The craziest part of graduation isn’t finding my life’s direction or figuring out how to make my freelance writing business works. It’s scrolling down my Facebook feed and seeing all of my friends in hidden-camera proposal pictures. All those pictures are precious, but some of them have dark backstories. It’s (usually) got nothing to do with the couple… and everything to do with the ring.
The beautiful diamonds that make the ring – and the proposal pictures – don’t always come from the best places. In the worst cases, paramilitary factions own mines that use slave labor to mine precious stones to fund illicit goals. Although world leaders have stepped forward to fight the blood diamond trade, diamond mines also have a massive ecological and environmental impact.
Which means… you don’t just want an engagement ring. You want a unique ethical engagement ring. There are ways to avoid companies that aren’t transparent about their diamond sources or the mine’s environmental impact. Here are three options:
- Buy from companies that offer ethically sourced diamonds
- Consider a lab-created diamond
- Forgo the diamond (not the ring)
Good Jewelers Despise Blood Diamonds
Many jewelers hate blood diamonds enough to be transparent about their sources of your unique ethical engagement ring. Vrai & Oro was founded in 2014 and is committed to ethically sourcing diamonds. Vrai & Oro is also committed to lower prices.
Their website outlines the steps they take to lower the typical markup that customers traditionally pay. Vrai & Oro jewelry is made in downtown LA, so they save import costs and know the exact source of their diamonds. Buying from them gives you transparency, ethical sourcing, and potentially lower prices than a traditional jeweler.
Today, the blood diamond trade is far less of a problem than it was even in the 2000s. In 2003, the UN ratified a piece of legislation called the Kimberly Process. The Kimberly Process requires jewelers to certify that their diamonds are conflict-free and have that certification ready and available. It also includes a monitoring process to ensure that any certified company maintains those ethical sourcing standards. Blood diamonds aren’t gone, but world leaders have taken steps towards ending the blood diamond trade and we must remain vigilant to ensure it remains that way.
Diamonds can be Lab-Grown
Ethical diamond sourcing isn’t just about importing from mines across the world. Diamonds can be grown in labs.
A diamond in a mine is formed when carbon is pressurized and heated in extreme conditions. A modern lab can simulate those same conditions in more accessible settings. So, instead of taking hundreds, thousands, or millions of years to form, synthetic diamonds only take a few weeks or months, depending on the lab. That’s one less giant hole in the ground and far less mining equipment puffing greenhouse gas into the air.
Do Amore is a startup in Houston whose synthetic diamond sales make up about “30% of their gemstone sales.” The founder, Krish Himmatramka, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that the synthetics are “just as good [as natural diamonds…] and more cost-effective.” In addition, this company also uses some money from each sale to provide water for communities in developing countries.
Check your local jeweler and see whether they offer synthetic diamonds. A “synthetic” diamond may not sound like the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, but many synthetics are similar in quality to real diamonds and don’t have the negative environmental impact that a real one does.
And the Radical Subhead – Do you need a Diamond?
Alright, hear me out. This won’t be the option for everyone. But you must face the harsh reality that diamond rings can be uncomfortable. I know three moms who don’t wear their diamond rings anymore because they interfere with the small joys of parenthood – like hugging their children.
If you’re a practical couple, then you can get an engraved band instead of a scratchy diamond ring. It’s completely up to you. If you want the diamond for your unique ethical engagement ring, there are some great options out there. But if you don’t need the diamond, your decision just became is a lot simpler… and potentially more creative.
A Dash of Realism
You’re not a bad person for buying a diamond ring. This is not that type of article. Think of these other options as ways that make your purchase matter to people beyond you and your beloved. The more we bring these types of stories to light, the fewer blood diamonds we’ll have in circulation. Plus, buying lab-grown diamonds will decrease the environmental impact that the diamond industry has on the environment. Or forgo the diamond altogether for a more comfortable and creative option that holds even more meaning.
A diamond engagement ring is an expensive purchase, but while you’re putting so much effort into finding the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, you can make a real difference with your choice.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop