Few purchases are as fraught as a diamond engagement ring. Frequently the most expensive accessory we ever buy, engagement rings carry the totemic weight of representing one’s love and commitment, and are meant to be timeless in their perfection as we gaze upon them forevermore.
And yet, although the sellers of those diamond rings can rhapsodize endlessly over a ring’s design and the cut, clarity, color, and carat size of the rock inside it, it’s rare that they disclose that diamond’s origins.
This despite the relatively common knowledge that diamonds have helped finance unspeakable violence in war-torn countries, lined the pockets of corrupt billionaires, and wreaked environmental havoc all over the world.
All that said, many of us still want diamonds. You can blame the 20th century’s most successful marketing campaign, but even without the hype, the stones still evoke natural wonder, have a sparkle all their own, and damn if they aren’t durable.
The diamond industry is notoriously shadowy, but aggressive consumers can shop for engagement rings with the same informed and holistic approach they might take to, say, fair-trade coffee or organic produce.
Here, some tips and sources for shopping for a symbol of everlasting love that’s not diminished by having caused harm elsewhere. For starters, ask a ton of questions. Then, ask more questions. The diamond industry will only become more transparent if consumers demand it.
Most jewelers and diamond dealers will say their diamonds are “conflict-free,” citing their Kimberley Process certification, an international protocol designed to keep conflict diamonds (also known as blood diamonds) off the market. The truth is, the Kimberley Process protects diamond dealers and consumers from discomfort far more effectively than it protects the residents of diamond-rich, war-torn countries.
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