Wondering how to buy an ethical diamond ring? We’ve got three things you need to check
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Of course, any couple about to get engaged wants to start their union off on the right foot. They want their bond to be sealed by something precious, beautiful, and ethical.
But the truth is, diamonds have been falling out of favour, thanks to the horrors of blood diamonds. In other words, diamonds that were sold to fuel conflict, or that were mined in terrible conditions, often by children.
Sure, the Kimberley Process Certification System was established in 2003 to prevent blood diamonds from entering the diamond supply chain. But there are debates also as to whether this standard can be fully reliable. This is because it focuses primarily on ensuring the legitimacy of the funding — in other words, that no warlords were behind this business.
However, conflict diamonds have been known to slip through the system, and this certification doesn’t focus on how the miners were treated, or whether the stones were extracted via pipe or alluvial methods of mining, which damage the Earth. Certainly, the magic of a sparkly ring vanishes instantly when you learn about the suffering behind it!
But there’s more to think about when selecting the perfect diamond, too. You need to know about the famous ‘4C’s’, and you should also understand how pricing is fixed. As they say, ‘diamonds are forever,’ so be sure you buy one that’s high quality, reasonably priced, and ethically clean.
Ready to learn how to buy an ethical diamond? Read on!
Image below: brillianteers via Instagram
How To Buy An Ethical Diamond
Image: @rings.diamond on Instagram
1. Look For Ethical Diamond Accreditations
To be certain your gem is free of human exploitation and environmental harm, you should opt for a diamond that complies to the Canadian CDCC, one that is lab-created, or choose a recycled diamond.
CDDC Canada Mark
If you are wondering: of all places why Canada? you should know that the CDDC Canada Mark guarantees the traceability of the stones. Furthermore, the certification is stricter than most both in terms of environmental and fair labour laws, as well as respect towards indigenous people. These diamonds can be traced from mine to market thanks to the ID number that is individual and unique for each stone.
Synthetic diamonds are considered equal to mined diamonds in all respects. They are created using two techniques: either HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) or CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition). In both cases, lab-created diamonds have some positive effects on the earth, since they avoid large-scale mining and its consequent ecological impact.
These man-made diamonds are created by simulating the high temperatures found in the Earth’s mantle, where diamonds are naturally formed, in a lab. Alternatively, they can be made using superheated gas (CVD) to form a diamond crystal. The result is not an imitation of the real stone; the gem possesses exactly the same chemical and physical properties as mined diamonds.
New jewelry designers have become very sensitive to the sustainability of the materials used in their creations. For that reason, more and more are choosing to use diamonds sourced from jewels that are already on the market. They simply remove the stone, re-cut, re-polish and/or reset it into something more modern.
2. Learn The 4Cs
A diamond’s value is determined by the famous ‘4c’s’. That is: cut, colour, clarity, carat. We asked the ethical diamond specialists at Taylor & Hart to explain what these mean. Here’s what we learned:
Colour must be absent for the diamond to be more precious. The less colour there is, the higher the grade. There is a classification scale created by the Gemological Institute of America that goes from A to Z — starting from the most colourless nuance to the ones showing more of a brownish or yellowish hue.
Cut is a diamond’s most important trait. It determines the symmetry of its tiny mirror-like facets. A cut that is neither too deep or too shallow will enhance the twinkle of the gem. The elements that determine a good cut are: brilliance (produced by the contrast of reflections inside and on the surface), fire (the prismatic effect of how the stone flashes), and scintillation (the alternation of light and dark sparkling effect).
Clarity is influenced by the tiny imperfections diamonds may have, called inclusions. This affects the clarity grade, since flawless diamonds are very rare indeed, and will therefore be worth a fortune if they have no inclusions. Most inclusions are invisible to the naked eye, so experts will have to check for them with special machinery.
