Understanding Conflict-Free & Ethically Sourced Diamonds and Where to Buy

An ethical approach to diamond sourcing...

As consumers turn to sustainable products, diamond sellers must evolve as well. An industry established on less-than-reputable practices, diamond companies have worked hard in recent decades to transform their image. One of the biggest solutions is ethical diamond sourcing and “conflict-free” gems, which reflect the desires of today’s shoppers.❤️

👉🏻So what are conflict-free diamonds? And what can you expect when shopping for them? Let’s look at some tips on where to shop to find the best conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds.

Conflict-Free Diamonds on Green Grass

The basics of conflict-free diamonds

So why are conflict-free diamonds even necessary? Here’s a brief history of conflict diamonds as well as a breakdown of the Kimberley Process:

Before “conflict-free”: The origin of blood diamonds

For decades, diamond mining has led to countless human rights abuses, resulting in “conflict diamonds”.😤 Movie enthusiasts may remember the 2006 film Blood Diamond which centered around gems mined in war-torn Sierra Leone that are then sold to fund local conflicts.  

Similar to the film, real-life rebel groups take over mining communities via force, killing and maiming residents so they can control the diamond supply and, consequently, the profits to fund their civil wars. Conflict or blood diamonds are a sad reality across central and western Africa, and their illegal trade keeps warlords and diamond companies rich while exploiting local communities.

What is a conflict-free diamond?

Conflict-free diamonds have been certified by the Kimberley Process, meaning they were mined in an area free of war or terrorism linked to the diamond industry. These gemstones are mined and shipped through legal means, upholding ethical standards that protect the people closest to these operations.

According to the GIA, 99% of diamonds in the marketplace today are conflict-free. As such, these diamonds no longer fund bloody wars and instead promote the ethical treatment of affected individuals.

What is the Kimberley Process?

The Kimberley Process changed the way diamonds are sold across the globe by placing an onus on countries who source them. After the wars in Sierra Leone, over 70 countries decided they had endured enough and worked with the United Nations, the World Diamond Council, and the European Union to develop a diamond origin verification process called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

Today, the KPCS is the industry standard, and 99.8% of diamond distributors adhere to its procedures. By streamlining legitimate diamond sourcing, the Kimberley Process has eliminated most conflict diamonds in the market and improved the economic development of impoverished countries.

In addition to the Kimberley Process, the USA Patriot Act bestows more power to government officials to monitor worldwide communications and trade with the US. This act mandates compliance with the Kimberley Process for all U.S. jewelry distributors, minimizing illegal activity from one of the world’s largest diamond buyers.

How does the Kimberley Process work to stop conflict diamonds?

The KPCS minimizes illegal diamond trading by following gemstones through each step in the supply chain. Authorities at every level of the chain sign off on documentation that certifies where a diamond was mined, how it was extracted from the earth, where it was cut and polished, and its final destination before being sold to a customer.💡

The Kimberley Process also does not allow members to trade with countries who may be non-compliant. By following a diamond throughout its lifecycle, it becomes much harder to introduce conflict diamonds to the supply.

How can I know if a diamond is conflict-free?

There’s few ways to be 100% certain you’re purchasing a conflict-free diamond ring, but here are some tools that can help you feel better about your decision:

GIA Diamond Origin Report

Some jewelers can provide a Diamond Origin Report to review. Diamond Origin Reports are much like Diamond Grading Reports as they list the stone’s 4Cs and denote any flaws. However, a Diamond Origin Report also lists the gem’s country of origin and provides a laser inscription of the report number on its girdle.

By knowing where your diamond was mined, you can learn whether your diamond came from a Kimberley Process compliant country. You can also visit the GIA’s website to request more information on diamonds that have origin reports.  

Close-up of the Country of Origin on GIA Report

Talk to your jeweler

It’s important to work with a jeweler you trust who can tell you all about your chosen diamond. Ask questions, take notes, and be sure to learn more about your diamond’s origins to make an educated purchasing decision. Jewelers should also have access to the documentation required to back up their claims, such as any regulations they follow as a company or even Diamond Origin Reports to verify the stones are from compliant countries.

Do your research on retailers

If you’re buying a diamond online, be sure to scour each retailer’s website to learn more about how they handle diamond sourcing. Many companies dedicate entire web pages to explaining where they stand regarding Kimberley Process diamonds and promoting safe diamond mining conditions.

Here are a few examples of companies who offer transparent information regarding their processes:🔍

Ethically sourced diamonds vs. Conflict-free diamonds

Overall, the Kimberley Process has significantly cut down on the presence of blood diamonds. But, there are limitations to the process that leave some loopholes, and there are always people willing to exploit regulations.

