WHAT IS VEGAN FRIENDLY?
Vegan food is an easy concept – nothing animal based or containing animal products. It’s also easy to define certain other products as vegan – for example vegan leather, which is an alternative to leather created from animal skins, so what about vegan diamond jewellery? Firstly, we need to consider whether a regular mined diamond, and an associated diamond engagement ring, are inherently vegan friendly in the first place (spoiler – they aren’t!) – and what alternatives are available.
When it comes to choosing the perfect engagement ring, there are both human rights and environmental concerns to be considered. If you haven’t yet pondered the implications of diamond mining on the environment, consider this: For the prototypical 1 carat diamond, over 5 tonnes of Earth must be blasted and extracted by heavy diesel equipment. The harvesting of diamonds has a history of fueling conflict, and the mining of precious metals is often damaging to the environment. Beyond this, miners are frequently denied fair wages and adequate health and safety provisions.
Unfortunately, the mined diamond industry has been particularly careless about protecting sensitive marine habitats from seabed mining. Ocean mining destroys large swaths of ocean floor, with disastrous effects on fish and marine life. Marine habitats which are being explored for prospective mining include hydrothermal vents (deep sea geysers) which host a unique biodiversity; seamounts (underwater mountains) which support an abundant and rich biodiversity; and manganese nodules which take millions of years to form and support sponges andother marine life. There are conservation concerns regarding the destruction of these habitats by mining, the resulting loss of biodiversity and the uncertainty that habitats and biodiversity may not recover once mining has ceased.
Ecological devastation, ongoing human rights abuses, controlled supply and cartel pricing are just some of the devastating impacts that the natural diamond industry has on our world. It’s also rather ironic that a diamond usually symbolises love between two people, but the story behind how it gets plucked from the Earth and turned into an item of jewellery is about anything but love.
Ethical choices can be made in all areas of life, and you don’t have to be vegan to make these decisions – each positive choice is a step forward and we have a collective, societal, responsibility to look after our planet and everything on it.
With the world starting to ‘wake up’ and more and more people seeing sustainability as essential for the preservation of our planet, we can truly enjoy luxury, quality items that are in keeping with our beliefs.
SO WHY ISN’T ALL DIAMOND JEWELLERY VEGAN?
The diamond mining industry has no pit ponies or early warning canaries, that are familiar from historical coal mining, so we have to look closer to find the animals and birds impacted by the diamond mining industry.
Diamonds occur in an ore called Kimberlite, which forms in slender conical pipes, running deep into the ground. When mining diamonds, the most common method is simply to dig a deep hole with a relatively small surface area, although this is usually surrounded by industrial processing facilities, to process the kimberlite ore, and extract he rough diamonds. The kimberlite pipes do not occur in convenient places, so diamonds are mined wherever the ore is found – the farthest reaches of the pristine Canadian tundra, lands held by native African tribes in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola and others, and remote expanses of Siberia, to name a few. Kimberlite deposits take no account of who lives on the land, whether First Nations Canadian tribes, migrating wildlife, farmed animals, or eco-systems quietly minding their own business.
When a large hole is dug, to extract diamonds, several things happen –
Firstly, whatever was living there has to find somewhere else to live. The animal life that can move must travel, if it can, to another similar habitat, if one exists. Animals farmed by indigenous African tribes are relocated along with those who farmed them, or slaughtered, if no farmable alternative dwelling place is offered to the farmers. Trees, mosses, fish, and so on, are less able to move themselves, and are simply destroyed or left to die.
Secondly, creatures that moved through the land now mined must find another route to their destinations. Caribou in Canada are an example of this, where the pregnant mothers must make substantial detours around mining territory, significantly depleting their reserves of energy, and risking the viability of their calves when they reach their birthing grounds. In Canada especially, it turns out that the wolves that prey on caribou and others have found a blessing in the mining roads, using them to travel faster, and more directly, to their destinations, to the detriment of their prey species.
Thirdly, the longer-term impacts of mining can be seen in damage to the water table, pollution downstream of mining operations, destruction of fertile soil and the piles of mine waste that are left across the landscape as mining operations progress. You can read more about these, including the awful consequences of groundwater pollution in fish, in our serious of blogs about the environmental consequences of diamond mining.
Fourthly – once a mine has run out, and all the diamonds are extracted, do you think it all goes back to exactly how it was before the prospectors got there? You’re right to be doubtful! Despite all the promises from diamond mining businesses about environmental regeneration around worked-out or exhausted mines they can never replace like with like. In the Canadian wilderness, trees are being planted and other plant-life reintroduced, but not quite what was taken away. Hence the Caribou, who prefer older forests and lichens, are still unable to graze the land that they used to, before the mine came and it’s by no means every case that has even an attempt at regeneration. The Jericho mine in Canada was mined for just two years by its original owners then sold to others who vanished into thin air. Subsequently, the local and regional governments have been forced to undertake clean-up work, including dealing with radioactive waste, and other industrial detritus.
