engagement rings are made of Gold or Platinum. Fortunately there is no gold equivalent to blood diamonds. However, not all gold mines are the same. Some are well run and benefit the local community, providing much more than employment. Others are exploitative polluters who can produce up to 20 tonnes of mercury laden sludge to produce enough gold to make one ring. Large-scale gold mining usually involves using cyanide to extract the metal, resulting in more toxic waste. Just as with the diamond, your jeweller should know where his gold came from.
Platinum mining is energy intensive and expensive to extract. In fact, gold is often a by-product of the platinum mining industry. Open-cast mines usually mean that the landscape is ripped open to remove platinum deposits. Increasingly, more ethically minded mining companies work to restore the area and surrounding communities.
The very best gold and platinum from an ethical perspective comes from mining communities, who receive training, financial support and healthcare from a responsible mining company.
You may wish to consider reworking or remodelling existing jewellery to incorporate it into your engagement ring. Often heirlooms, family pieces or broken and unloved jewellery can be melted down or reset to produce a truly unique piece of jewellery. The most famous recent example of this was the Kate Middleton’s heirloom diamond and sapphire engagement ring from Prince William; resized with minor resetting, the ring once belonged to her late Mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Although gold is easier to remodel than platinum, it is usually possible to make a new piece of jewellery from a vintage platinum ring or heirloom. Please contact us to discuss the options.
To find an ethically produced engagement ring online means you will need to establish the exact provenance of your ring from mine to finger. All our diamonds are conflict-free and come with written guarantees. We deal directly with diamond cutters and sight holders of the DTC (The Diamond Trading Company), adhering fully to their code of best practices and the Kimberley Process guidelines.
Our Diamond and Engagement Ring Experts will be delighted to explain you in details where our diamonds and metals come from, and they are available for live chat (online, on the phone or in person) 7 days a week. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.