Just how eco-friendly are lab-created diamonds?

Rob Bates

I’ve looked at tons of company pages about the eco-impact of lab-grown diamonds, and I’ve noticed one thing: Very few talk about the eco-impact of lab-grown diamonds.

Instead, most of them talk about the eco-impact of mined diamonds and why lab-grown diamonds compare favorably.

Man-made diamond companies regularly call their product “eco-friendly” and “sustainable.” It’s now become a basic part of the lab-grown pitch, a way of letting consumers know they are not just getting a cheaper product but a meaningful one (though price remains the driver, most say). Reporters often print these claims, uncritically. And with concern about climate change clearly on the rise, that could prove a potent positioning.

Yet, these claims are rarely examined—and terminology is often extremely fuzzy. Charlotte Vallaeys of Consumer Reports notes that a term like “environmentally friendly” has no real definition and “could mean whatever the company wants it to mean.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Green Guides explicitly discourages “broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly,’ ” as they are “difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.Perhaps for this reason, the more circumspect lab-grown companies tend to use word sustainable.

Yet, man-made diamonds are unusual for a “sustainable” product. They are produced in factories. Granted, they’re mostly clean, modern, non–assembly line factories. But they’re not greenhouses, though some use that term. The machines that produce diamonds “require constant energy, 24/7, running huge microwave-heat generators,” says one ex-employee.

So the question remains: Do lab-growns effect the environment less than mined stones?

Generally, these claims have two bases: less energy usage and less environmental damage caused by mining.

Let’s look at the energy question. Lab diamonds are produced in two ways: high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

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Source JCK Online