Aerial view of the Diavik Diamond Mine, Dominion Diamond Mines
You’ve heard that a diamond is forever. But so are their consequences.
The jewelry industry relies on precious and nonrenewable materials that come from the earth. Beyond the terrible human consequences of dirty gold and blood diamonds, mining damages the environment from which they came from. In striving to craft sustainable jewelry, we must also strive to protect the environment that makes it all possible. Recycling these precious resources is the most sustainable way to acquire them, and choosing recycled will help reduce global demands for mining. And because recycled metals are refined to their most pure state, their quality is as high as newly mined metals, without any of the environmental impacts!
So you want to go gold…
"The average stone in an engagement ring is the product of the removal and processing of 200 to 400 million times its volume of rock."
Diamond mines are some of the most environmentally destructive operations in existence. Not only does the physical process destroy the earth -- gouging scars down the middle of national parks so large they are visible from space -- the chemical process poisons it. Just last year, the US imported 2,152,343.74 carats of diamonds (equivalent to more than $331 million
). For every one carat of those diamonds produced, around 57kgs of greenhouse gas emissions were released into the atmosphere. We would need to recycle 250 cans to offset the emissions of just one carat. We have a lot of recycling to do!
Emissions aside, within the next few decades, the majority of notable diamond mines will run dry and the last diamond on earth will be mined
. Luckily for us, diamonds are forever, and we already have around one trillion dollars’ worth of “used” diamonds in our homes!
Let’s talk sustainability.
We know that asking the whole world to change their mining practices right now isn’t practical. But let’s start with what we can
do. A 25 percent reduction in “new” gold use in American jewelry would save over 10 million tonnes of CO2 from being released. According to the EPA’s handy Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator,
this is the equivalent to planting over 167 million trees. A 25 percent reduction in mined diamond demands would save 3,025,898.3kgs of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of planting 50,034 trees.
The only sustainable way to acquire materials is through recycling. If a diamond really is forever, why let it lay unworn?
(6) Harvey-Walker, 2019.