guidance

How to buy ethical diamonds

At Nightingale we’re all about ethical diamonds. And as far as we’re concerned, they should be the minimum standard when making jewellery. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It took a lot of time and effort for us to find sustainable diamond suppliers for our ethical engagement rings and we'd rather you didn’t have to go through the same trouble.

So we’re going to lay out all the knowledge we have to help you find a truly ethical diamond.

How to buy ethical diamonds

First of all, beware of greenwashing

It’s no secret that demand for sustainable and socially conscious products is increasing globally. Businesses of all sizes realise this and some of the more unscrupulous ones are using it as an opportunity to cash in. 

You’ll have heard this referred to as ‘greenwashing’, the act of giving customers the false impression that their products are environmentally and socially responsible. And the diamond jewellery industry is one of the worst offenders. 

You’ll hear claims that because diamonds are certified ‘conflict-free’, they’re completely ethical.

You’ll see press releases from international mining companies telling you how they support the communities where they operate, despite those communities still not having access to running water after decades of diamond mining. 

Even the organisations responsible for preventing the sale of blood diamonds are ineffective. 

Instead of relying on the claims sellers, we recommend that buyers stick to a few golden principles to help guide their hunt for an ethical diamond. 

Ethical diamond on petals

Finding ethical diamonds - The 3 golden rules

1 - Always know the origin of your diamond

You can only know a diamond is ethical if you know where it comes from. 

Diamonds graded by the GIA (a worldwide authority on diamond grading) can include an origin report which lists the country where the diamond was mined and the company that did the mining. 

There are strict requirements for diamond shipments to qualify for this report, such as packages being sealed when they leave their country of origin, and only opened by an authorised inspector of the GIA to ensure diamonds from bad sources getting smuggled in with good ones.

2 - Look for transparent supply chains

Most diamonds swap hands countless times before they make it into a jeweller’s window display.

The mining companies sell their rough diamonds to manufacturers who cut and polish them, they then sell them to wholesalers who further sell them to smaller suppliers and so on.

During this process a particular diamond can cross several different countries and middlemen, all of which the end consumer has no information on.

The opportunity for exploitation here is massive. 

More ethical companies have invested heavily to create closed supply chains which don’t have these issues, the gold standard being the CanadaMark scheme run by the Dominion Diamond Corporation. 

This scheme means that every diamond that comes from their Ekati, Diavek and Gahcho Kué mines (some of the most responsible in the world) in Northern Canada can be traced right back to their source.

3 - Know the real definition of ‘conflict-free’ 

The term ‘conflict-free’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ethical, but the real meaning is very restrictive.

Conflict, or blood diamonds, only refer to diamonds which are used to fund armed rebels intent on overthrowing a recognised government. It doesn’t cover anything else. 

So when a country's army seizes control of a diamond mine through violence against their own citizens, this doesn’t count as a conflict diamond. 

The Kimberley Process, who regulate conflict diamonds, also don’t concern themselves with forced or child labour. Or environmental issues. Or unsafe working conditions.

Truth be told, the standard for conflict-free is so low that it should be largely ignored when it comes to ethical diamond sourcing in favour of stricter standards.

Sources of ethical diamonds

Each jeweller will have their own definition of what ethical diamonds are, but in our opinion they need to tick the following boxes:

  • There should be no exploitation of workers through any part of the supply chain. That includes the mining, cutting and shipping of the diamond. 
  • The local communities and countries where diamonds are mined should materially benefit from their extraction. 
  • Sustainable schemes should exist to minimise the environmental impact created by diamond mining. These schemes should be open to third party scrutiny and be able to demonstrate their effectiveness.

These bullet points are fairly basic, but there’s not many places that can hit them. We’ve fully vetted 3 which we rely on, 4 if you include lab diamonds.

All of the sources below can be used in our ethical engagement rings, just get in touch for more details!

Canadamark 

Canadamark diamonds come from three mines run by the Dominion Diamond Corporation. When they opened their mines in the northern territories of Canada they also built their very own certification scheme to ensure maximum visibility through their supply chain. 

ekati diamond mine
Ekati diamond mine, in the northern territories

 

Their environmental standards are also second to none making them a very popular choice amongst ethical consumers. 

Because of the very high standards of Canadamark diamonds you will find they have a slight price premium compared to other sources but most buyers find the peace of mind well worth it.

Botswana

Botswana is a true success story when it comes to diamond mining. Unlike other African countries, they've really seen the full benefit of their sparkling natural resources. 

Jwaneng diamond mine, courtesy of Debswana
Jwaneng diamond mine, courtesy of Debswana

 

In 1966 they were one of the poorest countries on the planet, but by 2035 they're aiming to be a high income nation. This is all possible because the Botswanan government gets around 80% of the revenue from diamond mining through taxation and joint ownership of their mines.

The diamond industry pays for schools, healthcare, infrastructure and environmental schemes such as wildlife reserves. Additionally, they maintain extremely high safety standards to keep their workforce as safe as possible whilst mining.

Lab grown diamonds

Lab grown diamond rings are becoming a very popular choice for people wanting an ethical diamond in their engagement ring. 

lab diamond ring


Lab diamonds are grown by replicating the high pressure environments where diamonds grow naturally. This is done entirely in a high tech lab, removing the need for huge mining operations.

You can read the full guide on lab grown diamonds if you like, but it's important to know that not all lab diamonds are created equal.

