Man-made products vs. Natural Products. It’s such an easy distinction to choose natural every time. But, what if the natural option causes more harm than the man-made process? In the case of mining diamonds, it causes huge environmental destruction, and the violation of human rights. MADE Diamonds was therefore founded to give people a more ethical choice when getting an engagement ring.
MADE Diamonds offer all of the visual characteristics of the finest mined diamonds but without the environmental and human-rights concerns, and without the inflated cartel pricing present throughout the natural diamond industry.
The stones are constructed by building real man made diamond onto a purpose built non-diamond core. Using this method allows the quality of every single stone to be precisely regulated. Each stone is cut by hand into the iconic hearts and arrows shape which can only be achieved in a tiny fraction of pure diamonds, natural or man-made.
I caught up with the faces of the MADE Diamonds team and asked them a few questions about their ethics and the choices associated with diamonds.
People often associate natural with more ethical than ‘lab made’. How is this different for diamonds?
We wholeheartedly agree that generally, natural products are far better for people, animals and the planet. Personally, particularly since going vegan some years ago, we’ve switched over to more natural products on nearly all fronts, from clothing to cosmetics. For some products often classed as “natural” though, it doesn’t mean better, like for example wool or down. We think it’s a similar concept with natural diamonds where, the natural version actually causes a huge amount of harm and therefore a better alternative can be found.
What made you start producing ethical diamond rings? Where did your journey begin?
As a family we’ve been in the jewellery business for around 35 years but as our values evolved in recent years, which included all of us transitioning to a vegan lifestyle we wanted to change and create a new brand around our new values. Essentially combining the art of traditional ring making with a more ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly stone.
How do your prices compare to natural diamond rings?
The price of natural diamond rings are many times the price of ours. Beginning with the stone, most people know that the prices of natural diamonds are kept artificially high by the few big companies (or rather “company”) who control the entire world supply. When it comes to the ring itself, many rings available on the high street will have been manufactured overseas so there’s the cost of physically getting the ring here. A really big one though is the cost of fancy retail premises that has to be built into the cost of rings by traditional companies choosing to operate in that way. We often say that you have to remember that you are of course paying for such surroundings within the price of your ring if you go that route.
How do you ensure your ethics are fully maintained throughout the whole process?
Besides the creation of the stones which we’ll come onto, we control pretty much the entire production process in-house. Everything down to the packaging we use is thought through and we do not use any plastic within our packaging.
Are regular diamond rings not suitable for vegans?
Of course people will have different opinions when it comes to all kinds of products and where you draw the line but we would say, most definitely not. The environmental damage caused by diamond mining is just so disproportionately high that we don’t believe the process can ever be ethical. Consider that on average 1750 tonnes of earth has to be moved to find just one carat of natural diamond. Along with that environmental damage of course comes the destruction of habitats for a vast array of animals who are killed and/or driven from the land. There is then the ongoing pollution and destruction caused by the process itself. Besides all of that you have the humanitarian impact. You don’t have to look far to find hard evidence of severe examples of human rights abuses and modern slavery in the diamond industry, often including the exploitation of children, still present within the industry.
Do you have plans to expand to other ethical jewellery?
We don’t have any plans to extend what we do beyond engagement rings. We’re firm believers in “doing one thing right” and specialising in one area rather than spreading ourselves thinly across all kinds of jewellery.
People are very into brands and luxury jewellery stores. How would you convince someone to choose a MADE DIAMONDS ring over a regular one?
This might sound strange but we’re generally really not trying to convince anyone to purchase from us who isn’t already fairly sold on the concepts we’re into. It might sound a bit corny but we want to connect with people who share our values. We exist to serve an already existing (and growing) new generation of couples who want to live more ethically and according to their values in all areas of their lives. Amongst this crowd we actually find that they like buying from smaller, lesser known brands who share their values rather than purchasing from some large corporate brand/organisation. There’s also the fact that many of these people would rather purchase something that’s been hand made on a small scale rather than a mass produced branded item from a big company.
Do you plan to sell your rings in stores in the future, or will they continue to be a custom made item?
No, we will always stick to the current model which is just so much more efficient and means we have the direct connection with our customers. Apart from what we mentioned earlier about the cost of fancy jewellery retail outlets being built into rings purchased on the high street, retailers take a huge cut from the transaction whilst in our eyes not really adding any real value. We’d rather remain reasonably small-scale and produce beautiful pieces that are made to order for our customers directly.
Are the laboratory conditions ethical and eco-friendly?
Yes, the laboratory is based in the USA so the standards are all modern and progressive.
I already have a regular diamond (very small) engagement ring from many years ago. Would you recommend changing my ring to match my ethics, or is it more ethical to keep the ring I have than use more resources?
I guess it’s a similar concept to when you go vegan and the general consensus is that you don’t have to immediately throw away all your leather, but when it wears out you don’t buy anymore. Of course it’s very different with an engagement ring because they don’t wear out, but like with the leather example, some people, including myself, do decide to get rid of all their leather because it just doesn’t fit with their new values and world-view anymore. Again though, an engagement ring is a very different kind of item often with lots more sentimental value. It will always come down to personal choice. Sometimes when people have got engaged many years earlier in life when they might not have been able to afford a great quality ring or stone, they might later on decide to “upgrade” to a nicer ring with a larger stone. Our rings offer the perfect opportunity to do that without breaking the bank or needlessly wasting money, whilst switching to a ring that might be more in line with your current ethical values. We have definitely had a few customers that we know have done this for all of these reasons. Some people will do this to commemorate a special anniversary. It really is a matter of personal choice though and providing you’re happy with your current ring it might be the best option to stick with it. Maybe the best impact you can have is when it comes to anyone you know who is at that stage of life when they’re likely going to get engaged, to make sure they know both about the reasons not to buy a natural diamond and that better alternatives now exist!
And that’s exactly why I am so delighted to have had the chance to share the concept of MADE Diamonds with you. For sentimental and practical reasons, I don’t feel I will part with my engagement ring, and therefore I would just be adding another item to my jewellery box. However, I would like to share that there is such a thing as an ethical engagement ring for anyone who can choose to go down that route.
You can read more about MADE Diamonds on their website. And if you’d like to read more about having a sustainable, zero waste, ethical wedding, you can visit this wonderful resource from 77 Diamonds.
Thanks for reading!