And in South Afrrica and Sierra Leone particularly, where the exhausted mines are allowed to flood, they become ideal homes for mosquitos, posing a significant health risk to humans and animals alike.
It is easy to see that diamond mining is not in any way vegan friendly, once you look closely.
UN-ETHICAL PRACTICES IN DIAMOND MINING
If you expand the definition of ‘vegan friendly’ to include ethical and sustainable products, the traditional mined diamond falls even further out of the picture.
Back in the 1940s, diamond mining company De Beers owned much of the diamond mining industry, (they were eventually successfully prosecuted for running a cartel in the early 2000s, that’s how much of the industry they controlled). De Beers hired a marketing company called N. W. Ayer which developed the genius marketing campaign which first created the demand for diamond engagement rings – you’ll have heard of ‘a diamond is forever’, even 80 years later! De Beers also invented the idea that a guy should spend a month’s salary on his girl’s engagement ring, which grew somehow to two, and then three months’ salary over the course of the next few decades. Does this sound a little grabby, to you?
While convincing us to part with ever more of our money, De Beers was busy acquiring diamond mines, by fair means and foul, and gaining a monopoly on the industry. They stockpiled hundreds of thousands of jewellery-quality diamonds, holding them back to create a false impression of scarcity, and allowing higher prices to be charged. This also allowed them to play dirty with competitors, for example, when a competitor found a good source of a certain type of diamond in a new mine they opened up, De Beers released a host of similar stones, flooding the market, and causing problems for their competitor.
Even in Canada, where ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are the catchphrases that are bandied around, the mining companies aren’t known to play fair with the First Nations Peoples on whose land they are mining, with ongoing law suits still in progress around fair reparations to the local tribes-peoples.
SO WHAT MAKES OUR IQ DIAMOND’S VEGAN?
The IQ Diamond is a sustainable, ethical alternative to mined diamonds, with a truly vegan friendly approach. Ethica Diamonds creates sustainable and vegan diamond jewellery using the IQ Diamond, for truly ethical engagement rings and wedding rings, as well as diamond pendants and earrings.
Our growth processes are sustainable, efficient and do no harm to animals, habitats or eco systems. It is created in a lab, incorporating the CVD method – Chemical Vapour Deposition – in which carbon is condensed onto a seed crystal to create an alternative to the mined diamond which you can wear with pride and a clear conscience. There are no humanitarian concerns around the IQ Diamond or any lab-grown diamonds, that we are aware of, with high standards of health and safety in place in the production areas, together with fair pay and good working conditions. And the labs themselves are not planted in environmentally sensitive or otherwise protected lands.
Ethica Diamond’s is also working toward using 100% recycled materials in all of our jewellery, and guarantee that all of our Earth-extracted gold and platinum has been mined sustainably and responsibly.
The IQ Diamond has been created in collaboration with a university who work closely with market leaders in gemstone science, combining the latest technology together with the least impact on the environment. It is also independently certified by the GRI, a trusted global research institute and each stone is laser marked for identification and verification purposes. The certificates that we provide are also a trusted means of insuring any piece of our jewellery.
These unique gemstones are chemically and physically similar and optically identical to a diamond found in nature. It is grown under strict conditions and is cut and fully faceted to exact diamond proportions, giving it incredible depth and realism. These stones truly radiates the same sparkle and brilliance as the most expensive Earth mined diamonds and are made to last forever.
Since the creation of the IQ Diamond is not tied to the diamond industry, and unlike mined diamonds, it is independently priced, based on the cost of production and research & development, rather than being artificially inflated. Therefore, we are able to produce eco-friendly and vegan diamond jewellery for our customers at a fair price.
FAIRTRADE AND RECYCLED METALS
Having looked at diamonds, we should also consider the material of the rings in which they are set. At Ethica Diamonds we use exclusively gold and platinum, which are either Fairtrade (for gold) or recycled (both gold and platinum). Mining either gold or platinum comes with substantial environmental consequences, including destruction of natural habitats, pollution of watercourses and soil, and health and other risks for those carrying out the mining. Fairtrade gold is mined under carefully regulated environmental conditions, and with assurances in place to protect the income of the miners, which is why it carries a slight premium. Recycled gold and platinum are drawn from the jewellery industry, and other sources, then reused to create responsible jewellery with a light environmental footprint.
Ethical diamonds, and sustainable, vegan diamond jewellery does exist, but you won’t find them originating in a diamond mine. For a vegan-friendly diamond engagement ring, you need to do your research, and investigate the truth behind the mined diamond industry. We’d also invite you to have a look at our range of ethical engagement rings and wedding rings, featuring the IQ Diamond.
Our motto is ‘Kind, not Mined’, and we believe that your relationship deserves to be celebrated with a ring that doesn’t cost the Earth.
Enquire with us today to create your own piece of exceptional, sustainable “vegan” diamond jewellery, and make your own contribution to a brighter future.