5 ethical alternatives to traditional diamonds

Diamonds might be the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, but they're not the only choice available to you.

We use lots of different gemstones in our ethical engagement rings, all coming from socially conscious sources. They can really help your ring stand our from the crowd, and support those in the industry working hard to raise ethical standards at the same time!

Here's 5 our favourites, picked for their quality, beauty and durability (important when you'll be wearing it every day!)

5 ethical alternatives to traditional diamonds

At Nightingale we believe gemstone mining can be done in an ethical and socially conscious way. Mining schemes in places like Botswana and Canada are proof of that.

However, the vast majority of diamonds aren't mined ethically. And those are the ones we want nothing to do with.

The list below includes alternatives which are both ethically sourced, and durable enough to be used in a engagement ring.

1. Lab grown diamonds

lab grown diamond solitaire ring

If you still want to keep the traditional diamond aesthetic without the ethical implications you can opt for a lab grown diamond instead. They don't have to be dug up using forced labour, they can be certified sustainable (like ours!) and there's zero chance they are blood diamonds.

And they're just as much of a diamond as one taken from a mine, both visually and chemically. Plus you'll save a good amount of money too, as they usually cost 40% less!

You can read our full guide on lab diamonds here!

2. Montana Sapphires

Montana sapphire engagement ring

Sapphires are beautiful in engagement rings, just ask Kate Middleton. Unfortunately, a lot of the ethical problems with diamonds also apply to sapphires too. 

That's why we've really taken to Montana sapphires. These distinctive blue-green coloured sapphires were initially discovered during the US gold rush of the 1860s. The gold miners constantly found their machinery getting clogged up by hard blue stones, they'd clean them out and throw them away! 

Eventually the miners figured out what they had found and ever since Montana, USA has produced some of the most uniquely beautiful sapphires in the world. You'll even see some of them in the royal collection.

We love them because they're mined and cut in the USA, meaning they don't suffer the same labour and supply issues that other gemstones do.

3. Moissanite 


Moissanite has very close qualities to diamond, at least on a visual level. It's almost as hard and reflects light in a similar manner. 

Moissanite (or silicon carbide to give it it's scientific name) is entirely lab made and has been for around a century, making it a good ethical substitute for mined diamond. 

However, it's important to note that it isn't a true diamond. So it won't reflect light in the exact same way lab grown or mined diamonds do. 

Moissanite tends to reflect light more intensely than a diamond which can create what some people call a 'disco ball' effect. It really comes down to personal taste whether this is an issue, but regardless it still makes for a great ethical substitute for diamond.

*Note - We don't sell moissanite for our rings, but you'll find lots of jewellers who do online.

4. Sri Lanka rubies and sapphires

Sri Lanka is a beacon in sustainable gemstone mining, with a particular focus on rubies and blue sapphires.

The country has wholly rejected large scale industrial mining in favour of smaller mines using traditional methods since the beginning of the 1900s.

The reluctance to use heavy machinery allows 60,000 - 70,000 miners to make a good living in a well regulated industry without fear of their skills becoming obsolete by emerging mining technology.

An interesting and unique feature of Sri Lankan mining is the requirement that operators pay a cash deposit before a mine is opened. If an operator fails to cover the pits created by mining afterward then the government uses the deposit money to do it. It ensures local landscapes aren't permanently scarred by mining.

All of our ethical engagement ring designs can be set with rubies or sapphires, just send us a message and we can source you one with ethical origins!

5. Lab grown emeralds

lab grown emerald ring

Of all the popular choices for engagement rings, emeralds are the hardest to source ethically. Colombia produces the majority of them (around 90% by some estimates), however the countries gemstone industry is plagued with ethical issues.

Referred to as 'Green Wars', historically many drug cartels and private militaries fight it out to control the emerald mines and although fighting has simmered, the industry continues to have strong links to organised crime. 

That's why we tend to recommend lab grown emeralds to our customers. Like lab diamonds, they're identical to their mined counterparts, but without the human and environmental cost.

Making an ethical engagement ring

All of our ethical engagement rings, whether from our ready to wear collection or bespoke, can be set with any of the above options (excluding moissanite). 

Just get in touch and ask for more information!

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So what's made Botswana a diamond success story instead of falling victim to them like so many other African nations? 

Today we'll explore this remarkable story and Botswana's relationship with ethical diamond mining


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