How to Ensure Your Diamond Is Ethical (A Conscious Consumer's Guide)

To ensure your diamond is ethical, ask the jeweller questions about its origin and journey, check for its Kimberley Process certification, request GIA certificates with Diamond Origin Report, and rely on blockchain technology.

Do you know that without knowing where your diamond is sourced, you could be contributing to a black market that funds civil wars?

Unfortunately, this is not blowing the issue out of proportion.

Some diamonds are mined and sold to finance rebel groups that kill and destroy. Other diamonds are mined under inhumane conditions that bring immense suffering to the miners.

Rough natural diamond

This is why it is important to ensure that your diamond is ethical.

But with a lack of transparency about the origins of diamonds, how can you know which stones are sourced ethically?

This article will answer this question. At the end of the article, you’ll know how to ensure a natural diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced.

Let’s start the discussion with where natural diamonds come from!

Where do natural diamonds come from? How are they created?

Natural diamonds come from deep inside the Earth. Extreme temperature and pressure are applied to carbon deep in the Earth’s mantle to convert it to diamond crystals. Then volcanic eruptions deliver these crystals to the surface.

Natural diamonds are made from carbon. While carbon is everywhere, only carbon about 160 km below our feet in the Earth’s mantle can become diamonds. This is because only the Earth’s mantle has the necessary conditions for natural diamond formation - extreme temperature and pressure.

Diamond formation in the earth’s mantle is a slow process that takes millions of years. First, the extreme temperature (over 1,000 degree Celsius) of the mantle causes carbon atoms to bond with each other. The mantle then exerts a pressure of about 50 kilograms per square centimetre on the bonded carbon atoms to convert them to crystals.

The diamonds will remain buried inside the earth until volcanic activity brings them nearer to its surface. Volcanic materials and diamonds within them form deposits nearer the earth’s surface, mined today.

Natural diamond's creation process earth's mantle

Read more about this in our article Where Do Diamonds Come From?

Types of diamond deposits

There are two types of diamond deposits, and these determine how the precious stones are mined.
  • Primary deposits. These have diamonds contained in volcanic pipes rising from the earth’s mantle (kimberlite pipes).
  • Secondary deposits. These contain diamonds that have broken from their original kimberlites and washed down to another location by erosion. These deposits require alluvial mining.

Primary deposits require open-pit mining (removing layers of sand and rock above the kimberlite) or underground mining (tunnelling through the Earth’s crust to the kimberlite pipe). Large diamond mining companies with state-of-the-art technology perform these operations.

Diamond open pit mining

Secondary deposits require alluvial mining, concentrating on gathering diamonds on the surface covered by sand, gravel, and other surface material. It is used when diamonds can be easily accessed without the need for underground mining.

Alluvial diamond mining

However, alluvial mining is often exploited, with workers performing the gruelling physical labour by hand and in unsafe conditions.

Top diamond-producing countries

Diamonds are found in many countries of the world. But the top producing countries are as follows:

Rank Country Volume of diamonds produced yearly
1 Russia 38 million carats
2 Botswana 23 million carats
3 Congo 16 million carats
4 Australia 12 million carats
5 Canada 11 million carats
6 Zimbabwe 10 million carats
7 Angola 9 million carats 
8 South Africa 8 million carats
9 Namibia 2 million carats
10 Sierra Leone 609 thousand carats

Russia is one of the biggest players in the world’s diamond market. The country has the largest diamond reserve. It is also the largest producer and exporter of diamonds. In fact, the country accounts for about 30% of the world’s diamonds.

However, since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Russia has been unable to export diamonds to countries opposed to the conflict.

Namibia is the biggest diamond producer in terms of value. That is, the country’s diamonds have the highest value in the world (valued at about $805 per carat). Following Namibia are Sierra Leone ($302 per carat), Canada ($180 per carat), Botswana ($156 per carat), South Africa ($145 per carat), and Angola ($136 per carat).

Australia is the world’s biggest producer of coloured diamonds. The country produces some of the finest yellow diamonds in the world. It’s also famous for its red, pink, and purple diamonds.

Australia, Canada, and Botswana are the biggest producers of ethical diamonds. Safe mining practices, fair wages, and humanitarian efforts to better the lives of mine workers characterize mines in these countries.

South Africa and Botswana are famous for producing big diamonds. The Cullinan Diamond (3,106 carats) from the Cullinan mine (formerly premier mine) in South Africa is the largest rough diamond ever found.

The mine also produced the Excelsior diamond (995.20 carats), which was the largest in the world until the Cullinan diamond was found in 1905. The mine has produced 100+ diamonds larger than 200 carats.

Botswana mines (Karowe and Jwaneng mines) have produced some of the biggest rough diamonds in the world. Examples are the Sewelo (1,758 carats) and Lesedi La Rona (1,109 carats).

Top diamond producing countries

Note: The black diamond called Sergio (3,167 carats) is the largest rough diamond ever found. But while it was found above ground in Brazil, it is believed to be of meteoric origin.

What are blood diamonds vs. conflict-free diamonds?

