Diamond is the hardest material naturally occurring on Earth which makes it the perfect gem for everyday use. They are also extremely beautiful, able to split white light into a dazzling colour array. As with all materials taken from the ground there are issues surrounding their ethicacy. These are often compounded by the huge value of these little stones and the wealth they can bring. Countries like India, Brazil and Africa have all seen huge atrocities borne from diamond discoveries. Generally environmental degradation is confined to localized deforestation, erosion and sediment pollution of rivers and streams. This can destroy the life of local communities but often pails into insignificance as corrupt governments, warlords, armies and thieves all move in for their share. It took a Hollywood movie, Blood Diamond to bring the idea that a beautiful diamond ring was helping to fund war and torture to the masses. Many in the diamond industry were well aware of the issue but the industry had decided to keep quiet. The eventual backlash from the international community forced them to make changes and the Kimberly Process was devised. “The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds – rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments.”(KP web site). It was an amazing achievement and has brought about big changes, however any organization bringing together so many different countries is always going to have problems. The main one is right there in the explanation of what they were set up to do, stop non-government rebel movements fight wars against legitimate governments. What happens though when it is the government that is doing the wrong thing as happened in Zimbabwe in 2008? Wikipedia gives a detailed overview of the situation, basically the Mugabe lead government took over the diamond fields by killing and torturing and reports continue of torture camps near the mine still being active. The diamonds are being mined by a government and because of powerful diamond buying lobby groups who want access to diamonds amounting to over 10% of world supply, they are freely available on the international diamond market, fully sanctioned by the Kimberly Process. The Kimberly Process also has no say when it comes to environmental or other social outcomes. It has only one objective, to enable governments to use their power to mine diamonds and sell them with without the tag of Blood Diamonds. It seems however that it may even be failing in even this basic goal. Diamonds covered under the Kimberly process are sold as Conflict Free. As can been seen from the example above this is a misleading name. We go well beyond the Kimberly process, well beyond Conflict Free, we sell ethically sourced diamonds, the best for the planet.
Through the excellent work carried out by The Jeweltree Foundation we have donated funds to aid the traditional land owners in the Marange area in Zimbabwe build the history linking themselves to their diamond rich lands. It is hoped in the future they will have the opportunity to support their people with the profits from ethically mined diamonds.
As far as newly mined diamonds we offer Australian, Canadian and in some cases African sourced. In Australia we have one commercial diamond mine still producing in Australia, the Argyle mine in Northern Western Australia. The Argyle mine is famous for its very rare red, pink, blue, champagne and yellow diamonds. We also sell the world’s highest quality yellows from the now closed Ellendale mine, also from Northern Western Australia. The more traditional pure white diamonds are also available from both sites. Currently only diamonds from the Argyle mine are covered by a third party certification scheme, The Jeweltree foundation. This organization tracks the diamonds from the mine through the cutting facility and certifies that the cutting facility meets fair-labour practices including age, pay and health and safety. From our own research and the large involvement of Tiffanies we have no reason to believe diamonds from the Ellendale mine to be any less ethical.
Diamond mining in Australia is very well controlled by strong legislation and a stable government. Unlike precious metal mining large amounts of chemicals and water are not needed so impact to the environment is easier to control. Mining companies must rehabilitate the area once mining has ceased, but this is no easy or fast cover up of the land. A very careful analysis must be made of the environment before mining commences, flora and fauna studied, seed samples taken. In the case of the Argyle mine it was found that the area was already partly degraded by grazing livestock. A nursery was set up and plants are grown year round so revegetation can be carried out, bringing back the land to a state better than it was found.
Australian law also states that traditional owners of the land must be involved from the onset. In the past, especially during the first 15-20 years of the Argyle mine operation this has not been achieved successfully. The initial exploration caused harm to a sacred sight and financial agreements put in place to compensate traditional owners for the continuing disruption of the mine was woefully inadequate. For more detail information have a read of this fantastic document by Culturalsurvival.org. While it doesn’t change the harm already done Rio Tinto entered new discussions and in 2005 the Argyle Diamonds Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was signed. This agreement significantly improves the say traditional owners have during the remaining time the mine is active, increases their participation in its rehabilitation and provides more financial compensation in a far more transparent way.
In some cases we may offer Canadian diamonds if an Australian alternative is not available. If this is the case we will discuss with you the ethical arguments each way so you can make an informed decision.
Real diamonds without mining? Cultured diamonds are made in a laboratory. Chemically, structurally and visually they are identical to mined diamonds and yet have a much smaller environmental footprint. Currently they are far rarer than mined diamonds; whites have only been grown at high enough quality and big enough sizes for the jewellery industry for the last 10 years. A great thing about cultured diamonds is the colours that are becoming available. Currently a 1/2ct mined pink might retail for around $300k where a cultured equivalent is around $2k.
For investment purposes they must be viewed differently now and in the future. Manufacturing processes continuously improve which brings prices down over time, the opposite to what normally happens with mined diamond values. However they are already available at a much cheaper price than mined diamonds which might be a very important consideration, especially when not even a jeweller can tell the difference.
We love cultured diamonds for their beauty, affordability and environmental credentials.
Vintage and Antique - mined and faceted over or under 100 years ago
Reusing and recycling is always a great way to lessen our impact on the planet and diamonds are perfect as in most cases they are undamaged from their previous life. Any that may have small amounts of damage or that may have been poorly cut originally can be refreshed by a master diamond cutter. Vintage diamonds are graded and faceted in just the same way as our mined or cultured diamonds. Most round vintage diamonds are cut in the standard Brilliant cut, with Princess and other cuts readily available. Vintage diamonds are often more affordable than newly mined diamonds, so they are a great choice for everyone.
Antique diamonds were cut over 100 years ago, some as far back as 400 years. Most are a very early version of the Brilliant cut, not always round they are generally roundish with fewer but larger facets that flash light out rather than twinkle like modern diamonds. Generally we only use antique diamonds for bespoke pieces so if you’re interested in the beauty of antique diamonds please make contact via our bespoke design page.
Our vintage and antique diamonds are all purchased legally either by us directly from the owner or via a jewellery recycling business. By law we are required to keep careful records of all transactions. These measures help to reduce theft in the community and maintain the highest ethical standards.
Photo credit : Utopian Creations