The extraction of gold and diamonds is devastating for the environment. At the same time, there are ethical alternatives such as lab-grown diamonds and jewelry made of recycled gold. Want to learn more? Keep reading.
The extraction of precious metals and gemstones, such as gold and diamonds, is one of the most destructive industries, both for the environment and for the people who work in it. Mining enough gold for an average gold wedding ring creates about 20 tons of hazardous mining waste.  It can displace communities, clean-cut forests, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments. It pollutes water and land with mercury and cyanide, endangering the health of people and ecosystems. It is also related to child labor.
“Mining enough gold for an average gold wedding ring creates about 20 tons of hazardous mining waste.”
In addition, diamonds carry a heavy political burden. Maybe you’ve heard of so-called “conflict” or “blood” diamonds? They were extracted in war zones in Africa, through forced labor, and used to finance terrorist groups and civil wars.  In 2003 an international certification system aimed at stopping the spread of conflict diamonds, named Kimberley Process was established. 17 years later, there are still serious problems and omissions that make it impossible to fully trace them. But even out of the conflict zones, working conditions in these mines can be brutal, low-paid, and hundreds of miners die every day due to tunnel collapses. 
If you want to learn more about gold and diamond mining, I highly recommend you the short documentaries at the end of this article, as well as Annie Lennard’s book Story of stuff.
Gold is used in many areas. It could be found in almost all types of electronics – smartphones, TVs, laptops, etc. However 75% of the gold produced worldwide is used to make jewelry 
Diamonds are especially well regarded as a material for cutting and grinding tools due to their extreme hardness. Around half of all mined diamonds are not of gemstone quality and are used for industrial purposes. 
Diamonds were formed over 3 billion years ago deep within the Earth’s crust under conditions of intense heat and pressure that cause carbon atoms to crystallise forming diamonds.
The first lab-grown diamond was created in the early 60s of the 20th century. They are as real as mined diamonds, the only difference is that they grow above ground instead of underneath. Lab-grown diamonds also created using extreme pressure and heat, but inside a machine rather than the bowels of the Earth. Of course, we must keep in mind that their production takes a lot of energy.
According to the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., lab-grown diamonds are chemically optically and physically identical to mined diamonds. 
The difference is that lab-grown diamonds do not lead to environmental pollution, wildlife displacement, groundwater pollution, deforestation, cartel pricing, child Labor, and displacement of local communities.
An ethical alternative
A while back, I came across a small ethical Swedish company that makes its jewelry entirely from recycled gold and laboratory-grown diamonds. Akind craft their jewelry under ethical working conditions in Andalusia, Spain.
They fascinated me with their beautiful minimalist and timeless pieces and with their transparency. They openly share how, where and under what conditions their products are made, who their suppliers are and how exactly they form their prices. You can see exactly how much the person who made your ring gets, as well as the costs of materials and transportation. Their packaging is made with attention to detail. My shipment to Bulgaria arrived completely plastic-free. If you are looking for an elegantly made engagement ring with a lab-grown diamond, a wedding ring or just a beautiful timeless jewelry, I recommend you to check them out.
I also own one of their pieces – an extremely delicate and beautiful ring, a beloved part of my minimalist collection. And the best part is that I feel good about it, its quality is exceptional, but not at the expense of my environmental and ethical principles
This article is in partnership with Akind, and all impressions, as always, are entirely mine. I hope you found it useful. 🙂
By recommending brands on the blog, I aim to offer a sustainable alternative for people looking for a specific product. My main recommendation to everyone continues to be – buy only what you need.
- No dirty gold campaign – nodirtygold.org https://earthworks.org/campaigns/no-dirty-gold/impacts/
- Story of stuff book, Annie Leonard
- Global Witness organization
Here you can learn more about gold mining today, told by Diego Cupolo, a photojournalist who spent time exploring one of the largest modern gold mines in Peru: