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HOW GREEN IS YOUR DIAMOND?

Let’s start by agreeing that the discussion about diamonds and the environment is a difficult one, as it is with most minerals. For, simply stated, they are all inherently unsustainable. Once removed from the earth they do not regenerate.

But the question of environmental impact has been raging in the industry for months, largely driven by synthetic diamond producers, some of whom have been calling their products “green” or “eco-friendly” diamonds. Such dubious claims raised the attention of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which earlier in April sent letters to eight lab-grown diamond companies, questioning whether they may be involved in deceptive advertising.

Now a report put out by the Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA), a body representing seven of the world’s largest diamond miners, disputes the lab-gown diamond producers’ basic contention. While natural diamond producers certainly should so more to use renewable energy, it said, mined diamonds are less carbon-intensive than man-stone, which need to generate massive amount of energy in order to produce such goods in laboratory or factory.


COMPARING THE VOLUMES OF CARBON DIOXIDE GENERATED

The study, which was conducted by DPA for Trucost, which is part of S&P Global, estimated that to produce a single carat of lab-grown diamonds the equivalent of 511 kilograms of carbon dioxide is required. This compared to 160 kilograms of carbon dioxide for mined diamonds.

Quoted by the Financial Times, DPA’s chief executive, Jean-Marc Lieberherr, said the data “calls into question the unsubstantiated ecological claims by this [lab-grown] industry.”

The Trucost study also drew comparisons with other life-style goods. The mined diamonds generated more carbon-dioxide than, for instance, the production of an iPhone XS or an Apple iPad, its carbon footprint was less than a 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. All the items tested, however, generated less than half the volume of carbon dioxide than did lab-grown diamonds.

Total clarity, the study conducted by Trucost for the Diamond Producers’ Association (DPA), looking at the environmental and social impacts of the world’s seven major rough diamond producers.

SYNTHETIC STONES REQUIRES MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF POWER

It should be noted that natural diamonds, which were created deep under the earth, under extreme pressure and very high temperatures, likely generated massive amount of carbon dioxide during their formation. But that was millions of years ago, and today the carbon footprint that they do create is mainly a result of mining activity.

Lab-grown diamonds are produced from a carbon seed, either  under conditions of high pressure and high temperature, known as HPHT, which mimic the geological conditions that were present when natural diamonds were formed, or by layering carbon from gases in a microwave plasma oven, in a process known as chemical vapor deposition, or CVD. CVD reactors frequently operate at temperatures of more than 1,000 celsius.

Furthermore, diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky has noted, many lab-grown producers based in China and India, where coal-fired generators power the electricity grids, pouring massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Courtesy of the Diamond Producers Association.

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