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How To Buy An Ethical Diamond

They're a girl's best friend but they shouldn't cost another girl (or boy) their life.

US-based jewellery mega-brand Tiffany & Co. -- which sold more than $700 million worth of diamond engagement rings in 2017 -- has just pledged to be more transparent about their gems.

As of January 9 2018, the brand will identify the country where their diamonds were mined upfront, and, eventually, provide details on where it was cut, polished and set -- making it the only global luxury jewellery house to do so.

Their Diamond Source Initiative isn't wholly altruistic, however. It's a strategic ploy to attract a younger customer base who are conscious about where everything comes from -- from the farm where their eggs were laid to the vegan leather of their shoes.

Nevertheless, it got us wondering about what's happening with diamonds in Australia.

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Ethical diamonds in Australia

An 'ethical diamond' is "a diamond that is sourced under conflict-free conditions," according to Benjamin Baker from Sydney-based Dracakis Jewellers.

Diamonds that aren't sourced under conflict-free conditions -- aka 'blood diamonds' -- may be produced using child labour or to finance wars or terrorist activity.

Baker explained that the majority of the world's diamonds come from Africa, where the most mines are located. Most of the diamonds sold in Australia come from Africa, however, one of the biggest mines in the world -- The Jubilee Diamond Mine -- is located in Russia.

Australia does mine its own diamonds, however, the largest diamond mine in the country -- WA's Argyle Diamond Mine --is reportedly running out of gems and is set to close by 2020.

So, how does one go about distinguishing an ethical diamond from a so-called blood diamond?

You don't need a degree in foreign law or knowledge of gemology, in Australia at least. That's because the country signed something called the Kimberley Process in 2003 which made it law that any diamond that entered Australia had to be certified as conflict-free.

A total of 82 countries in the world are part of the Kimberley Process but that's not to say some diamonds don't slip through the cracks. Any reputable jeweller that is ethically-conscious would do their due diligence, according to Baker.

"We buy and select all our diamonds direct from the suppliers overseas," Baker told 10 daily.

"When selecting rough diamonds they all must be certified conflict-free before they are chosen to be cut and polished," he said.

This ensures that the diamond is genuinely conflict-free.

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The five C's

When it comes to purchasing a diamond, there are four 'C's that are considered -- cut, colour, clarity, carat. Some are calling for a fifth 'C' -- country of origin-- to be added, so we asked Baker what he thought.

"As far as curiosity goes, it wouldn't be a bad idea to include it but a diamond is a diamond in terms of its physical properties regardless of where it's sourced," he said.

In fact, a fifth 'C' might have a negative effect.

"Introducing this fifth 'C' would put a strain on supply and demand with consumers choosing diamonds based on origin, thus driving up the cost of diamonds."

If for example, the demand for Australian-mined diamonds increased -- because everyone is suddenly hyper-conscious about the country of origin -- the price would also increase because there are so few Aussie diamonds available.

The price of African diamonds may even drop as a result, despite both types of gems being very similar -- and equally as ethical due to the Kimberley Process -- as Baker explained.

Having said that, there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming demand for info around the country of origin at this point, at least according to Baker.

"There's definitely an increase in the amount of ethically conscious consumers ... [but] we can't say we get asked about it a lot."

Feature image: Getty.