In addition to forged documentation and member countries secretly trading with non-members, the Kimberley Process often faces human rights issues despite having the best of intentions. Child labor, fair wages, unsafe working conditions, and environmental destruction are just a few of the problems that the Kimberley Process does not fix simply by requiring diamond sellers to confirm a stone’s origin.⚖️

The importance of ethically sourced diamonds

To take responsible diamond buying a step further, you can always opt for a gem that is certified as “ethically sourced”. Much like conflict-free diamonds, ethically sourced diamonds have the elimination of serious human rights violations at their heart. However, the guidelines imposed by ethically responsible diamond operations encompass a broader set of issues than the regulations put for in the Kimberley Process.

So what do ethically sourced diamonds protect that conflict-free gems don’t? While all ethically sourced diamonds are conflict-free, not all conflict-free gems are ethically sourced!

An Open Diamond Mine

Safe mining practices and labor standards are a large part of ethical sourcing, as workers in non-unionized locations face unfair wages, work safety hazards, and even the risk of death. Child labor is another issue, as young people are forced to work to support their families and face unbearable conditions.

Ethical sourcing also covers environmental degradation, which is a major problem with diamond mining. The two main forms of diamond extraction are pipe mining and alluvial mining, and both put a huge strain on natural resources. Additionally, the carbon footprint left by both the human workforce and the machinery utilized in diamond mines is massive, causing even larger scale problems worldwide.

The Kimberley Process helped cut off the supply of blood diamonds, but ethically sourced diamonds are the only way to ensure everyone within the diamond mining process has a fair shot at a good life.

Other ethical diamonds and alternatives

There are multiple other white gemstones and responsible alternatives you can utilize in your ethically sourced engagement ring. Let’s look at some common alternatives for diamonds that ensure ethical practices:🤵🏻

Kalahari Dream Diamonds

Kalahari Dream Diamonds cut out the unethical middle man and create a sustainable diamond mining process. These diamonds are 100% responsibly sourced, as the company owns every step of the process, from purchasing the stones from reputable South African mines to polishing to sending them to retail.

Furthermore, proceeds from the purchase of Kalahari Dream Diamonds are used to better the lives of local communities where these diamonds are mined. This includes everything from providing clean sources of drinking water to educating local children.

When buying a Kalahari Dream Diamond, you are giving a little back to the people and locations that are most impacted by diamond mining itself.

Canadian Diamonds

It’s much easier to trace a diamond’s origin when it was mined in a first world country, and Canada is a premiere location for ethical mining practices.

A diamond source since the 1990s, Canada guarantees their gems are conflict-free and harvested responsibly. The Canadian mining industry employs strict standards and regulations to guarantee fair labor, sustainable mining activities, and quality diamonds.

There are several retailers who offer Canadian diamonds, but you can buy them straight from the source with Canadamark. Canadamark promises responsibly mined diamonds from the country’s Northwest Territory, and each diamond also contains a serial number that you can track on their website to verify its origins!

Recycled Diamonds

Another great way to promote sustainability is by utilizing recycled diamonds. Recycled gems can include family heirloom pieces, antique jewelry, or really any diamond that you are reusing instead of purchasing a new stone.

There are also diamond dealers that offer recycled diamonds, which are gems from original pieces that are removed, repolished, and even recut. These diamonds can then be reset into any ring you wish!

Recycled diamonds are a great alternative because they do not drive up the demand for recently mined stones. Plus, by purchasing a gem that was already mined many years before, you are not promoting unethical practices and instead are typically supporting a small business in the process.

Lab-Grown Diamonds

Did you know you can get a lab-created diamond that is structured exactly like a natural one? Lab-grown diamonds are true copies of natural specimens, except they were made by humans through scientific processes that compress or collect carbon into their crystalline structure.

It’s a much faster process than the millions of years of compression and heat needed to create a natural diamond, so the supply is larger! As such, lab-grown diamonds typically cost about 30-50% less than natural gems, making them more affordable.

Lab-grown diamonds are equally durable and sparkly, so the only real difference is their sustainability.🌲 No mining means no labor abuses or environmental impact!

You can find lab-grown diamonds at many online retailers, but big names include Clean Origin, Brilliant Earth, James Allen, and Blue Nile.

Brilliant Earth Beyond Conflict Free Standard
Beyond Conflict-Free diamonds by Brilliant Earth

Diamond Simulants

If you don’t require an actual diamond, there are diamond simulants that can suit your needs without any worries about ethical practices. Many simulants are created in a lab, so they leave a minor environmental footprint and require little labor.

The most diamond-like simulant is moissanite, which is a durable lab-grown product that has more fire and brilliance when compared to an actual diamond. Plus, they have a unique quality of scintillation and are a tad more lightweight.