The United Nations defines blood diamonds as “any diamond mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to the legitimate, internationally recognized government of a country and sold to fund military action against that government.

The diamonds are mined by enslaved, underpaid, and underage workers and sold to fund rebel groups and warlords.

Blood diamond mines

The proceeds are used to purchase weapons to further their war activities, causing the death and suffering of innocent citizens.

Sometimes, rebel groups fight among themselves for control of the diamond mines, causing more death and suffering among innocent mine workers.

It is because of the bloodshed associated with these diamonds that they are called blood diamonds. The UN formulated the term “blood diamond” in the early 1990s. It was popularized by the 2006 film “Blood Diamonds,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and vividly portrayed how these diamonds enabled heinous crimes against humanity in the form of murder, rape, and systemic mutilation.

Blood diamonds are also called conflict diamonds because they are used to finance war activities. Thus, diamonds that have not financed war activities to enable violence against humanity are called conflict-free diamonds.

The Kimberley Process

As a result of the grave tragedies associated with conflict or blood diamonds, the diamond industry is taking steps to eliminate them. The Kimberley process is one such effort.

The Kimberley process is an international certification scheme established in 2013 and meant to regulate the trade of rough diamonds in order to prevent the flow of conflict diamonds.

Kimberley process certificate

It does this through the Kimberley Process Certification System (KPCS). The KPCS outlines requirements for participants, who are states and regional economic integration organisations eligible to trade in rough diamonds.

First, it mandates trading only with fellow members who satisfy the minimum requirements (relating to conflict-free diamonds). Secondly, it requires a conflict-free certification for every shipment.

By prohibiting trade with non-participants and requiring conflict-free certification even among partners, the Kimberley Process makes it difficult for conflict diamonds to enter the market.

Difference between conflict-free diamonds and ethically sourced diamonds

An ethical diamond (or ethically sourced diamond) is a diamond produced under safe working conditions and sound environmental practices, with no human rights abuses or child labour.

Ethical diamonds are superior to conflict diamonds in terms of moral principles.

Conflict diamonds are simply diamonds not used to finance wars. They do not consider the social and environmental aspects of ethical sourcing.

That is, conflict-free diamond does not mean that the miners were not exploited, that child labour wasn’t used, or that the diamonds weren’t produced under condemnable conditions or destruction to the environment.

Ethical diamonds address these issues. So, ethically sourced diamonds go one step further than conflict diamonds.

In addition to ensuring that diamond sale proceeds are not used to finance wars and aggression, they also ensure that diamond production does not involve human rights violations and the mining practices are adapted to limit the negative effects on the environment.

Specifically, ethically sourced diamonds consider:

  • Safe working conditions
  • Fair pay to workers
  • No child labour is used
  • Sound environmental practices
Ethically sourced diamonds

How to make sure a natural diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced?

99% of natural diamonds are considered conflict-free. However, most diamonds marketed as “conflict-free” are not ethically sourced. A lack of accountability in the diamond supply chain makes it difficult to determine that a stone is ethically sourced.

You can ensure your diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced by taking the following steps:

  • Check for the Kimberley Process Certification
Kimberley process

At the barest minimum, look for Kimberley Process-certified diamonds. The Kimberley Process is the most widely accepted method of avoiding conflict diamonds. It guarantees that a stone is free of conflict, from mining to sale.

  • Some GIA certificates show the diamond’s origin

While you can feel confident that a Kimberley Process-certified diamond is conflict-free, some people question whether these diamonds are really ethical.

Thus, a better way to ensure your diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced is to combine Kimberley Process certification with some form of guarantee of the gem’s ethical origin.

GIA Diamond Origin Report provides such a guarantee as it traces the diamond to where it was mined. With these GIA certificates, you’ll know if the diamond was produced in a mine known for ethical sourcing.

GIA certificate with diamond origin
  • Rely on blockchain technology in diamond trading

The best way to ensure your diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced is to buy mine-to-market diamonds.

A mine-to-market diamond is a stone whose journey can be traced (with transparency) from its original mine through all the stops in its supply chain to the diamond seller you want to deal with.

A diamond supply chain is complex and difficult to trace because it involves many stops (miners, dealers, cutters, distributors, and traders). However, blockchain technology in diamond trading now makes it easy to trace a diamond’s journey from mine to market.

In blockchain technology, a data block is created and linked to previously created blocks every time a transaction occurs. Also, once a transaction is verified, it cannot be altered. Thus, using blockchain technology, every transaction regarding a diamond can be traced as it moves from stop to stop in its supply chain.

Blockchain diamond tracking technology

Relying on blockchain technology in diamond trading eliminates doubts about its provenance and journey and proves ethicality or otherwise.

  • Don’t hesitate to ask your jeweller

A simple way to ensure your stones are conflict-free and ethically sourced is to ask your jeweller.

Many retailers disclose the information on their diamond sources and provide written guarantees on labour and environmental standards at the mines their diamonds come from.

Once you have the information, you can do research to check if the practices of the mine are ethical.

Which countries produce the best ethically sourced diamonds?

Some countries known for ethically sourced diamonds are Canada, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Russia.

However, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian diamonds are no longer considered ethical as they are a source of funding for the Russian government. As a result, several jewellers, including Beldiamond, have decided to no longer buy diamonds from Russia.

To assure ethicality, shop Canadian diamonds, especially those with CanadaMark certification.

Each CanadaMark-certified diamond goes through a rigorous process to determine that it is from Canada and has an ethical journey. Each certified diamond will have a unique serial number and the CanadaMark logo laser engraved on it, as well as a certificate card.

Canadamark certified diamonds

You can enter this unique number on the CanadaMark website to verify your diamond’s authenticity and trace its journey from the mine to your hand.

Are lab-grown diamonds a better ethical alternative?

A lab-grown diamond is a diamond that is created in the carefully controlled environment of a laboratory.

In their early days, lab-grown diamonds were referred to as synthetic diamonds. However, they are no longer classified as such because nothing is synthetic about them. They are real diamonds with the same physical and chemical composition as natural diamonds.

Lab-grown diamonds are advertised as environmental-friendly. For this reason, some people reason that lab-grown diamonds are better ethical alternatives to naturally mined diamonds.

However, there are two reasons why being lab-grown does not automatically make a diamond ethical - they may use unsustainable energy sources and often involve some form of workers’ exploitation.

First is the issue of sustainability. Some lab-grown diamond brands do not disclose the amount of energy they use to produce their diamonds or the energy source. So, there’s no way of knowing whether they use sustainable energy sources that do not damage the environment. Secondly, there’s the issue of the diamond supply chain.

Ethical mining by itself does not equal ethical diamonds because there are other stops in the diamond supply chain where unethical practices can creep in. For example, jewellers need to polish and cut the lab-grown diamond. Unfortunately, there are many lab-grown diamond brands (especially in China and India) where workers work for long hours for unfair wages. Thus, many lab-grown diamonds are not free of workers’ exploitation, and therefore not ethical.

Lab-grown diamonds factory

Advantages of lab-grown diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds come with some advantages as follows:

  • Low pricing. The biggest advantage of lab-grown diamonds is their low pricing. A lab-grown diamond will cost 50 - 70% less than a natural diamond of similar characteristics (carat, cut, clarity, and colour).
  • Chemically identical to natural diamonds. Despite the low pricing of lab-grown diamonds, they are not inferior to natural diamonds. They are considered real diamonds.
  • Greater certainty of provenance. The labs were the diamonds are produced are known. So it’s easier to know the origin of lab-grown diamonds.

Disadvantages of lab-grown diamonds

However, lab-grown diamonds also have some disadvantages.

Even when you can determine that a lab-grown diamond is truly ethical, these disadvantages of lab-grown diamonds stop it from being a good ethical alternative to natural diamonds. These include loss of value over time and decolourization over time.

  • Loss of value over time. The reason for the relatively low price of lab-grown diamonds is more supply. Natural diamonds remain expensive because they are rare. However, natural diamonds have been flooding the market, causing their prices to drop. Since there’s no cap on the supply of lab diamonds, their prices will keep falling. This means the €1,000 lab-grown diamond you purchase today may be priced at only a fraction of that amount in a few years.
  • Decolourizes. True, not all lab-created diamonds lose their colour over time. But low-quality ones do and take on shades of yellow or brown. When purchasing your lab-grown diamond, you may be unable to tell if it is a low-quality stone that’ll decolourize or lose its shine over time.
  • Requires a lot of energy. The production of lab-grown diamonds requires a lot of energy. Unfortunately, many labs use non-renewable energy sources, making their diamonds less ethical.

Discover our in-depth comparison of Lab-Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Ones: Which One Should You Choose?

Takeaway: Shop Beldiamond to ensure your diamond is ethical

Beldiamond Engagement Rings | Round diamond engagement ring

Your sparkling diamond should represent lovely memories and promises. It shouldn’t be associated with bloodshed or the suffering of others.

This is why you should ensure your diamond is conflict-free and ethically sourced. Being conflict-free means proceeds from its sale were not used to finance wars and terrorism, while being ethically sourced means its production did not involve human rights abuses.

A lab-grown diamond may be marketed as environmentally friendly, but there’s no way of telling that it is truly ethical. Even if you can determine its ethicality, it’s not necessarily a good ethical alternative to a naturally mined diamond.

Thankfully, when buying natural diamonds, there are ways to determine that they are conflict-free and ethical. If you’re unsure which to buy, read this article: Lab-Grown Diamonds vs. Natural Ones: Which One Should You Choose?

To ensure you buy a conflict-free and ethical diamond, ask the jeweller questions about the diamond’s origin and journey, check for its Kimberly Process certification, and request GIA certificates with Diamond Origin Report. And if you want to go the extra mile, buy from diamond retailers who guarantee ethicality with blockchain technology.

Looking for retailers that guarantee ethical diamonds? Choose Beldiamond.

Whether you want an engagement ring or jewellery, we have diamond pieces that’ll sparkle. With Beldiamond, you can be sure of getting high-quality diamonds that are also 100% conflict-free and ethical.

See our fine collection of diamond engagement rings that’ll help you show the many facets of your love.