In the second part of our blog series on lab grown diamonds we explore the ecological impact of producing natural and lab grown stones. Lab grown diamonds are frequently sold as being a more environmentally friendly option.
All forms of mining impact upon the environment. Retrieving natural diamonds from the earth requires heavy machinery, primarily relying on fossil fuels, and the extraction of massive quantities of ore, sometimes hundreds of tonnes of ore for a handful of diamonds. This obviously has an impact upon the environment around the mine, with significant scars left on the landscape by the displacement of so much earth. Huge amounts of water are also used in the initial sorting process although the use of chemicals and pollutants is very limited so there is little concern about contamination.
Today, new mines must complete wide-ranging surveys and assessments on the environment and agree to conditions designed to offset their impact during production and return the land to nature afterwards. The success of these efforts can vary by location and older mines were not designed with these considerations in mind, although some major diamond producers have become involved in projects designed to offset damage caused by the industry, through reforestation and the creation of reserves to protect wildlife.
Lab grown diamonds also require huge amounts of energy to create the high temperatures and pressures needed in their production, and many factories are located in countries with high fossil fuel usage. They are made in large factories with heavy equipment (in contrast to the clean, test tube image created by the term ‘lab grown’). It is important to remember that both materials for the equipment and the raw materials needed for the diamonds themselves must be obtained, often through other forms of mining. Because of the intense scrutiny the diamond industry has come under it is particularly well-regulated and not all forms of mining have the same procedures in place to reduce or offset the environmental impact of their work.
At first glance lab grown diamonds appear to have more eco-friendly credentials than natural stones, but the whole process of production must be considered and it can be argued that lab grown stones are just more removed from the mining process, making their connections less obvious. Both types of diamond require huge amounts of energy in their production, much of which comes from fossil fuels. As the world moves towards more green forms of energy both methods of production will hopefully see improvement in this regard. Developments in production methods reducing the amount of energy necessary will likely also make lab grown stones increasingly eco-friendly.
It is probably fair to say that lab grown diamonds have an advantage when comparing the ecological impact of their production, especially as those methods of production develop and improve. However, as with all things, reality is more complex than advertising can suggest and it is important to continue questioning where improvements can be made.