Carat relates to the weight of a diamond. To give you an idea: one carat is equal to 0.2 grams. Be careful not to mistake carat weight with the size of the stone. A well cut diamond can appear larger than a poorly cut gem of equal weight. Don’t be be tricked by what appears in front of your eyes, and make sure you always ask for the carat. Bigger isn’t necessarily better!
A reputable jeweller can showcase a variety of diamond options for whichever setting you choose. A classic round solitaire stone is the most popular style for engagements, closely followed by princess cuts and oval shapes.
How many carats you’re looking for is one of the key considerations when choosing a diamond. The average engagement ring is around one carat. If size is more important to you, it may be worth looking for a lower grade clarity, but larger carat stone. If the brilliance and sparkle of a diamond is your priority, consider some lower carat options.
3. Look For Reasonable Pricing
Once you’ve gone through the process of finding a diamond that appeals to your taste and abides by all ethical standards, you may wonder: how do I know if the price is reasonable?
Once again, we asked the ethical diamond experts at Taylor & Hart for guidance.
They carefully analyse all the above basics to evaluate the worth of a gem through their Advanced diamond guidance. Based on that information, they then help determine the cost of an engagement ring.
Statistics show that Americans spend the most on engagement rings each year. The average cost of an engagement ring was around $6,351 in 2017. The younger generations are now designing and customising their rings, placing more attention on the personality of the wearer than the importance of the diamond’s monetary value.
Engagement rings can start at a cost of around $970 and rise to more exorbitant prices. The most expensive one in history, for example, was a piece that was gifted to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton purchased for $8.8 million. The jewel was eventually auctioned after her death, and is currently owned by an anonymous Asian collector.
Naturally, what will affect the price of an engagement ring is the type of diamond and its characteristics. Usually, the center stone determines 80% of the price when it comes to solitaire rings.
According to Taylor & Hart, this is an average list of prices for a traditional solitaire engagement ring with a round center diamond, a clarity of SI1 and a colour grade I, set in 18 karat white gold.
- 0.30ct – $1,095
- 0.50ct – $1,920
- 0.75ct – $3,345
- 1.00ct – $5,895
4. Get The Measurements Right
Knowing the correct ring size is especially important for engagements. If a ring is too loose on the finger it may slip off and get lost. If it’s too tight, it can get stuck and cause discomfort.
Women’s ring sizes typically range from size three to nine, with most women falling between sizes five and seven. Men’s rings are generally available from sizes six to 13, with size nine being the most popular. There are a couple of ways to accurately measure ring fingers:
- For a secret proposal, find a well-fitting ring your partner already wears, and sneak it to a jeweller. They will be able to tell you what size it is.
- Take a piece of string and wrap it around the base of the ring finger. Mark the spot where it joins with a pen, then remove the string and measure the length with a ruler. Most ring size guides will have the internal diameter available so you can match to the closest size.
If you’re measuring a ring finger, do it at the end of the day as our fingers tend to swell a little in the afternoon. Take two or three measurements for the best accuracy.
Image: @rings.diamond on Instagram
5. Choose Your Setting
Your ring setting is critical in properly showcasing your diamond. Not only does the setting securely hold your investment, its design can make your ring appear even more impressive.
Things to consider when choosing a setting include:
- Thin bands can make a diamond look larger and more impressive.
- Pavé bands allow you to place smaller diamonds around the band, which creates an ultra-glam look.
- A bezel setting increases the diameter of the stone setting, which can give the impression of a larger diamond.
- Prong settings are the most common, and feature slim metal prongs which hold the diamond in place. This is the perfect solitaire setting, and a great way to show off your stone.
Image: @rings.diamond on Instagram
Learning how to buy an ethical diamond isn’t all that difficult. Once you understand colour, cut, clarity and carats, you’ll also understand pricing a bit more. The hardest part is probably ensuring your diamond is ethical. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to shop at a store like Taylor & Hart that specialises in sustainable, transparent and ethically sourced diamonds to ensure your conscience is as clear as the stone you purchase.
Main image found on ohsoperfectproposal.com. All photos were provided by Taylor & Hart unless otherwise mentioned.