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An Ethical Guide to Purchasing Diamonds

Diamonds are beautiful stones, so it should come as no surprise that they are popular across the world in all kinds of jewelry. As a result, these stones are very valuable, making them seem even more appealing to some buyers, while others find that their price makes pieces that feature diamonds out of reach. 

Unfortunately, ethical conflicts surrounding the purchase of diamond jewelry have added another layer of complexity to the purchase decision. It's not just about what buyers can afford. It's also about whether or not the ring is consistent with their values.

Where Diamonds Come From

To learn how to find ethically sourced diamonds, one first has to understand where they come from and how it creates ethical conflicts within the diamond trade. The first layer of potential ethical issues comes from the mines, themselves. 

Diamonds form well below the Earth's surface. While there are many different methods used to reach them, people who live near the mines, which tend to be located in largely unregulated areas, usually can't afford to invest in a large amount of equipment, technology, and skilled labor used to operate open pit mines. Instead, they exploit local people, forcing men, women, and children to work under grueling conditions for slavery wages, if they get paid at all.

Where the Money Goes

To make matters even worse, the underground and alluvial mining operations run by criminals off of the labor of exploited workers in unfair conditions often fund local rebels and warlords. The United Nations has labeled these stones "blood diamonds," or "conflict diamonds" and defines them as gems that were mined in war zones and sold to fund military actions against legitimate governments.

The Kimberley Process

The United Nations also developed a process for certifying diamonds as conflict-free. It's called the Kimberley Process and it requires tracing the stones through each step of the supply chain to ensure complete transparency. Countries that are certified by this process can only trade diamonds with other participating nations. However, there are loopholes built into the process, and it only covers certain ethical concerns, so it's still important for those committed to purchasing only ethically sourced diamonds to do their research.

Easy Ways to Find Ethically-Sourced Diamonds

Those who have the time and resources may be able to commit to investigating every step of their diamonds' journeys to the jewelry store, but not everyone can do that. Instead, consider these alternatives to diamonds sourced from afar:

Lab-Grown Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are chemically identical to their natural counterparts, but they are made in labs instead of taken from mines. This eliminates the possibility of ethical issues entirely.

Recycled Diamonds

Recycled, or antique, diamonds are just as brilliant and beautiful as newly-mined stones. However, when buyers purchase recycled diamonds, they're repurposing something already made instead of contributing to ongoing problems with unethical sourcing.

Canadian Diamonds

Recently, Canada became the third-largest supplier of gem-quality diamonds. They tend to be more expensive than diamonds mined in Africa, but those who want newly mined, natural diamonds that are guaranteed to be ethically sourced will find that it's a perfect alternative.

Do the Work

The easiest way to ensure that a diamond is ethically sourced is to purchase a lab-grown stone instead of one that could potentially have originated from a conflict zone. However, there are other ways, as described above, to find conflict-free natural diamonds. Just be prepared to do some extra work.

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