What Does the Future of the Diamond Industry Look Like?
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
Loose lab-grown diamonds and gem stones. MiaDonna
The disruption of the earth-mined diamond industry has brought many new jewelers to the playing field offering ethical, cost effective, and often higher quality alternatives for consumers to choose from. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) provides all the information to the consumer to make it crystal clear that lab-grown diamonds are in fact, 100% diamond. Made by either high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) or chemical vapor deposition (CVD), each laboratory-grown diamond is created chemically, physically and optically identical to their earth-mined diamond counterparts, making them indistinguishable to the trained eye, and up-to 40% less the cost. Additionally, both types of diamonds are graded the same way, by the same laboratories that grade earth-mined diamonds.
Although the two diamond types are identical to the eye, their origin stories couldn't be more different. The diamond industry has been built completely on 'a diamond is forever,' but when our natural resources for mining these diamonds are quickly running out, where else are we to turn but to lab-grown diamonds?
Business Insider Australia recently reported that Australia's biggest diamond mine, Argyle Diamonds, which produces nearly 95% of Australia's earth-mined diamonds, will cut production this year by around 10%. The mines are running out and our planet is suffering from the open pits being completely emptied. On the opposing side, production for lab-grown diamonds has ramped up with lab-grown diamond producer Diamond Foundry securing a new production factory in Washington State, which is said to scale up production from approximately 100,000 carats (of diamonds) per year currently, to upwards of 1 million carats per year. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tom Chatham, CEO of Chatham Created Gems, says that there are two main reasons lab-grown diamonds are the wave of the future.
Lab-grown diamond engagement rings. MiaDonna
"One is that the major five producers of natural diamonds speculated that there will be no natural diamond production after 2050 because they've run out of profitable deposits. Reason two is that for the last 10 years, we've been sought out by people, Millennials, who want to buy something that doesn't come out of the earth, who care about the earth and the damage we've created," he adds.
When it comes to the effects related to the social and humanitarian issues of mining diamonds, lab-grown diamonds also have the upper hand here. In a recent case announced last month, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admitted that gold from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rough diamonds mined from Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe are "produced, in whole or in part, using forced labor."
The CBP stated that they would issue Withhold Release Orders for gold mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rough diamonds mined from Marange, Zimbabwe, along with 3 other products believed to be produced using forced labor. Additionally, in a 2017 report from the World Bank on extractive industries in Sierra Leone, research found that 'it's estimated that approximately 300,000 Sierra Leoneans are directly employed at artisanal mining operations.'
Although the diamond industry is expansive and abundant in many countries across Africa, it's rare that these artisanal mines enforce proper labor laws and environmental standards.
Custom MiaDonna lab-grown diamond engagement ring. MiaDonna
In a recent Gizmodo article, GIA's James Shipley said that advancements in the lab-grown diamond industry has only really taken off in the last five years or so, when the mainstream jewelry sector began taking notice. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a non-profit organization formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA Secretary General, Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market.
This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market. He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry. Zimnisky also estimates that lab-created diamond market shares in the fashion jewelry market are forecasted to grow to almost 7 percent by 2035.
MiaDonna, specifically, was founded with a single objective in mind: to offer consumers a beautiful, ethical and affordable diamond alternative which in turn, would support The Greener Diamond to help free innocent children oppressed by the active conflict diamond mining industry. With every order placed at MiaDonna, they give back at least 10% of net profits to directly fund projects and initiatives to help local communities have alternative career paths to mining in countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. They aren't here to just sell consumers lab-grown diamonds, they're here to rebuild the lives and land damaged by diamond mining and provide better, safer and more sustainable options for those who would otherwise be involved in the conflict diamond industry.
The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna
In addition, this year MiaDonna became a Certified B Corporation, which takes into account the company's overall social and environmental performance and evaluates how its operations and business model impact not only their own employees, but also the community, environment and customers. On top of their B Corp efforts, MiaDonna uses only recycled precious metals for all of their engagement ring settings, all of their jewelry is handcrafted in the U.S.A. and they even created an eco-friendly jewelry cleaner using a non-toxic formula that is both environmentally safe and packaged in a fully recyclable, grade 1 container. Learn more about MiaDonna here and shop all lab-grown jewelry, engagement rings and accessories.
Whatever your personal preference may be when it comes to diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are here, and they're here to stay. By being an active, conscious consumer and doing your research into the products you're purchasing and the companies you're purchasing from, you'll have full control over what best fits your needs and desires. There will always be two sides to every coin, but with the resources available for consumers to make their own educated decisions on choosing their diamond, the power is in the people.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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