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Photo: Lark Boshoff on Unsplash. com.



Earlier this year, a Dubai-based jewellery retailer raised some eyebrows when it claimed to have become the first and the only company in the United Arab Emirates to offer carbon-free laboratory-grown diamonds.

It was an unlikely claim, given the fact both natural and polished diamonds are in essence crystalline carbon – meaning quite simply that no carbon equals no diamonds.

It was most probably more a sloppy case of copywriting by the Dubai company’s marketing team, rather than an intentional attempt to mislead the consumer. What it meant to say was its diamonds were produced in a carbon neutral-manner, meaning that no excess greenhouse gases were created as a result of its manufacturing process. The incident, however, illustrated well the lax approach to environmental claims that is common today.

It is effectively is impossible to produce a laboratory-grown stone without expending a certain amount of energy. Consequently, carbon neutrality in diamond production is obtainable essentially in two ways.  The first is if the energy used to create the lab-grown diamonds is produced using renewable sources – such as hydro-electric energy, solar energy or wind-power – it is then possible top claim that no fossil fuels were required, and therefore no greenhouse gases emitted.

Second, even if it fossil fuels were used, it is possible to claim carbon neutrality of you accurately measure your carbon footprint, and then purchase carbon credits to offset them. This generally would involve investments in companies generating renewable energy, or operations that essentially absorb carbon or carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, like a forest.

If renewable energy, like that produced through wind power, is used in production of  diamonds instead of fossil fuels, it is possible to claim that the stones are carbon-neutral.  (Photo: Master Wen on 


Environmental claims have been rife in the jewelry industry in recent years, particularly as the battle heated up between producers of natural and laboratory-grown diamonds.

It was in many respects a pointless and self-destructive exercise, with the finger-pointing that took place being more likely an attempt by either side to deflect criticism, rather than being based on fact. For there is little doubt that considerable amounts of energy are required to produce both natural and laboratory-grown stones. Clearly both have carbon footprints– meaning that the argument was not whether one existed, but rather was about which one was larger.

By almost all counts it is the natural diamond sector has the bigger footprint, simply because it is the larger of the two industries, producing considerably more stones. But, where more energy is being expended per carat depends on who you ask.

As the futility of the environmental posturing slowly became apparent, tempers cooled somewhat, but not necessarily the inclination to make baseless claims – with the carbon free proposition being among the more ridiculous.

There is nothing essentially wrong about taking the environmental high ground, however, but it needs to be based on fact and verifiable evidence.


It’s not only a question of marketing, for there are legal issues at stake as well. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in December last year that it is beginning its statutory review of the Green Guides, which are a set of guidelines that help marketers understand green and eco-friendly advertising claims and terminology.

Initially introduced in 1992, Green Guides have not been revised since 2012, but over the period since the number of environmental claims have multiplied many times over, driven to a large degree by growing consumer concerns related to global warming and climate change.

The Green Guides outline general principles applicable to all environmental marketing claims, and provide specific guidance. For each claim covered, the guides explain how reasonable consumers likely interpret it, describe the basic elements necessary to substantiate a claim, and present options for qualifications that need to be made in to avoid accused of deception.

The FTC Green Guides are meant to regulates the use of terms such as “recycled” and “carbon neutral” and “carbon offset.” They also apply across business sector, meaning the diamond and jewelry industries are not going to be exempt.

The first set of hearing took place in January, and the public comment phase lasted until April. It is not yet clear when the new edition of the Green Guides will eventually be released.