Rapaport Magazine

A bright alternative

Diamond Foundry aims to better the jewelry world with its lab-grown stones, carbon-neutral rating and social programs.

By Gwyneth Borden

Lab-grown diamonds offer a traceable, conflict-free, socially responsible jewelry option. Consumer opinion has shifted to value corporate social responsibility, with transparency and environmental issues being at the core. Millennials and Generation Z seek products and companies that improve society, and lab-grown diamonds offer a safe alternative for those who are concerned about provenance and impact. Consumers have many options in the jewelry marketplace; some have chosen other gemstones or have eschewed diamonds altogether because of confusing messaging that has indicated there are no ethically sound alternatives.

The toll of mining

Extractive industries like diamond mining are, by their very essence and definition, not sustainable, as they deplete a natural resource and behave irresponsibly toward future generations by ignoring the long-term damage their mine will have on the land, water supply and local population — not to mention their overall carbon footprint. Mining is unsustainable in terms of both future supply and environmental impact.

The global climate crisis is a direct result of daily inaction. The mining exploration process depends heavily on fossil fuels. Diamond mining causes erosion, sinkholes, and loss of biodiversity and wildlife, as well as contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by emitted chemicals. But it is the human toll of diamond mining that has grown in notoriety, particularly in many regions of Africa, and beginning with apartheid. What is referred to as artisanal mining has its own perils; miners laboring as “artisans” are exposed to dangerous working conditions, live in poverty, and often do not receive anything close to the value of their stones, resulting in employment comparable to effective slavery. Finding value in “artisanal” mining jobs is disingenuous and distracting, when the true responsibility the diamond mining industry must take on is to fix the problems it caused, provide better environmental stewardship, and create real economic opportunities that provide mobility and self-sufficiency.

Part of the ethos

This is where lab-grown diamonds enter the conversation. Lab-grown diamonds today are being produced at their highest quality yet, providing consumers with a plethora of choices for large-carat diamonds of great quality. Consumers can buy a larger, higher-quality diamond for a fraction of a mined diamond’s cost. Diamonds benefit from an interesting paradox in the sustainability world. Typically, environmentally friendly products come at a higher price point — a point that Bill Gates refers to as a “Green Premium” — which hurts consumer preferences toward environmentally superior products. But in the case of diamonds, the lab-grown alternative costs less, making it a game-changer in the sustainable-products debate.

Diamond Foundry’s ethos is rooted in sustainable innovation, creating beautiful diamond jewelry that avoids the human and environmental impacts that are a by-product of the diamond mining process. We know the provenance of our diamonds and have a vertically integrated supply chain. Not only do we not extract anything from the earth, but we also take it a step further with a carbon-neutral footprint. Our carbon-neutral certification extends beyond our diamond growth process to our entire company’s processes. This was a conscious effort not brought on by media or political pressure or an attempt to right past wrongs, but simply part of the company’s ethos from day one.

At Diamond Foundry, we provide well-paid green jobs that don’t require a college degree, working with community colleges and veteran groups to reach many in the workforce who have been left behind. We are expanding into communities where older industries have left, providing new opportunities that uplift smaller, more rural areas. We support STEM educational initiatives — science, technology, engineering and math, which prepare people to compete in the global economy. And we are exploring bringing these jobs to African countries by building a foundry on the continent, providing a stepping stone toward participation in high-tech value creation to nations that have been exploited for far too long.

Obligations to fulfill

The diamond industry has a rich history, and the story is evolving. Companies have an obligation to the communities where they operate to make those places better than how they found them. It’s simply not enough to provide jobs; capacity building and providing transferable skills across industries is the only pathway to a better future. As countries transition away from pollutant-ridden industries, new technologies will be key. Lab-grown diamonds are critical on the path to sustainability — and sustainability is our predominant social responsibility today.

Gwyneth Borden is the head of public policy at Diamond Foundry. diamondfoundry.com

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - August 2021. To subscribe click here.

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