When it comes to shopping for engagement rings, there is a lot to learn. From the four C’s, to the diamond shape, to the ring’s setting, many details have to be taken into consideration. However, far too often one very important detail is overlooked. This detail is not something that affects the appearance of the diamond or the ring at all. Yet, I consider it the most important detail when shopping for an engagement ring.
Any guesses what this detail may be?
The diamond’s origin.
Back when my fiance and I started discussing getting engaged, I told him the only detail that mattered to me was that my ring was sourced ethically and had not contributed to human suffering in any way. I told him it mattered so much to me that I would prefer a plain gold band or a man-made stone if a conflict-free diamond was too difficult or expensive to find. Up for the challenge and determined to buy a diamond ring, Ryan started researching all of the available options.
This post outlines what we learned about diamonds and engagement rings during the process. I hope it will help others who share the same values find the ring of their dreams!
Why does a diamond’s origin matter?
Unfortunately, the diamond trade is highly controversial and the cause of much suffering in our world. It is estimated about 65% of the world’s diamonds come from Central and South Africa. In these areas, diamonds are commonly referred to as “blood” or “conflict” diamonds because they are used by rebel forces to pay for wars that have resulted in horrific human rights abuses (including but not limited to rape and the use of child soldiers). Sadly, approximately 3.7 million people have died as a result of the diamond trade. (New York Times)
You may have gained some insight into these issues if you saw the 2006 movie, Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. At the end of the movie, it reenacts the historic meeting that led to the development of the Kimberley Process, an international diamond certification scheme that was created to stop the trade of conflict diamonds and help certify a diamond’s origin. Sadly, although almost all diamond retailers use it, the Kimberley Process has been deemed ineffective.
What is the Kimberley Process?
The Kimberley Process (KP) is an international joint initiative of governments, industry and civil society formed to stop the trade of conflict (aka blood) diamonds. They define conflict diamonds as “rough diamonds used by rebel forces to finance wars against legitimate governments”. Any country can join as long as they meet the Kimberley Process’s “minimum requirements” regarding the export/import of rough diamonds (diamonds that have not been cut and polished). For example, they are supposed to only trade between other KP members and attach certificates to their exports/imports. Approximately 99.8% of rough diamonds are sourced fromKP approved members. Read more about the Kimberley Process on their official site. (Source: Kimberley Process)
Why is the Kimberley Process ineffective?
If you have been shopping for engagement rings, you may have noticed retailers advertising their diamonds were sourced using the Kimberley Process. Although they mean well, this certification is extremely flawed and may be doing more harm than good.
The Kimberley Process does almost nothing to stop violence, worker exploitation, and environmental harm tied to diamond mining. – Brilliant Earth
- The Kimberley Process ONLY applies to rough batches of diamonds and not individually cut diamonds.
- Once a diamond is cut into its intended shape, it is no longer tracked, making it impossible to verify where the diamond was sourced from or what practices it was involved in.
- If you were to ask a jeweler where a specific Kimberley Process Certified diamond came from, he/she would not be able to verify its country or mine of origin. (Source: Global Witness)
- Their definition for conflict diamonds is extremely narrow and does not encompass all human rights issues.
- Problems such as child labor, forced labor, rape, extremely low wages, dangerous working conditions, corruption, and environmental devastation do not prevent a diamond from earning a “conflict free” certification by the Kimberley Process’s standards. For example, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa earn less than $1 a day.
- Despite these loopholes being brought to their attention, they refuse to broaden their definition to protect those individuals affected. (Source: Global Witness)
What you see outlined above is just a couple of the major flaws of the Kimberley Process. Here is some additional reading I highly recommend:
- The Guardian | The Kimberley Process is a ‘Perfect Cover Story’ for Blood Diamonds
- Brilliant Earth | The Kimberley Process
- Global Witness | The Kimberley Process
How to Ensure You Are Buying an Ethical & Conflict-free Ring
After much research, I have found Brilliant Earth to be the best place to purchase ethical and conflict-free diamonds and engagement rings. From loose natural diamonds to gemstones to lab grown diamonds, they have the largest selection of verified conflict-free & ethically sourced stones. Want another reason to love this company? They donate 5% of profits to education, environmental restoration, and economic development (learn more here).
How do they ensure their natural diamonds are conflict-free?
They hand pick each and every one of the mines that supply their diamonds to ensure their stones originate from sources that adhere to strict labor, trade, environmental, and ethical standards. They then track every diamond from the time it is mined, cut, polished, and transported. By doing so, at no time is the stone unaccounted for or used unethically. As proof of this process, Brilliant Earth uses SCS Global Services, a trusted leading third-party certification/auditing company, to independently certify that all Brilliant Earth diamonds are fully traceable to their origins and demonstrate a strong chain of custody.
Natural Diamond Alternatives
When shopping for engagement rings, it’s important to know all of your options. While the vast majority of people opt for a natural diamond, there are tons of beautiful alternatives! Whether you are going for a nontraditional look or want a traditional look without the hefty price tag, Brilliant Earth has a wide array of options with their same conflict-free guarantee.
- Moissanite – lab created (eco-friendly & ethical), affordable, durable, rainbow-like sparkle
- Lab Diamonds – lab created (eco-friendly & ethical), less expensive than natural diamonds, durable
- Shop: Brilliant Earth
- Gemstones – vary in color/toughness/price, offer a less traditional look
- Shop: Brilliant Earth
While their origin is impossible to track, some couples choose a vintage stone for their engagement ring. The logic behind this is that it’s like recycling or reusing a diamond. Although the diamond may have had a dark past, couples are comforted knowing they are not contributing to the current controversial diamond trade. Vintage rings are easier to find and are unique in design.
Center Stone: Round natural diamond sourced from Brilliant Earth
Diamond Origin: Russia (see certificate below)
Custom Setting Designer: Lauren B Jewelry
Band: Pave, Rose GoldWatch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download
Setting: Cathedral with pave along basket & bridge area, 2-tone, 6-prong
Lauren B Jewelry
Ryan and I went engagement ring shopping a few months before getting engaged. Initially, we went to Lauren B Jewelry just to get a feel for what I liked but ended up custom designing my dream ring! I highly recommend their services to anyone in the tristate area. All of their rings are handmade and 100% customizable. Check out their designs on their site or Instagram!
Please note, if you want to work with a designer like Lauren B Jewelry to create your ring but desire an ethically sourced stone, you or your jeweler need to purchase your stone from a source like Brilliant Earth.
Above: Lauren B’s video of my ring before Ryan picked it up!
Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored by Brilliant Earth or Lauren B Jewelry.