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Lab-grown diamonds: a greener footprint?

From fine jewellery brands to small jeweller, key players are committed to making the industry more transparent. Whether lab-grown or natural diamonds, what kind of environmental footprint will they leave in the future?

Morgane Nyfeler

By Morgane Nyfeler06 juillet 2021

20%

Annual growth of the lab-grown diamond market

1000 $

Lab-grown diamonds average price per carat

5000 $

Natural diamonds average price per carat

Studies show that the market for laboratory diamonds is growing by about 20% annually, while production is increasing by 250% (Shutterstock)

In May 2021, Alexander Lacik, CEO of the mainstream jewellery company Pandora – considered today as the biggest jewellery company totalling more than 100 million pieces produced and $3 billion in sales per year – announced that it would no longer sell mined diamonds and switch to laboratory-made diamonds exclusively, due to concerns for the environment and working practices in the mining industry. This clever marketing move has suddenly boosted the cultured diamond industry touted as more sustainable. But are these stones grown in a lab really more eco-friendly?

Lab-made diamonds: a growing industry

Traditional, natural diamonds were formed more than three billion years ago deep within the Eath’s crust under intense heat and pressure. Typically found in sub-Saharan Africa, they are usually extracted in an environment where workers’ health and safety are questioned, while damaging the nature by soil erosion, deforestation, loss of wildlife habitat and air emissions on Earth as well as in the oceans.

Traditional natural diamonds were commonly formed over three billion years ago and are found in the sub-Saharan region (Shutterstock)

On the other hand, lab-grown – or cultured – diamonds have been produced by humans in a controlled environment by recreating the conditions found underground, and are physically, chemically and optically identical to those occurring naturally ¬– an expert would need specialised equipment to tell the difference. Although 250 million joules are needed to grow one carat, they are also considered a more eco-friendly, socially sound and cheaper alternative to natural diamonds, which is attracting more and more consumers from the younger generation.

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