Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
If you see a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond side by side, they both elicit the same scintillating awe; but lab-grown gemstones don’t carry the injustices of their mined counterparts. For Aether and Sacet, transparency, ethics and regeneration are the future of luxury.
Nothing shines like a diamond; but its journey from mine to jeweler is anything
but scintillating. It’s well documented that mined diamonds carry a steep
environmental and social price tag. A diamond passes through multiple hands,
dealers, merchants and countries on its way from the mine to the jewelers.
You’ll likely pay between $2,500-$18,000 for a one-carat diamond, but the
paid by the planet is even greater:
1,128 pounds of CO2e emitted
1,028 gallons of freshwater used in extraction and processing
One thousand tons of earth extracted
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During extraction, mine tailings
often leach toxic compounds into the environment and contaminate local drinking
Biodiversity in mining regions is dwindling; and social impacts such as forced
labor, unsafe working conditions and conflict are well-understood consequences
of diamond extraction.
The international recognition of “blood
diamonds” spurred the creation of
the Kimberley Process, which sought to
make conflict-free diamonds the norm. Since 2003, nearly all mined diamonds on
the open market are verified conflict-free through the Kimberley Process. But
for a burgeoning share of the diamond market, the Kimberley Process is no longer
According to Sacet diamond specialist James
Harris, the Kimberley Process is non-regulatory, and companies aren’t vetted
with boots-on-ground auditors. Furthermore, the Kimberley Process doesn’t
account for all of the nuances of intersectional social and environmental
issues. Many Kimberley Process-certified diamonds are derived from regions
experiencing new types of
and climate impacts aren’t front and center in certification.—
The short answer: Virtually none.
Lab-grown diamonds are chemically identical to mined ones. For the purists out
there, Harris emphasized they are a genuine carbon diamond, and there’s nothing
unnatural about them. Compared to mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are
and have a much lower social and environmental cost. And unlike the Kimberley
Process, Harris said, lab-grown diamonds can be easily externally audited to
ensure good labor and environmental practices.
But, what’s the catch? So far, Harris told Sustainable Brands™, he
doesn’t see one. It’s like asking a recycling center, “What’s your ulterior
Sacet is a jewelry producer exclusively sourcing certified lab-grown diamonds.
Sacet takes it a step further by only using recycled precious metals and
recycled packaging from strictly vetted suppliers. Cutting out the middleman,
Sacet crafts all of its jewelry in an artisanal workshop that pays artisans an
above living wage. Furthermore, Sacet uses 100 percent of profits from its
workshop to provide its workers
and their communities with skills development, education and healthcare.
“The whole vision is to bring the artisans into the forefront of what we do,”
While Sacet sources ethically produced lab-grown diamonds,
Aether literally pulls them out of thin air.
While most lab-grown diamonds use fossil-based
Aether is the only diamond grower that creates diamonds from atmospheric CO2 —
making Aether diamonds the world’s first carbon-negative gemstones. On top of
that, Aether invests some of its proceeds in drawdown and avoidance projects.
Through direct sequestration and external collaborations, Aether has committed
to removing 20 tons of carbon for every carat it creates; it is also the only
diamond company in the world to earn B Corp
While Sacet and Aether are reinventing the diamond industry, there’s an elephant
in the room: Is there even a place for high-luxury items during a climate
What is luxury? If you see a lab-grown diamond and a mined diamond side by side,
they both elicit the same scintillating awe. A lab-grown gemstone, however,
doesn’t carry the injustice of its mined counterpart. For Aether co-founder and
CEO Ryan Shearman, transparency, ethics and regeneration are the future of
“For better or worse, people are going to keep buying diamonds,” Shearman told
SB. “Therefore, it’s beholden on us if we care about the environment to produce
them in as responsible a manner as possible.”
Aether and Sacet are part of an evolving luxury landscape that is reshaping the
future of the diamond business. The world’s largest jewelry brand, Pandora,
recently ditched mined diamonds for
in an effort to mitigate ongoing risks of negative impacts; and huge players
have also acquired synthetic diamond facilities, marking a seismic shift in
lab-grown diamond acceptance.
Consumer demand for sustainability, traceability and carbon neutrality are
causing lab-grown diamonds to go mainstream, Harris explained. This indicates a
drastic change in the definition of luxury: It’s not about the price, but the
“Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive,” Shearman asserted. “It’s unique, it’s how
it makes you feel, and it’s good for the environment.”
As he pointed out, the wealthy have a vastly disproportionate impact on the
environment; and luxury
can be emblems of excess and waste. Shearman wants to flip the script on luxury
— making diamonds from the air not only less expensive than mined ones but
creating an outsized, net-positive impact on the planet.
Aether and Sacet want to see diamonds not just as symbols of luxury, but vessels
of social and environmental good. Because diamonds are so charismatic, a
climate-positive diamond plays a role in keeping climate action as part of the
zeitgeist and at the forefront of conversations with cultural casemakers.
For Aether, changing the culture around diamonds is just as important as doing
the work of drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.
“For us, we can process that carbon in a way that brings beauty into the world,”
Shearman said. “If we can be a part of that conversation, we’re going to bring
the climate crisis along by virtue of who we are. It becomes a self-reinforcing
mission, allowing consumers to tell the story instead of relying on ourselves to
Published Jul 21, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.