GOING GREEN GLOSSARY


You hear it mentioned on the TV, and you read about it online – most businesses are making an initiative to go green. Whether this is through making their methods more environmentally friendly or using more sustainable materials, it's something on everyone's radar.


With so many new sustainability terms emerging almost daily, it is hard to keep track. Luckily, our "Going Green Glossary" below will teach you everything you need to know about the eco-friendly terminology surrounding jewelry.



WHAT IS ECO-FRIENDLY JEWELRY?



Eco-friendly jewelry consists of sustainable materials that do not harm the environment. Ethical jewelry stores try to only include recycled metals, gemstones, and other natural materials in their creations.


Recycled jewelry is made through the process of reusing precious metals. Most recycled metals used in jewelry are from post-consumer waste, such as scrap from the manufacturing of other goods.


Old silver and gold pieces are quickly melted at high temperatures and transformed into a new pieces of jewelry. Recycled jewelry materials don't lose their qualities when melted down and reused, perfect for the atmosphere (ethical dilemma solved!) and consumer.


Ethical jewelry stores also use recycled gemstones in their jewelry. Recycled means the gem was previously owned and then cut and polished to be used again in a new piece of jewelry.



WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE JEWELRY?



Sustainably sourced jewelry is socially conscious jewelry. It supports the local jewelry artisans who make it by being produced in ethical conditions, promoting certified fair trade practices, and avoiding supporting companies that do not respect ethical principles for their employees.


Sustainably sourced jewelry also avoids the waste of raw materials by creating pieces with an eye on the future, designing with longevity in mind. Sustainable jewelry is crafted to last rather than being designed for one-time wear.



WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ECO-FRIENDLY AND SUSTAINABLE JEWELRY?



While sustainable and earth-friendly jewelry mean different things to different people, they overlap. Some consider all environmentally friendly jewelry sustainable; however, it's essential to realize that not everything labeled as eco-friendly is completely sustainable (i.e., earth-friendly jewelry is not always the same as recycled jewelry).


In general, eco-friendly jewelry is sustainable when it doesn't damage the environment, is made from recycled/organic/fair trade materials, and promotes fair labor practices.

 


WHAT IS RECYCLED JEWELRY?



Recycled jewelry is made through the process of reusing precious metals. Most recycled metals used in environmentally friendly jewelry are from post-consumer waste, such as scrap from the manufacturing of other goods.


Old silver and gold pieces are quickly melted at high temperatures and transformed into new jewelry pieces. Recycled jewelry materials don't lose their qualities when melted down and reused, perfect for the atmosphere (ethical dilemma solved!) and consumer.



WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF RECYCLED JEWELRY?



Using recycled metals in jewelry is better for our planet because it reduces the need to mine precious metals from the earth. Beyond exhausting existing reserves, it is also dangerous for miners and emits toxic fumes that pollute water supplies.


On top of this, recycled materials are already widely available, so they don't need further mining. Earth-friendly jewelry made from recycled metals also uses less energy in manufacturing, making it a more sustainable choice.



WHAT IS CARBON NEUTRAL JEWELRY?



Carbon-neutral jewelry is crafted with the intention of having a net-zero carbon footprint. The carbon-neutral jewelry process must consider the carbon output from sourcing materials to shipping the final product. 



WHAT IS FAIRTRADE GOLD JEWELRY?



Fairtrade gold jewelry is a form of socially conscious jewelry. These are artisanal products produced by small-scale miners. Fairtrade jewelry ensures fairtrade standards, environmental and labor conditions are closely monitored, and all gold is transparently traceable directly back to the community that mines it. The Fairtrade gold movement also provides a social premium that allows small-scale miners to improve quality-of-life conditions for themselves and others in their local communities.


Fairtrade jewelry also helps protect local jewelry artisans and their families from mercury use, which is common in gold mining.



WHAT IS ARTISAN-MADE JEWELRY?



Artisan-made jewelry is jewelry that is handmade by skilled artisans. This type of jewelry is usually made in small batches or even one-of-a-kind, using traditional methods passed down through generations.


Artisan-made jewelry is often more expensive than mass-produced jewelry, but it is also unique and of a higher quality.



WHAT ARE ETHICAL GEMS?



Gemstones are particularly associated with the countries they stem from, so working with ethical gemstone jewelry conveys a message of respect for these cultures and traditions. Responsibly sourced jewelry means the mining of ethical gems occurs in areas where workers' rights and environmental conditions are not compromised and purchased legally and transparently.


Ethical gemstone jewelry also avoids conflict gemstones that could potentially finance armed conflicts where the gems come from. The mining of conflict gemstones takes place in areas where there's an ongoing conflict between various political/social groups; often, miners work in deplorable conditions, underpaid, and without protection.


