Sustainable Diamonds by Lydia McCarthy-Keen

How Diamond-Lovers are Building a Sustainable Future full of Luxury

Are we capable of creating a future where luxury, abundance and sustainability are not mutually exclusive?

The saying, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” is as true today as it has ever been.  The only difference is that more and more people are buying lab-grown diamonds. And, for good reason.   Diamonds that are grown using the very latest technology are real diamonds but cleaner, clearer and cheaper than their mined counterparts.

We spoke with ethical jeweller, business school mentor and the UK’s leading lab-grown diamond expert, Lydia McCarthy-Keen.  Lydia believes it is time that we capitalise on the technologies, infrastructure and human brain-power we have cultivated over centuries to create a sustainable future and a world that we actually want to live in.

‘‘Let’s face it, it’s fun to drive supercars and fly to exotic destinations.  We also can buy a Tesla, and support entrepreneurs who are using waste coffee grounds to create biofuel – companies like Bio Bean’’, she says.

Lydia is profoundly passionate about what happens at the intersection of where luxury meets ethics and is part of the generation of entrepreneurs who believes businesses must have a purpose beyond profit.

I love diamonds and have been obsessed with them ever since my father took me to a jeweller to choose an anniversary gift for my mother. Everything about them is so special, and yet their mining has created terrible conditions for people and the planet for decades. I want to use my expertise to change all that. Why shouldn’t we have the luxury we love, whilst protecting people and the planet at the same time?’’ she argues.

Lydia now runs a bespoke jewellery company which specialises in ultra-luxury lab-grown diamonds. Every sale she makes aids blood diamond victims via her two favourite charities, Legs4Africa and Survival International.

‘‘It was important to me that I became a part of the solution, instead of part the problem. I work mostly with successful couples looking to get engaged.  My clients want to experience the luxury, love and magic that comes with the purchase of an exquisite diamond, but they also care deeply about global matters. I want them to have it all, and to help them shape the future for their children’’, Lydia explains.

The laboratory process for growing a lab-grown diamond mimics how diamonds crystalise naturally in the Earth’s crust.  A very tiny diamond seed, which is highly refined graphite and a mixture of compounds, is placed under extreme hydraulic pressure and consistent heat. Under these conditions, carbon will crystalise into diamond, in much the same way as water crystalises into ice if placed under the right conditions. As the process completes, the growing environment is cooled as would happen in nature, and a rough diamond is ready to be cut and polished, just like its mined counterpart.

The beauty of lab-grown diamonds is that the process can be carried out in a potentially carbon neutral environment. Good labs have got carbon emissions down to 0.028 grams per carat, versus 57,000 grams per carat of mined stone, and with no sulphur or nitrous oxide emissions as found with traditional diamond mining. Furthermore, there’s no displacement of indigenous nomadic tribes, and they can’t be used to fund conflict or child labour.

If these aren’t good enough reasons for you to consider the switch, the fact that they are around 20% better value should persuade you.

‘‘You can buy a higher grade, 3 carat lab-created diamond for the equivalent of a 2 carat mined diamond. Generally, buying lab-grown means you end up with a better quality stone because the controlled growing conditions are free from the impurities found in the Earth’’, says Lydia.

It’s important to understand that lab-grown diamonds have identical optical and chemical properties as their mined counterparts, because they are real diamonds. They are equally durable and sparkle in just the same way.  Both are graded by the same independent Gemological Institutes using the same standards for mined diamonds.

Ultimately, mined and lab diamonds are two products without any practical distinction beyond the quality and grading of the individual stone itself,” explains Lydia.

Having been completely won over, we asked Lydia more about her jewellery. What makes it stand out from other brands?

‘‘Our jewellery is for connoisseurs. Our clients have highly refined taste and a love of all things luxury and personalised. They prefer handmade gifts, as opposed to machine-made or items that are available for anyone to purchase. Everything we make is bespoke;  we never make the same piece twice. We don’t cut corners on luxury or ethics, and that’s why our clients choose to work with us’’.

Lydia McCarthy-Keen