The diamond you are wearing might have witnessed slave labour, child labour, sex trafficking and a whole host of other inhumane situations at the hands of those that mined it — probably in Africa.
Historically, the industry of diamond digging has been rife with conflict and has had an incalculably negative impact on the environment.
Conflict diamonds, AKA blood diamonds, usually originate in war-torn areas and are illegally traded, often in association with rebel or terror groups. These diamonds gained attention during civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, which was depicted in the 2006 movie Blood Diamond—showing how rebel groups engaged in brutal tactics to smuggle and sell diamonds.
Problematically, in the western world diamonds have become a symbol of status, and to some, a measure of how much your spouse loves you. The bigger the diamond, the more you are worth.
But it also used to be: the bigger the diamond, the more bloodshed and suffering likely to be attached to it.
There are now measures in place, such as the United Nations’ Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, that outline requirements and regulations to ensure diamonds are mined and shipped humanely—and that criminal activity is not further supported.
The widespread adoption of this scheme (over 70 countries participate) has seen the number of conflict diamonds and associated crimes drop considerably worldwide. But what about diamonds’ other dark side — or facet, if you will?
Their negative environmental impact!?
Well, there is an answer to both of these problems. And that answer is lab-grown diamonds.
You can grow diamonds?
Yes! Lab-created diamonds have all the sparkle without the high cost. Cultured stones are typically 20% to 30% cheaper than a diamond that’s been mined, and they have the same chemical and physical qualities as the real thing.
The lab-grown diamond breakthrough happened back in 1954, but somehow, London-based brand Lark & Berry is the first designer jewellery label in the world to use cultured diamonds and stones exclusively.
“With the marvels of modern science, superior AND fairer-priced diamonds can now be created above ground, in a lab, using innovative technology, completely eliminating the need to ever dig up and pollute another plot of land on Earth again,” states Lark & Berry’s website.
Laura Chavez, the “Diamond Disruptor”
Laura Chavez: Photo on Fashion Week Daily
The brand was born just over a year ago, founded by business school graduate, Laura Chavez.
Talking to Fashion Week Daily, Chavez explained that she had always loved fine jewellery and wanted to have her own luxury brand but was put off as she didn’t want to contribute to the controversial practices of the mined diamond industry.
But, while doing her MBA she found her obsession was unshakable and decided to take a course on the history of jewellery. This is where she happened upon the science of diamond culturing and was “amazed.”
“I learned with culturing diamonds, we could avoid all the negative aspects of mining. I took it as a sign, like, “Yes! This sustainable method is the only way I’m going to get involved in diamonds!”’
Now known in the press as a “Diamond Disruptor,” Chavez can’t quite understand where there aren’t so many more brands out there growing diamonds.
“Lark & Berry is the first designer luxury jewellery brand in the world to exclusively use cultured diamonds,” says Chavez. “We wanted to get behind the movement of cultured to highlight how this isn’t some fad—the planet is in serious trouble, and the only way to sustainably source diamonds is to culture them in labs.”
So how do you ‘grow’ a diamond?
Lab-grown diamonds, also known as man-made, engineered or cultured diamonds are still 100% authentic diamonds, says Lark & Berry.
To the naked eye, or even with the strongest loupe (a special magnifying glass for jewellers,) the most seasoned gemologists can’t tell cultured from mined “because very simply, there’s nothing to tell apart,” says Chavez.
Cultured diamonds are comprised of the same chemical crystal compound as their mined counterparts and are made in a controlled environment using an advanced technological process that mimics exactly how mined diamonds naturally form in nature, deep inside the Earth’s crust.
The process uses actual carbon atoms arranged in the characteristic diamond crystal structure.
These atoms are then exposed to either extreme pressure and heat or a special deposition process known as CVD to mimic the natural method of diamond formation.
The cultured process is far quicker and cleaner and forms the purest category of diamond – the Type IIa – which is so rare in nature that only 2% of mined diamonds found are of this superior quality.
Plus, cultured diamonds produce less waste, use less water and have less environmental impact than mined stones as no land or wildlife is ever displaced in the act of searching and digging up mines that may or may not be harbouring gem-quality diamonds. And to top it off, they are completely conflict-free.
Plant trees, grow diamonds
It is incredible to think that we have possessed the knowledge to grow perfect diamonds since the 1950s.
Is it the history of war and suffering that we are attached to when it comes to mined diamonds? Or perhaps it’s the damage that getting them causes the environment that we cannot let go of…
Laura Chavez says that, “cultured diamonds aren’t just unique—they’re a clear winner over mined diamonds for so many reasons. With cultured, we get no human rights abuses or conflict that still happens in some areas, far less harm to the Earth as no mining is needed, and an equal diamond to its mined counterpart that is often better quality.”
Showing their unwavering commitment to sustainability, Lark & Berry also plant 5 trees for every piece of jewellery sold.
The innovative brand has been praised by a multitude of fashion magazines for their sustainable high-end jewellery and also recently won an Editor’s Choice design award at the 2019 JCK Las Vegas conference.
Notably, the incredibly young company appointed Paul Ziff as its North American brand president, who has had roles as a brand president for LVMH and Richemont, the two largest luxury goods holding companies in the world.
Lark & Berry now has 3 brick & mortar locations in London, 3 in the USA and one in Hong Kong and Sweden.