Cubic zirconia (CZ) is an incredibly affordable alternative to diamonds, and its lab-grown nature means it’s always flawless and brilliant. Still fairly durable, cubic zirconia costs a fraction of the price of a diamond, with most gems ranging in price from $20-$100.

Here are some other common diamond simulants you may want to check out if you’re not sold on a diamond:

  • White Sapphire
  • White Spinel
  • White Topaz

Are conflict-free and ethical diamonds pricier?

Oftentimes, buyers decide which diamond they will buy based on their budget and what they can afford, which is completely reasonable! Let’s look at pricing methods for ethically sourced and conflict-free diamonds as well as how to save money during your purchase:💰

Are conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds more expensive?

Conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds do sometimes cost more than your average stone. Often, the extra money comes from the effort exerted to give local workers a fair wage, the lack of conflict, or even extensive processes or equipment used to leave a smaller environmental footprint.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for less reputable retailers to slap the “conflict-free” label on diamonds that have questionable origins and hike the price up 25%. As consumers become more cognizant of the atrocities of diamond mining, some retailers see this awareness as an opportunity to use conflict-free titles as a marketing scheme.

In short, ethical diamonds come at a cost to both the seller and consumer, but they don’t have to break the bank! You can find a diamond within your budget at any of our suggested retailers we’ll discuss below.

How to save money on conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds

So how can you save money on conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds? Here are a few suggestions:

Stick to ethical diamond alternatives

In the list of ethical diamond alternatives above, we listed several types of stones that offer more ethical purchasing options. Most of these stones are simulants that are created in a lab and do not have any mining practices associated with them whatsoever.

Typically, diamond alternatives cost much less than natural diamonds. Because there is such a premium on compressed carbon that comes directly from the ground, you can save a decent amount of money by opting for a stone that sparkles “like” a diamond.🌟

Purchase antique or recycled diamonds

If you don’t want to participate in the diamond mining cycle, try a recycled or antique stone instead. Recycled diamonds are actually one of the largest sources of gems nowadays.

Antique pieces tend to use old cuts that are much less common today. As such, these diamonds stand out among a crowd and offer a dreamy, Old Hollywood look that’s perfect for romantics. With no mining or environmental impact whatsoever, recycled diamonds are an ethical win all around!

Opt for lab-grown diamonds

A surefire way to avoid unethical mining or practices is to stick with lab-grown stones. Plus, lab-grown diamonds cost significantly less and leave no footprint in their wake. No alternative stone beats the durability, sparkle, and overall likeness of a lab-grown diamond!

Where to shop for conflict-free diamonds?

Many retailers have committed their efforts to sourcing ethical, conflict-free diamonds, but here are our top 3 best conflict-free diamond companies:

Brilliant Earth

A leader in the push for ethical diamonds, Brilliant Earth boasts that their gems are “Beyond Conflict-Free”. They believe in rising above the Kimberley Process to remove all diamonds that fuel human rights violations, poverty, environmental damage, etc.

Their diamonds are individually and responsibly selected and foster economic growth in local communities. With a blockchain-backed ledger, recycled metals and gemstones, lab-created diamonds, and responsible sourcing from Botswana, Canada, and Russia, Brilliant Earth is well on its way to the “fair trade diamond” industry they envision.

Blue Nile

With a zero-tolerance policy toward conflict diamonds, Blue Nile staunchly supports and implements the Kimberley Process to provide quality diamonds from respected buyers. All of their diamonds are warranted as conflict-free, and they handpick source mines from across the globe. They also have lab-grown diamonds for buyers looking to eliminate ethical dilemmas altogether.

They’re also a member of the No Dirty Gold initiative, following the group’s “Golden Rules” for ethical gold sourcing. These rules include employing responsible gold miners, giving preference to ethical suppliers with high standards, utilizing recycled gold, and committing to continuous improvement.

James Allen

James Allen only sells certified conflict-free gems that comply with the Kimberley Process as well as the Patriot Act and United Nations standards. The company itself goes above and beyond these regulations, maintaining strict contracts with sellers who are all members of the professional diamond trade.

In addition to traditional conflict-free gems, James Allen also offers lab-created white and colored diamonds. You can always ask a diamond professional about any concerns you may have during your purchase, as they are available 24/7 to answer your questions.

Sensible solutions for diamond buying

While conflict-free and ethically sourced diamonds aren’t a perfect fix, they’re an excellent start in repairing a broken industry. Overall, it's up to everyone to work a little harder or spend a smidge more to make the world a better place.

Interested in learning more about purchasing a diamond while saving money? Take a look at our 1/2, 1, 1.5, and 2-carat diamond buying guides to learn how you can find the diamond of your fianceé’s dreams.💋

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