One of the most exciting parts of the wedding planning process is choosing the wedding jewelry. And you can’t talk about wedding jewelry (and, more specifically, engagement rings) without talking about diamonds.
Diamonds are often the centerpiece of an engagement ring and wedding band. And while you want to make sure that the diamond has the shape, clarity, and sparkle you’re looking for, you also want to make sure that the stone was mined in a way that aligns with your values.
Or, in other words, you want to make sure your diamond was ethically sourced. Ethically sourced diamonds are more important to consumers today than ever before. But what, exactly, are ethically sourced diamonds? Why is it important to ensure your diamond was ethically sourced? And, when you’re shopping for a diamond, how can you ensure that the diamond you choose followed ethical sourcing practices?
First things first: If the term “ethically sourced diamonds” is new to you (or you’ve heard the term before, but aren’t super clear on what it means), let’s take a moment to define what, exactly, ethically sourced diamonds are.
Unfortunately, the diamond business has a history of unethical practices. Worker exploitation has run rampant, with workers often being forced to work for little to no pay or to mine in unsafe conditions (for example, not having access to clean drinking water while mining or not being offered protection from mining-related accidents, like landslides).
When a diamond is labeled “ethically sourced,” it means every stage of the sourcing process follows a strict code of ethics and sustainability and humanitarian practices, from how and where the diamond is mined to how the workers are treated during the mining process, including fair wages and safe working conditions.
“Conflict-free diamonds” is another term that’s used in the diamond industry, and while it’s also a term that describes a diamond’s origin, it’s not the same thing as an ethically sourced diamond—and, if you’re planning on purchasing a diamond, it’s important to know the difference.
Conflict diamonds were a big problem, particularly during the 1990s. Also known as a blood diamond, a conflict diamond is a gemstone that originates in a war-torn country and is sold on the illegal market. Often, citizens of the diamond’s origin country are enslaved by rebel groups to mine the diamonds—and the diamond trade directly benefits the rebel groups, causing further conflict in the area.
Conflict-free diamonds are diamonds that are mined in an area that’s free from war or conflict—and the mining and sale of those diamonds in no way supports terrorists or rebel groups or causes widespread societal harm in their countries of origin.
The diamond industry has taken major strides to rid the market of conflict diamonds, most notably through their partnership with the United Nations on The Kimberley Process, a set of certification requirements and regulations enacted to stop the sale and trade of conflict diamonds. Thanks to The Kimberley Process, illegally mined and sold diamonds are much less prevalent today.
But just because a diamond isn’t a conflict diamond doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ethically sourced. Diamond mining is an intensive process that can, in some parts of the world, involve miners and mining communities working in unsafe conditions or mining using practices that can cause environmental damage. So, even though those diamonds can be considered “conflict-free,” they wouldn’t qualify as “ethically sourced.”
If you’re committed to buying an ethically sourced diamond—and ensuring that your engagement ring or wedding band has a diamond that was sourced using ethical, sustainable, and humanitarian practices—here are a few tips to help you get started: