Are Natural or Synthetic Diamonds Better for the Environment?

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For the longest time, diamonds have been referred to as a ‘lady’s best friend,’ and they are the gold standard in the jewelry world, especially when shopping for diamonds.

But at the same time, there has been an increasing number of people and organizations that are very much concerned about where the diamonds came from and if they are tainted.

There are also grave concerns on the ecological impacts of diamond mining, which means that an increasing number of individuals are opting for safer and more environmentally-friendly solutions, with synthetic or lab-created diamonds fast gaining popularity.

But which of these two types of diamonds is safe for the environment?

 

The Environmental Impact of real natural diamonds

Although the natural diamonds mined and processed through the Kimberley Process are said to be 99.8% conflict-free, and the process is believed to be heavily regulated, the real natural diamonds have some social implications.

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment

Canada and Botswana, for example, have benefited significantly from diamond mining in that it has generated the very much-needed revenue that has improved the overall social status of the locals.

In Botswana, a democratic and peaceful middle-income country, for example, diamond mining has grown the country’s GDP by at least 6% annually over the last 50 years.

The improved state of the economy has to do with Debswana; a venture runs equally with the De Beers diamond company. This partnership has led to at least $4 billion in value and revenue to the entire economy since 2014.

But even with the tremendous social impact natural diamonds have had on communities and countries, mining diamonds always have an environmental impact.

However, the mining industry is heavily regulated, and the third-party agencies employed in the diamond mining industry have helped reduce the impact of diamond mining on the economy.

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment

Transparency is still a concern, with greenhouse gas emissions big problems. But the biggest challenge remains tracking the carbon footprint from the mining and processing of natural diamonds.

  • Mining of natural diamonds involves the use of heavy machinery, explosives, and a great deal of transportation, and these contribute to a great deal of CO2 emissions. However, analysis of diamond mining fails to take into account other processes like diamond cutting and polishing, mine closure, exploration, and other phases involved in the life cycle of the natural diamonds, meaning it might have a more significant impact on the environment than anyone is willing to admit.

 

The Environmental Impact of Lab-Grown Diamonds

Despite being the preferred alternative to the natural, mined diamonds in the jewelry scene today, lab-grown diamonds also impact the environment.

And today, we have to look beyond the veil of sustainability and eco-friendly, which are the phrases that are often used to refer to lab-grown diamonds.

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment

As sustainability becomes a crucial part of the pitch used by these companies that deal with lab-grown diamonds, let’s determine if it’s true that the diamonds made in the lab are green or eco-friendly.

  • For starters, it’s worth noting that lab-grown diamonds are made through energy and labor-intensive processes. The machines used in the diamonds production require fueling 24/7, and they run on massive microwave-heat generators. So, while the processes involved may not have so many direct effects on the environment, they do impact the environment. Lab-grown diamonds come into being through high-pressure, high-temperature systems, the HPHT, and the Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD).  
  • The Single-Stone HPHT Press, for example, uses between 175 and 225-kilowatt hours for every carat rough, and a successfully polished diamond will use between 650 and 1100kWh. The modern and larger multi-stone systems for the cubic HPHT-press use 75-150kWh for each carat rough and up to 350-700kWh for successful polishing for every carat of diamonds.  The CVD, on the other hand, uses 60-120kWh for each rough carat diamond; and 1000-1700kWh for polished diamonds.
  • The high energy requirements mean that the lab-grown systems may not be the most efficient system because the diamond mining operations use an almost similar energy range. So, the only significant difference between these two types of diamonds would be the fact that the mined diamonds will affect the environment to a larger extent compared to the diamond creation process in the labs.

 

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment?

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment

Before we determine which diamonds are best for the environment, whether synthetic or natural diamonds, it is worth noting that we’d be referring to sustainable diamonds when looking for the safest diamond options.

A sustainable diamond can be defined as a diamond that has been sourced ethically, often made in the laboratory using environmentally sound practices. It could also mean the recycled diamonds that have been reset, reused, and/or resized.

  • With climate change becoming an ever-growing problem that is forcing focus to turn to the more environmentally-friendly option, the idea of sustainable diamonds is becoming more and more popular today. So, which diamonds are made in the safest, most sustainable way for the environment – synthetic or natural diamonds?
  • Even though the lab-grown diamonds require a great deal of energy to be created, the mined diamonds have a more significant impact on the environment. And on average, one carat of diamond mined from deep in the ground will require the removal of at least 250 tons in dug-out earth and freshwater, at least 127 gallons. And as the diamonds are processed, up to billion gallons of water is contaminated with the acid runoff from the mines; there are countless many other gallons emitted in fossil fuels used in the mining process, not to mention over 143 pounds of air polluted. And that is not all; the natural mining of diamonds also has a lot of adverse effects on the environment, ranging from drought and deforestation to flooding.
  • Mining diamonds could also be unethical because the marginalized communities are often affected, and the local communities feel the environmental impact of mining for many years to come.

Are natural or synthetic diamonds better for the environment

Not that the lab-grown diamonds have some effects on the environment, but these effects aren’t as significant as the results of mining the diamonds.

Therefore, creating synthetic diamonds is less impactful than mining diamonds in many ways. And the best part is that the environment is not only safer from the lab creation of diamonds, but the diamonds are also much cheaper.

And so, if you are worried about the environment or want more of an eco-friendly solution, lab-grown diamonds would be an ideal option for you.

 

Conclusion

When it comes down to buying the best diamond jewelry, the size and price of the matter of the diamond, but it may be time you started to think about more than these or the 4Cs.

It’s time to think about the environmental impact of the diamond creation processes. And in this regard, you may have to consider getting the lab-grown diamonds over the mined diamonds – they are eco-friendly and will also save you a great deal of cash.

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