High-quality ethically sourced gemstones include those produced by small artisanal mines that use ethical and sustainable methods, such as using sustainable energy sources, minimizing waste, and ensuring environmentally sound practices. Ethically sourced gemstones are also certified by organizations that monitor labor and environmental conditions.


To qualify as ethically made jewelry that is truly sustainable, the gemstones must also be certified by independent associations that ensure fair working conditions in mines, such as no child labor, minimal environmental impact, and no negative impact on human health.



WHAT ARE NON-CONFLICT DIAMONDS? HOW ABOUT THEY DIFFERENT FROM CONFLICT DIAMONDS?



Conflict diamonds (also called blood diamonds) are unethical diamonds that fuel and fund armed conflicts, particularly in West Africa. Blood diamonds are stones exported from a country with an ongoing war and sold to finance the fighting. Buying and selling conflict diamonds directly contributes to violence, which is ethically unacceptable for conscientious consumers, jewelers, and industry professionals.


Non-conflict diamonds are used in cruelty-free jewelry. Non-conflict diamonds are natural diamonds not used to fund civil wars or conflicts and sold according to the Kimberley Process Certification System. The KPCS is a system designed to maintain the integrity of the rough diamond trade by helping to promote responsibly sourced jewelry and ensure that black market diamonds do not finance war or human rights abuses. The KPCS is a joint effort by governments and the diamond industries of 82 countries, international organizations, and professional associations across the diamond supply chain to stop the circulation of unethical diamonds by monitoring all diamond trading. Non-conflict diamonds are therefore traceable and appropriate for cruelty-free jewelry.



HOW ARE NON-CONFLICT DIAMONDS DIFFERENT FROM NORMAL GEMS?



Rough diamonds mined around the world usually lack transparency making it virtually impossible for conscientious consumers to know whether their diamond comes from a war zone or not. However, the creation of the KPCS helps bring transparency to the industry and ensures that consumers can purchase cruelty-free diamonds with confidence.


Certified non-conflict diamonds have a KPCS certificate, which documents every phase of their journey from the mine to the point of sale. Jewelry buyers who want to purchase responsible jewelry and know whether their diamond is conflict-free must read and clearly understand the information on their KPCS certificate.


Non-conflict diamonds were previously mixed with conflict stones or sold in ways that made it difficult for jewelry buyers to trust their origins. But now, thanks to a global certification scheme created by governments, industry leaders, and NGOs, certified non-conflict diamonds in ethically made jewelry are easily identified from black market diamonds using an internationally recognized mark of authenticity. This mark has added validity to the responsible jewelry movement.



HOW ARE RECLAIMED DIAMONDS?



Reclaimed diamonds are often used in ethically sourced jewelry. Reclaimed diamonds undergo a process of being repurposed rather than newly mined; therefore, there's nearly zero impact on the environment and surrounding communities.


Repurposed diamonds are a great alternative to mining new diamonds, with negative environmental impacts. Moreover, diamonds are the hardest natural substances found on Earth and last forever. So, recycled diamonds make great sense.


Repurposed diamonds are cheaper than newly mined diamonds because there are no development and production costs. This makes buying environmentally friendly diamonds an excellent option for jewelry consumers on a budget.



WHAT ARE LAB-CREATED DIAMONDS?



Lab diamonds are a highly eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds and are precisely identical to naturally mined diamonds, with one exception. For example, lab diamond creation occurs in laboratories from carbon atoms not mined from the ground. Because gemologists replicate the conditions by which natural diamonds form, engineered diamonds have the same molecular structure and physical properties as natural mined diamonds.


Lab-made diamonds offer a genuine alternative to naturally mined diamonds without compromising beauty or quality. Additionally, engineered diamonds are eco-friendly because they don't require mining and extraction of natural resources from the environment, thus, minimizing environmental damage.


While lab-made jewelry lovers are a small percentage, it's increasing every year as more people embrace them because they are eco-friendly and because of market value. For example, lab-made jewelry, usually priced way below natural diamonds, is a cost-effective solution for conscientious consumers. Plus, lab-made jewelry is free from conflict and exploitation.



HOW ARE LAB DIAMONDS GROWN?



Synthetic diamond creation begins by subjecting a diamond seed to the pressures, temperatures, and carbon conditions found in nature that form a diamond stone naturally.


The diamond stone begins as a tiny diamond seed, then placed into pure carbon. The diamond seed faces approximately 1500 degrees Celsius in one of three possible manufacturing processes (a belt press, a cubic press, or a split-sphere). The diamond seed faces a pressure of around 1.5 million pounds per square inch.


The pure carbon melts and forms a diamond around the starter seed. For pure carbon to create this starter seed, it's heated as high as possible while being cooled at a prolonged rate. This process produces a pure carbon diamond.



HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GROW DIAMONDS?



It takes anywhere from 25% to 75% of the Earth's age, or 1 billion to 3.3 billion years, for the entire process of diamond creation due to the immense pressure present on the Earth and the extreme temperatures.


