Lab Grown vs. “Real”
Can Diamonds be Earth’s Best Friend?
Today, most natural products have man-made alternatives, but the one question that remains in most of our minds is – is natural better than man made?
The same goes for lab-grown diamonds. We know that they are created by man as opposed to being mined from the Earth, but what does this mean for the environment?
We’ve all seen, or at least heard about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond at some point or the other. The film did a great job at exposing the realities of the mined diamond industry, but the atrocities don’t stop at land degradation, child labour and armed military conflict.
Lab-Grown Diamonds & Natural Diamonds have the same chemical, physical, and optic composition.
How are Natural Diamonds Procured?
There are several methods of mining that can be used to extract diamonds from the Earth, each of which requires heavy machinery, lots of energy and water. These techniques often cause massive destruction to the ecosystem and habitat and kill lots of flora and fauna. Mining practices are deemed unethical not only because of their impacts on the environment but also because the conditions that the workers face can have adverse effects on their health.
So what then? Do we Give Up the Bling?
Absolutely not! As with most things, mankind has found a way to create the Eco-Friendly Girl’s Best Friend.
Lab-Grown Diamonds are identical to mined diamonds in appearance and chemical composition and have a tiny fraction of the impact that mined diamonds have on the environment
How are Lab-Grown Diamonds made?
Like natural diamonds, even in lab-grown diamonds, it is the conditions that cause the carbon atoms to change their chemical bonds, which in turn changes their structure and composition to that of a diamond.
Owing to this, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a mined diamond and a lab grown diamond with the naked eye. There are few microscopes that can find the difference, but they are very technologically advanced and not feasible for all.
Why are Lab-Grown Diamonds more sustainable?
Although lab grown diamonds require the same resources for polishing, cutting and inspection, they do not need to be extracted from the Earth, hence saving lots of energy, water and land.
The amount of water used is one of the biggest differentiating factors. While mined diamonds use up 126 gallons of water per carat of diamond, their lab grown counterparts use up only 18 gallons.
The process of underground mining contaminates ground and surface water while open-pit mining can severely damage the water table of the area.
Lab grown diamonds use 250 million joules of energy per carat whereas mined diamonds use 538.5 million joules, more than double. Also, if done in a sustainable lab, the energy used in lab grown diamonds is renewable energy, causing less damage to our depleting resources.
A mined diamond produces 125 pounds of carbon for every carat, while a lab grown diamond produces a mere 6 pounds. Additionally, lab grown diamonds produce no sulphur dioxide whereas mined diamonds produce more than 30 pounds.
Frost & Sullivan’s study reported that in terms of overall emissions, the growth process involves little or no emissions of significance.
Land Disruption and Waste Management
Nearly 100 square feet of land is disrupted and around 5,798 pounds of waste is generated for every carat of a diamond produced through traditional mining techniques. In comparison, lab grown diamonds use only 0.07 square feet of land per carat and generate only 1 pound of mineral waste.
Moreover, mining disturbs entire habitats and ecosystems, causing a loss in flora and fauna and leaves the land unusable, even after the mining activities have stopped.
The term “Blood Diamond” was coined for a reason. Diamond mining subjects the workers to extremely unsafe working conditions and the industry is known for its human rights violations, child labour and exploitation of the workers. Miners live in the fear of explosions and collapse and are subjected to very high levels of mercury and other elements that can cause their health long term damage. A study has shown that those who worked in mines in South Africa have a 20% higher mortality rate than the general population.
Lab-grown diamonds result in 0 injuries whereas mined diamonds result in 1 injury per 1,000 workers annually.
Is there a thing as sustainable mined diamonds?
Although efforts have been made and rules put into place to make mining more sustainable, more often than not they are not followed. For example, after diamond companies are done with a pit that has been created, they are asked to rehabilitate the land. That essentially means they create a soil ‘profile’ and introduce plants and animals back to the habitat, in hopes of rekindling the ecosystem. However, most of these mines stay abandoned with no efforts to rehab seen. Many diamond companies claim to have eco-friendly mines, but even with the most precautions taken, mining in itself is unsustainable as it requires the extraction of non-renewable natural resources, not to mention the environmental impact.
In conclusion, natural diamonds may have sentimental value due to their status, but having a guilt-free gem with you, that is truly forever, is a feeling unmatched. Conscious Consumers are making the switch to these ethical, sustainable and affordable diamonds and in doing so, are taking their little step forward for the environment.