All diamond laboratories use massive amounts of energy to grow their diamonds but only a few work to offset that energy with green initiatives. We source all our lab diamonds from the USA which are certified sustainable by an independent organisation.

Sri Lanka (honourable mention)

An article about ethical gemstone suppliers wouldn't be complete without mentioning Sri Lanka. 

sri lanka gem mining
Gemstone mining using traditional panning techniques

 

They've been at the forefront of ethical mining practices since the early 1900s, shunning the use of modern practices in favour of keeping the jobs of 70,000 miners stable using traditional mining methods.

They also tightly regulate their supply chain and ensure mining operations need to clean up the mine pits before they are formally closed down.

We've included them as a honourable mention on this list purely because they're mostly known for other ethical gemstones as opposed to diamonds. Nevertheless, they're superb ethical values has more than earned them a place in this list.

Final tips for ethical diamond buying

If we could condense all our knowledge into a few quick tips, this is what they'd be. Regardless of all the information that gets thrown at you when you're browsing, just remember these points and you shouldn't go wrong.

  1. If you're set on buying a mined diamond, make sure it includes a diamond certificate and at least has a country of origin listed. It's more likely that your diamond will be ethical if you get it from one of the countries mentioned above.
  2. For lab diamonds, ask where it was manufactured and what verified green initiatives the lab has in place. If your chosen jeweller can't give you that information, look elsewhere.
  3. Choose a jeweller who puts effort into their ethical sourcing.
  4. Don't assume that conflict-free diamonds are ethical.
  5. And our best tip? If you're looking for an ethical engagement ring, just get in touch with Nightingale. We'll give you comparison prices for all of our approved diamond sources and you can choose the one that best suits your own standards. We can even do completely bespoke ring designs!

Further reading

Guides

Emerald engagement rings - A full buying guide

The beautiful green emerald sits alongside diamonds, sapphires and rubies in the ‘Big 4’ of gemstones. 

A favourite of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, emeralds have been mined since at least 300BC, leaving their mark on history whilst still being one of the most sought after gems of modern times.

Today we’re going to help you get familiar with these luscious gemstones as well as giving you some practical tips if you’re looking to use them in your engagement ring.

Read More

The Valentine's Day engagement ring guide

One of our favourite times of year is nearly upon us. Valentine’s Day!

Being the most popular engagement date of the year, we naturally get a lot of questions from customers. So we thought why not put everything we know into a handy engagement ring guide for Valentine’s Day 2022!

Here’s what we’ll cover...

  • Popular engagement ring styles for 2022
  • Tips for finding the perfect ring
  • Advice on making the most of your budget

Read More

The complete Toi et Moi engagement ring guide

A firm contender for the most romantic style of engagement ring, the symbolism of the Toi et Moi ring (or Moi et Toi as they're also known) is plain for all to see. Two gemstones. One representing you. One representing your soulmate.

This beautiful design style is enjoying a revival which looks to continue well into 2022 and beyond. If you're interested in a toi et moi engagement ring you'll find all the information you need to know right here in our easy guide.

Read More

White gold v Platinum - Which is best for engagement rings?

White gold and platinum can give a similar aesthetic to your engagement ring, but there are some important differences between the two metals which can be important when choosing between them.

Both are very popular choices for engagement rings, so we thought it best to give you a simple guide to help you decide.

Read More

How to get the perfect engagement ring for any budget

Deciding to propose to your partner is a big decision. And along with that decision usually comes a big financial commitment to buy a suitable engagement ring. 

Here's 6 tips to help you get a ring that's perfect for you and your budget.

Read More

Choosing the right metal for your bespoke ring

Choosing the right metal for your bespoke engagement ring is one of the most important choices you can make when creating a ring. The right material sets the overall style of your ring and if done correctly, complements your choice of gemstone and mount.

Read More

Buying ethical diamond jewellery in 2021

Looking to make your next jewellery purchase more ethical? That's great to hear! But being completely honest, buying ethically is not as easy as it should be in 2021.

Read More

Moissanite v diamonds: Everything you need to know

Curious about moissanite? Having trouble deciding which gemstone to use for your ring? Read on to find out more about the key difference between moissanite and diamonds (both mined and lab grown!)

Read More

Pearl buying guide

Prized and admired for millennia. As the first true gems ever to be used as adornments, the history of pearls in jewellery is nearly as old as the history of civilisation itself.

Read More

Diamond grading certificates explained

A diamond certificate is the evaluation by a third party accredited gemological laboratory of your diamond. In addition to the diamonds carat weight and measurements, a certificate includes grades for the diamonds cut colour and clarity.

Read More

Ring sizing guide

The last thing we at Nightingale want is to supply a ring and at the crucial ‘down on one knee’ moment it turns out to be too large or too small. Nightingale offer one adjustment free in the first three months.

Read More

Hallmarks

It is mandatory in Great Britain for precious metals that meet the weight criteria to be assayed and hallmarked (stamped) to indicate the type and fineness of the metal.

Read More

Diamond buying guide

There are many beautiful gemstones that have been created by nature and mined from the earth but the most regal of them all is the diamond. The mysterious diamond is the most popular gemstone of them all and the one that has the most myths and legends associated with it.

Read More

Lab grown diamonds: Everything you need to know

Wondering what exactly a lab grown diamond is and why they're a perfect ethical alternative to mined diamonds? Find out here...

Read More

Coloured diamonds

Nightingale can supply an outstanding collection of coloured diamonds loose or set within a bespoke or finished piece of Nightingale jewellery.

Read More