In contrast, it takes about eight weeks to grow a 1-carat lab diamond and about a month to grow a 3-carat diamond. The total time depends on the manufacturing process used to create an engineered diamond.



ARE LAB DIAMONDS FLAWLESS?



No, lab-made diamonds are not flawless stones. Engineered diamonds have some inclusions and blemishes, like a natural diamond mined from the Earth. These diamond inclusions are so slight that they are not visible to the naked eye in almost every case.


Inclusions are small diamonds or mineral crystals that become trapped in the growing diamond during the diamond manufacturing process. Diamond inclusions can also result from tiny bits of dust or other materials.

Like natural diamonds, lab-made diamonds receive a grade on the diamond clarity scale. Most lab-made diamonds fall into the very slight inclusions category.


DO ALL LAB DIAMONDS LOOK THE SAME?



No. Like mined diamonds, every engineered diamond is unique. All diamonds are types of crystallized carbon and will form uniquely, whether in a lab or under the Earth's crust. Lab-made stones are grown from a carbon seed, meaning each one will have its own shape, color, and unique characteristics.


However, you can find two engineered diamonds with similar qualities. When grown in a lab, some companies have more control over the final product. This control allows them to produce synthetic diamonds that look almost identical to naturally mined diamonds.


Some manufacturers might even enhance the color of their lab-grown stones through irradiation and heat treatments. These color treatments can improve the diamond color to a near-GIA grade of excellence.


HOW LONG DO LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS LAST?



Many people are likely to think that lab-grown gems are different from natural loose diamonds found in nature. However, this is not accurate. Engineered diamonds come from a lab, but they're still real diamonds with virtually identical physical and chemical properties as mined stones. Compared to natural loose diamonds, they do not differ in quality or durability.


Lab-grown diamonds have the same brilliance, fire, and scintillation as mined diamonds. They are also just as hard and durable. They're even more durable because they aren't subject to the Earth's elements over time, like natural diamonds.


Lab-grown diamonds do not come from nature, but all lab-made stones last just as long or longer than naturally mined stones. Lab diamonds can last forever if properly cared for, just like naturally mined stones can.


HOW MUCH ARE LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS?



Lab diamond prices vary depending on the quality and the type of stone a consumer is looking for. But as lab-grown jewelry is less expensive to produce, it's easier to find pieces in different price ranges that fit a reasonable budget. In general, lab diamonds are roughly 30-40% the price of natural diamonds.


DO LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS CHANGE COLOR OVER TIME?



Laboratory-grown diamonds do not discolor, fade or change over time; instead, they are as durable and long-lasting as natural loose diamonds.


Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds, and they have the same physical and chemical properties as mined stones. They come from a lab, but they're still diamonds with virtually identical characteristics. They do not differ in their quality or durability compared to natural loose diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds are just as brilliant, hard, and durable as mined diamonds, and they don't discolor, fade or change over time.


DO LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS TEST AS REAL?



Yes, laboratory-grown diamonds test positive on a commercial diamond tester because they're made of crystallized carbon, just as natural rough diamonds are. Lab-grown gems look, feel and test like mined diamonds, but they don't form in nature.


With this said, advanced equipment used in laboratories features higher detection capabilities and can distinguish between the two. However, the vast majority of equipment used in everyday life cannot detect a lab diamond.


HOW DO YOU KNOW DIAMONDS ARE CULTURED?



Yes, laboratory-grown diamonds test positive on a commercial diamond tester because they're made of crystallized carbon, just as natural rough diamonds are. Lab-grown gems look, feel and test like mined diamonds, but they don't form in nature.


With this said, advanced equipment used in laboratories features higher detection capabilities and can distinguish between the two. However, the vast majority of equipment used in everyday life cannot detect a lab diamond.


ARE SYNTHETIC DIAMONDS THE SAME AS LAB-GROWN DIAMONDS?



Yes, laboratory-grown diamonds test positive on a commercial diamond tester because they're made of crystallized carbon, just as natural rough diamonds are. Lab-grown gems look, feel and test like mined diamonds, but they don't form in nature.


With this said, advanced equipment used in laboratories features higher detection capabilities and can distinguish between the two. However, the vast majority of equipment used in everyday life cannot detect a lab diamond.


WRAPPING UP



Jewelry lovers are increasingly interested in buying fair trade, sustainable, ethically sourced jewelry pieces, especially millennials. The fact is that today's jewelry consumers buy much more than a physical product, whether driven by a growing sense of social responsibility, such as a desire to improve the working conditions of miners, or a widespread concern for the fragile environment. They realize that their purchase is the result of a complex supply chain. Hence, they're placing more value on the story behind their jewelry piece.


We hope our "Going Green Glossary" has helped you brush up on your eco-friendly terminology. Have a question that you would like to include? Please email info@bonheurjewelry.com, and we will try our best to include it.