New Culture War Just Dropped: World’s Largest Jeweler Pivots to Lab-Grown Diamonds

Illustration for article titled New Culture War Just Dropped: World’s Largest Jeweler Pivots to Lab-Grown Diamonds

Photo: Daniel Suen (Getty Images)

If you can bring yourself to wear a diamond that doesn’t represent a shaved-down bit of the planet’s finite supply, but is chemically identical to the original product and denies warlords funding—then Pandora is your shop. The world’s largest jeweler (in sheer volume of product), known for charm bracelets, has announced that it will only sell lab-grown diamonds going forward and markets them as “affordable, sustainably created products.” They don’t use the word “cheap,” but we all know what’s in it for us.

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While “eco-friendly” claims about lab-grown diamonds are still shaky, the diamond mining industry’s justification for its continued existence sounds desperate. The National Diamond Council, an association of diamond mining companies, runs what looks like a trend blog, with a post informing us that they’re offering “diamonds,” a term which only applies to “natural diamonds” “from the Earth.” The treasures, they remind us, were formed on average roughly between one and three billion years ago under immense heat and compression 100 miles beneath the Earth’s crust, catapulted upward by the blast of underground volcanoes. You, a sophisticated collector, can have that. Or you, a trash consumer, can have a little costume jewelry associated with words like “synthetic” and “factories” and “industrial purposes,” a pale forgery marred by “telltale marks” visible to a specialist’s eye.

Unmentioned is that “real” diamonds are inexorably linked to arms dealing and the perpetuation of bloodshed. Lab-grown diamonds are structurally the same, so you can just lie. They’re up to ten times cheaper than “real” diamonds, according to an annual report by the consultancy company Bain & Company. And lab-grown diamonds are an astonishing human feat only possible due to the Big Bang and the roughly 3.5 billion year process of the evolution of an intelligent life form on Earth.

One of the NDC’s members De Beers has already caved to the lure of lab-grown diamond manufacturing.

Both lab-grown diamond sellers and “real” diamond miners have claimed that their stones are more “eco-friendly,” and both have yet to definitively prove it. A study conducted by Trucost, a for-profit organization that analyzes major companies’ carbon output and environmental impacts, found that mined diamonds represented a third of the carbon expended than on lab-grown diamonds (160 kg of CO2 per carat versus 511 kg, respectively). But that’s riddled with disclaimers. The study was conducted on behalf of the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), now the Natural Diamond Council. Trucost analyst Rick Lord told Vogue that it doesn’t factor in significant costs like “mine closure, diamond cutting and polishing, retail and post-consumer phases of the diamond life cycle.” Speaking to Vogue, University of Delaware professor of energy and environment Saleem Ali said that the conclusion “defies common sense.”

Meanwhile, the study relied only on publicly available data to measure the carbon costs of lab-grown diamonds, noting that “disclosure on the greenhouse gas and broader environmental impact of lab grown diamond production is poor.” In 2019, the FTC sent warning letters to eight jewelry makers cautioning them against making yet-unsubstantiated claims that lab-grown diamonds are “eco-friendly,” “eco-conscious,” or “sustainable.”

Pandora claims that by next year, their diamonds will be produced entirely using renewable energy.

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Anyway, I can only IMAGINE what this will bode for a culture-war-torn America with many variegated and razor-sharp opinions on Twitter.

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