Finding truly ethical engagement rings is not an easy feat — there’s quite a bit of confusion (and misleading information) out there when it comes to conflict-free vs. “ethical” vs. lab-grown diamond engagement rings.
Here’s what you should know:
“Conflict-free”, under the definition of the Kimberley Process, simply means that those diamonds weren’t financing civil wars, it says nothing about the exploitation or human rights abuses miners face. This narrow definition of “conflict-free” mined diamonds is misleading.
Many brands use this term “conflict-free” in their marketing to convince consumers that their diamonds are ethical. Conflict-free does not equal ethical — conflict-free does not mean that miners were paid fairly, it does not mean there were environmentally responsible practices in place, and it does not mean that miners worked in safe conditions.
There are some brands claiming to be “beyond conflict-free”, promising their diamonds were ethically sourced. However, the complex, global, multi-layered nature of the diamond supply chain makes it virtually impossible to 100% guarantee that a diamond was actually ethically sourced.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to take the risk that the diamond on my ring was mined unethically. It just isn’t worth it.
Plus, the ecological impacts of mining are dramatic. Consider this: on average, miners must sift through about 250 TONS of rock for 1 single carat of diamond. The environmental damages from mining include habitat modifications and loss of biodiversity, water pollution, erosion, and sinkholes. Yikes.
So what are the alternatives?
- Lab-Grown Diamonds. Diamonds that are grown in a laboratory setting offer complete transparency and traceability into the diamond supply chain — which eliminates the risk of purchasing something produced out of exploited labor —and while labs do require energy to produce the diamonds, they are far safer for our planet. Oh, and they’re less expensive! That’s a win-win-win if I ever saw one: more ethical, sustainable, and affordable. You can count me in!
- Recycled Diamonds and Vintage Diamond Rings. The most eco option is the one that already exists! Vintage rings won’t allow for the same level of flexibility or customization, but they can definitely be a great green option to consider on your engagement rings search.
Let’s clear up a few things about lab-grown diamonds
First off: Are lab-grown diamonds real diamonds?
Yes! The Federal Trade Commission ruled that they would “eliminate the word ‘natural’ from the definition of a diamond because lab-created products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds are also diamonds.” Lab-grown diamonds are identical to mined ones — not just similar but the EXACT same. They are not like replicas/faux diamonds like Swarovski or cubic zirconia but actually hold the exact same properties.
If mined diamonds are “natural”, isn’t that the more sustainable option than something that’s man-made/synthetic?
No! “Natural” mined diamonds are extremely destructive to our planet. (See above!) Crude oil and coal are “from the earth” too — but no one would consider the extraction of fossil fuels environmentally friendly.
Hope that cleared some things up! Now, let’s dive into the guide of brands with truly conflict-free and ethical engagement rings made using lab-grown diamonds.
Note that this guide includes partners and affiliate links. As always, all brands included meet high standards for ethics and sustainability and are brands I truly believe in! Cover image is from Great Heights.
Diamonds are made up of almost entirely carbon — 99.95% carbon to be exact. And we know that we have an excess of carbon in the atmosphere. So why not use that carbon to create diamonds instead of mining for new ones? Well, that’s exactly what Aether Diamonds is doing.
As the world’s first positive impact diamond brand, Aether Diamonds uses first-of-its-kind technology to create real diamonds from air pollution.
And for every 1 carat diamond sold, Aether removes 20 metric tonnes of carbon, which is the equivalent of 1.25 years of the average American carbon footprint. The sustainable lab-grown diamond company is also committed to becoming an independently carbon negative company by 2023.
Conscious Qualities: Diamonds Made from Sequestered Carbon, Sources Clean Renewable Energy, Purchases Additional Carbon Offsets, Recycled and Eco Packaging
Price Range: $1,189+
Kimaï creates the most elegant jewelry using completely consciously-sourced materials. Choosing to work with 100% recycled gold made from pre-owned gold jewelry and only lab-grown diamonds, Kimaï is elevating the standards for ethical fine jewelry.
