I am SO excited to introduce our guest writer today, Steven Foulkes from MADE Diamonds. I am ALL about luxury, but it is important to me to ensure that everything is sustainable, ethical and of course vegan. When I found MADE Diamonds I was thrilled, as (although no plans to get married just yet…) previously I had assumed that diamonds were out of the running for an engagement ring due to the lack of clarity often surrounding their manufacturing.
Happily, diamonds can still be our best friends, and Stephen is going to talk all about what you need to look out for to ensure the diamond(s) you buy meet are beautiful in every way.
Living an ethical and sustainable lifestyle is all about making better choices in all areas of our lives, and one of the biggest opportunities to live up to our values is in the purchases we make. The purchases we make are like votes we cast for the kind of world we’d like to live in. Many people focus on the everyday purchases they make in order to ensure they are in line with their values, which is a great place to start, but often overlooked are the larger or more “one-off” purchases.
Even the most ethically minded and principled individuals often end up purchasing or wearing a natural diamond engagement ring for a number of reasons. Firstly an engagement ring is most often given as part of a surprise proposal, so the receiver may not have had any input into the purchasing decision. This is understandable in many respects but if your partner is aware of your values and understands the issues surrounding natural diamonds there is a chance they may have the foresight to opt for an alternative. This however leads nicely onto the second reason many ethically minded individuals end up wearing a natural diamond, which is lack of awareness of the issues.
Whilst most people have heard of conflict diamonds, that is normally as far as it goes unfortunately. Whilst conflict diamonds are still a concern (which we’ll discuss later), most people completely overlook the environmental devastation caused by diamond mining and the more wider human rights issues.
The final reason an otherwise ethical person may receive or wear a natural diamond engagement ring is the common lack of awareness regarding a viable and worthy alternative. Of course there are the options of other kinds of stones, or no stone at all, but most people really do desire a traditional, beautiful and colourless rock set within their engagement ring. Up until now the alternative options were truly sub-par, but as technologies have progressed there are now genuinely worthy alternatives, which are beautiful, luxurious and ethical all at the same time!
The Not So Wonderful World of Natural Diamonds
The environmental impact of diamond mining is devastating. Many thousands of tonnes of earth needs to be moved to find just one carat worth of natural diamond and in the process some of the world’s most precious and ancient ecosystems are uprooted and ruined forever. The habitats of endangered species are routinely destroyed in the search for diamonds across many continents.
Whilst Africa is often the main area of concern, people seem to have a perception that diamonds sourced from other more developed countries cause less harm and are more ethical because they are not conflict diamonds, whilst the ecological and environmental factors are often completely overlooked.
The human suffering brought about by diamond mining is more commonly known. Whilst many diamonds are now advertised as “conflict-free”, this completely overlooks the historical abuses in regions such as Africa. Many diamond mining companies still operate on sites which may have seen much bloodshed or may have been taken by force many years ago. Conflict diamonds, also referred to as “blood diamonds”, relate to stones which have often been mined in conflict zones by slave labour in order to fund militia groups and warlords, which in turn has lead to the death of millions of innocent civilians. With all of this being in relatively recent history (realistically within most of our lifetimes) we feel it is quite a stretch to overlook this fact just because a natural diamond is now advertised as “conflict-free”.
When you consider the human and environmental impact of mined diamonds, it becomes extremely difficult to justify the purchase of a natural diamond engagement ring. The one remaining factor many cling to is the perception that natural diamonds are rare or particularly special in some way. This is understandable because of the decades of excellent marketing produced to make us believe this. Natural diamonds are just not as rare as we often perceive them to be. The high prices are less to do with real scarcity and more to do with controlled supply, cartel pricing and an industry built around an outdated supply chain.
Most natural diamond purchased by consumers in the UK will have passed through many different parties before ending up in a retail shop window. All of these traders and dealers will each take their cut well before the retailer then adds their profit margin. Included within the price of all diamond engagement rings bought via physical retail outlets is then the cost of overheads and staff. All of this creates a wildly inflated price which is then translates to the perception of scarcity.
Better, Smarter and More Ethical Alternatives
Thankfully there are now many worthy alternatives to mined diamonds available here in the UK. As awareness of these alternatives grow we are seeing more and more UK consumers opt for lab created diamonds for a variety
of reasons. For ethically minded individuals, lab created diamonds provide all of the beauty and brilliance of natural diamonds, but without any of the negative environmental or human rights concerns. Even for people not purposefully attempting to live an ethical and sustainable lifestyle, just the prospect avoiding the inflated prices of natural diamonds is enough to persuade many to opt for a lab created stone.
There are many different technologies now available in the UK, often battling it out to be the number one choice in this developing market. The main point is that all man made stones are far more ethical than mined stones for the reasons outlined earlier. Once you have decided on a man made stone it is then a case of weighing up the various options available. Pure man made diamonds do exist but the technology to produce such stones has not progressed yet to the point where they can be offered at any reasonable price point. Most pure man made diamonds are priced very close to similar quality natural stones, which initially sounds reasonable, but you must remember just how the prices of natural stones are so wildly artificially inflated to see that pure man made stones do not yet offer great value for money.
Having been in the fine jewellery industry for over 30 years, we very early on recognised the negative aspects of natural diamonds. It was our growing ethical awareness and our move to a vegan lifestyle that ultimately lead to our decision to create a new brand that combined our ingrained appreciation for fine craftsmanship in jewellery with a need for a more sustainable and ethically sound stone that represented real value. MADE Diamonds are created in a laboratory environment through a process of building real man made diamond onto a purpose built core. Creating stones in this way allows for the quality of the stone to be highly regulated and produced at a fraction of the cost of pure diamonds, either man made or natural.
We chose to focus purely on creating engagement rings because they had always held a special place in our hearts and we set about designing the business in a way that clearly differentiated us from other engagement ring retailers. Rather than having a physical retail store we operate solely online meaning we do not have to build in the cost of large overheads into every ring. Whilst most jewellers offer hundreds, if not thousands of designs, we chose to offer only three limited edition designs at any one time. When the limited edition of each design runs out we replace it. Every ring is made to order which means that we don’t need to carry huge amounts of stock and we can be flexible to evolving demand. It’s all of these small factors that make us different and allows us to offer something truly special.
So, you’re sold on the idea but we understand that ultimately it may not be you choosing your engagement ring! Most of our customers purchase a ring from us because they deeply appreciate their partner’s values and want to ensure their engagement ring is in line with their core beliefs. A surprisingly large number of customers are couples purchasing a ring together. If that’s not the case though, sometimes the direct approach is appropriate, but if not some subtle hints can help sway the decision by at least creating some awareness of the issues and the availability of a better alternative ready for when the time is right! Learn more about MADE Diamonds and our lab created diamond engagement rings over on our website
Feel free to get in touch with MADE Diamonds with any questions- we’re always happy to help in your search for the perfect ethical ring!
Find out more About MADE Diamonds
Learn more about Lab created diamond engagement rings