By Hannah Tapping
Price, transparency and environmental reasons are leading young diamond buyers to purchase ethical alternatives.
Traditionally, the 4Cs has been the universal method of assessing diamond quality – colour, clarity, cut and weight. However, those who have recently fallen in love are falling out of love with mined diamonds and so, for many, there are now additional, ethical elements to consider when choosing a diamond or other stone.
Open-pit, underground, or indeed offshore diamond mining comes at a huge environmental cost, causing irreversible ecological damage and humanitarian cost. There is, however, a kinder way; Cornish company Ethica Diamonds, who are pioneers in the supply of ethical, lab grown diamonds and gemstones and one of the first companies in the UK to offer such.
Ethica Diamonds offer two stones. Sustainable lab-grown diamonds – fully certified carbon neutral and grown using 100% renewable energy – are indistinguishable from mined, natural diamonds, being chemically and visually identical. The other option is a lab-grown stone (the Ethica Diamond) which is very close in composition, structure and durability to natural diamond. Independently certified, and maintaining the essential 4C’s, both options have the benefit of being considerably more affordable than natural diamonds.
Founded in 2011 and run by mother and daughter team, Elaine and Emily, Ethica is the only company in Cornwall, and one of very few outside of London, whose speciality is lab-grown stones, and in particular lab-grown diamonds. Partnering with the San Francisco-based Diamond Foundry, which is backed by Leonardo Di Caprio and utilises renewable energy making it the world’s first and only certified carbon neutral diamond producer, their diamonds have impeccable provenance with no human or environmental toll. Their cut grade and polish is also of the highest standard worldwide! Using these stones for their bespoke jewellery service means that buyers can rest assured that their choice is at once unique (they make up for less than 0.1% of all diamonds worldwide) and kind to the planet.
When it comes to choosing a lab-grown stone, the considerations are the same as Elaine explains: “In order to ensure you are buying the right stone for your loved one, there are several factors to consider, and our guide actually extends beyond the 4Cs to include certification, conflict and cost. The first is cut: this is often confused with shape and is the only characteristic not influenced by the growth of the diamond. The cut determines the light dispersion of the diamond which has the greatest influence on overall appearance. It is the greatest influencer of brilliance and sparkle regardless of the shape of a diamond.”
The purpose of cutting any diamond is to maximise refracted light, and a well-cut diamond will have brilliant sparkle and fire, because it captures all the available light and bounces it back to the eye. If a cut is too deep, the light will be reflected out of the side of the diamond, whereas if it is too shallow, it will be lost from the bottom.
The second consideration is the clarity, or the purity, of the stone. When lab-grown diamonds are formed they are under extreme pressure and heat. Imperfections in the crystal structure can form and mineral impurities can become trapped inside the stone, meaning that those stones with the least imperfections and impurities have the greatest clarity. Ethica’s lab-grown diamonds are available in the full spectrum of clarities, and it is important to select a diamond with a good clarity grade to ensure the integrity of the stone is at its best.
Colour comes next and many lab-grown diamonds are post treated to make them whiter. The diamond world determines colour by comparing stones against a master set of diamonds of different colours. This colour grading of a diamond refers to its lack of colour and for white or colourless diamonds, the diamond industry adopts an alphabetical colour scale from D to Z. Ethica’s lab-grown stones are never post-treated so buyers are always assured of the utmost purity.
“The final of the traditional 4Cs is carat, a measurement of the weight of the diamond rather than its size. It doesn’t always follow that the highest carat is the largest sized diamond, as shape and cut can affect this, so it is advisable to think about both the size and the carat when making a choice,” adds Elaine.
For Ethica, there are three additional very important Cs: certification, conflict and cost. Diamond certificates are issued to confirm a stone’s technical characteristics and identity. Ensuring your diamond is certified by an independent and recognised certification laboratory is essential for an unbiased assessment of the stone’s quality. Conflict is something very close to Ethica’s heart and central to the ethos of the business: “The truth is, there is no such thing as a conflict free diamond that has been dug up from Mother Nature,” says Emily. Finally, cost is always going to be high on the agenda. However, for Ethica that’s not just monetary cost, it also applies to environmental cost. By choosing a lab-grown stone, both can be negated as their stones are fairly priced, meaning you can have a bigger, better stone that will last the test of time.
Just because a stone is man-made doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t exquisite, as Jordan and Samantha, from the Leeds area, discovered on their bespoke journey with Ethica. “We were pretty clear from the start with the style we wanted. I had been inspired by another design I had seen on Pinterest and knew I wanted it recreated in a specific colour. The colour of the stone was the most important aspect for me, it had to be unique. The team at Ethica helped me turn the specific colour I had in mind into reality, as well as guiding us with regards to making the ring as practical as possible. A few changes had to be made but my ring is pretty close to the original!” explains Samantha. “We like to support small businesses in the UK as much as possible so when we came across Ethica Diamonds we were really happy. We really liked the ethos of the brand and its sustainable mission.”
Using a variety of sketches, followed by a CAD design, Ethica are able to make the process seamless. “Designing my bespoke ring was a really enjoyable process...It can be worrying that you may not like the final design, however the team helped in reassuring us as we went through the process.”
Zac and Nikki’s Ethica journey began closer to home, as they met at Mullion Cove Hotel, on the Lizard peninsula. Zac chose Ethica as he wanted Nikki’s ring to be unique: “I wanted a ring for Nikki that no one else in the world would have. Something that would perfectly represent our relationship; special and one of a kind. It was also important to me to work with a company based in Cornwall as it would mean the ring would be from where we first met. One thing I never get tired of is learning new things and learning about how different industries function. While it took a while due to Covid... it was still a great experience to be so involved in the design and creation of the ring.”
Ethica’s bespoke service not only ensures a unique piece of jewellery that looks good, it holds the feel-good factor too: “Purchasing a created diamond or stone sets you apart from the entire mined-diamond industry. You are not supporting environmental damage, human rights abuses, or dubious ethical practices. We guarantee it. Our stones are created in a way that harm nothing; no person, no animal, no land.”