Beyond materials, Kimaï ensures that their production is transparent and ethical as well by skipping the middlemen and working directly with jewelry designers and workshops that they get to know in Antwerp, Belgium. And Kimaï definitely earns some bonus points for shipping their stunning, sustainably-made jewelry with a carbon-neutral delivery service, too!
Conscious Qualities: 100% Recycled Gold, Lab-Grown Diamonds Only, Carbon-Neutral Shipping
Price Range: $595 – $925
A social enterprise and certified B-Corp committed to building a better diamond industry, MiaDonna sources only lab-grown diamonds for their exceptional jewelry. MiaDonna also uses exclusively recycled metals (gold, palladium, and platinum) to craft their pieces and plants one tree for every order through One Tree Planted.
And, the lab-grown diamond company has a foundation, The Greener Diamond, which helps restore the land, lives, and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa who have been impacted by the mining industry. In addition to donating at least 10% of net profits to the foundation, MiaDonna’s team members also donate numerous hours to support the organization’s initiatives.
Conscious Qualities: 100% Recycled Metals, Lab-Grown Diamonds Only, Gives Back
Price Range: $375 – $3,060
Vrai’s stunning jewelry is made using only lab-grown diamonds that are created in their own foundry, located in the American Pacific West. The ethical jewelry company’s foundry is the only Certified Carbon Neutral diamond producer — their operations are 100% hydro-powered by the Columbia River, meaning the diamonds are grown using completely renewable and emissions-free energy. (Fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio is an investor in VRAI’s Diamond Foundry!)
Conscious Qualities: Zero-Emissions Carbon-Neutral Production, Uses Only Lab-Grown Diamonds
Price Range: $1,450 – $2,975 (for ready-to-give rings; also has custom options)
5. KBH Jewels
Luxury jeweler KBH Jewels uses only conflict-free non-mined gold and diamonds for their timeless pieces. Their diamonds are “cultivated” (i.e. lab-grown) in a laboratory setting, creating diamonds that are identical to mined diamonds — but without the degrading environmental effects and exploitive social impacts. KBH Jewels also sources only high-quality recycled and reclaimed gold and uses ships their jewelry in eco-friendly packaging, like completely recycled and recyclable reusable bags, organic cotton pouches, and 100% recycled jewelry boxes.
Conscious Qualities: Uses Only Lab-Grown Diamonds, 100% Recycled Gold, Eco Packaging
Price Range: $100 – $7250
Using 100% lab-created diamonds for all of their jewelry, Great Heights has a vast selection of ethical engagement rings. The brand has a “Guide Me” option to help proposers and proposees select the right ring with quiz questions on things like preferred shape, budget, and setting.
Great Heights sources only the highest quality lab-grown diamonds, offering cuts that rate Ideal to Excellent, colors that rate D to J (near colorless), and clarity that rates S12 and above to ensure that virtually no inclusions are visible to the human eye in their diamonds.
Conscious Qualities: Uses Only Lab-Grown Diamonds
Price Range: $485 – $3,115
Agape Diamonds is a factory direct jeweler, meaning you’re getting wholesale prices instead of having to pay all those mark-ups layered on at typical jewelry retailers. The brand offers a diverse selection of lab-grown diamonds for creating the ring of your dreams.
Agape does not sell 100% lab-grown diamonds, so be sure to request lab-grown or select lab-grown when shopping!
Conscious Qualities: Lab-Grown Options
Price Range: $1,220 – $1,430
Bonus. Etsy’s Vintage Collection
These are not lab-grown diamond engagement rings, but vintage is an ethical and sustainable choice because it requires no additional mining!
Etsy as an eclectic collection of vintage engagement rings, wedding bands, and bridal sets as well. As you can imagine, there is quite a bit of vintage jewelry to choose from on Etsy which can be overwhelming, but there are many filters such as material, price range, gemstone, stone shape, style, and ring size.
While the diamonds in these rings are not lab-grown, they are still an ethical choice because we are helping give existing diamonds a second life and reducing the need for further mining.
Conscious Qualities: Pre-Loved Rings, Carbon-Neutral Shipping
Price Range: As a person-to-person/boutique marketplace, the price range on Etsy varies widely!
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