So You Say You Want a Conflict-Free Stone . . .

Conflict-Free Diamonds
A lot of attention has been paid lately to conflict-free stones, and rightfully so. Even with all the reputable vendors out there, the mining and cutting of precious gems isn’t always handled in the most ethical way. Think small children working 12- to 16-hour days in a factory and breathing in harmful diamond dust. Or miners working in unsafe conditions with very little or no medical help at the ready and for little pay.

Yet despite all the awareness, there are still several misconceptions surrounding conflict-free stones. For starters, some people equate all diamonds with conflict, which is hardly the case. Not all diamonds are “bad.” Also, the label “conflict-free” isn’t black and white; there are levels of responsible practices, from how the diamond was mined to how it was cut and sold. Finally, you don’t have to sacrifice your principals for an affordable stone. Plenty of budget-friendly conflict-free stones exist; you just have to know what to look for when shopping for one.

Confused? Don’t be -- here’s an overview of conflict-free stones and how to find the one that’s right for you.

Canada

Buy Canadian.

If you want to know without a shadow of a doubt that your diamond was handled ethically, buy one mined in Canada. That’s because the Canadian government certifies and regulates the industry and ensures miners are paid fair wages, which explains why these diamonds cost more. To see if yours is Canadian, pull out a microscope or loupe and look for the Canadian leaf or another laser marking on the girdle. (We offer Canadian stones on request.)

Diamond Mining
Diamond mining in Sierra Leone | Image: BBC

Know the stone’s supply chain.

It’s a little extra work on your part, but it really pays to research where your stone was mined and cut. For example, though we’ve already established that Canadian stones are ethically mined, some are sent to other countries to be cut in factories with unsafe and/or unfair working conditions. So there are levels of what constitutes conflict-free. That said, companies like Columbia Gem House are passionate about fair trade and responsible environmental practices and take a long-term approach. This means they’ll mine slowly to take care of the earth during the process, and offer on-site medical resources to miners. Extracted stones are then taken to approved cutting factories that treat employees fairly. Caveat: Because of the lack of industry regulation, it’s next to impossible to know exactly where colored stones came from, unless your jewelers buys from a trusted boutique stone dealer.

Ask about the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.

The KPCS is a United Nations-initiated process aimed at stopping conflict diamonds from entering the market. Vendors are asked to sign an agreement that they won’t knowingly trade conflict diamonds. Reputable jewelers like us vet our vendors and take great care to choose ones that are part of the KPCS, so be sure to ask when you’re shopping.

Responsible Jewelry Council

Support RJC members.

Or, go one step further and shop exclusively with members of the Responsible Jewelry Council. The London-based group helps the jewelry industry regulate responsible practices from mine to market, auditing everything from safe chemical disposal to environmental impact to fair employment practices. Members include miners, cutters, refiners, manufacturers and retailers (like us!).

Lab-Created Sapphire Engagement Ring
Lab-Created Chatham Pink Sapphire in
the Contemporary Infinity Engagement Ring

Buy conflict-free on a budget.

Conflict-free diamonds do not have a higher markup, so you can find one that is competitively priced. Colored stones, however, are a different story. Unless you go with a lower-quality gem, expect to pay a little more for one that’s fair trade. Consider an alternative like a lab-created blue sapphire or Moissanite, which are conflict-free, fair trade and budget-friendly. Or ask for a recycled vintage Harmony Diamond. This is a diamond that has been removed from an old estate mounting, and certified as such by a third party.

Comments are closed