The world's largest jewelry brand is ditching mined diamonds for lab-grown bling

Every year, around 100 million carats of rough diamonds are mined to supply the world's multi-billion dollar diamond jewelry industry, leaving both human and environmental damage behind.

The ethical issues at the heart of diamond mining, from violence to human rights abuses to forced labor, are no secret. The destruction of land and water in the mining process is also well known. Though an official chain of practices for creating "conflict-free" diamonds known as the Kimberley Process is supposed to reduce some of these issues, ongoing problems remain.

Science has a solution.

Instead of digging up gemstones that have taken a billion or more years to form in the earth, scientists can now make diamonds in a lab in just six to ten weeks—without the bloodshed and devastation involved in mining traditional diamonds.

Are they the same, though? If anyone were going to be a purist about gems, you'd think the world's largest jewelry brand would. But Pandora, the Danish jeweler that boasts that title, is all in on lab-grown bling.

Pandora has announced that it will not be using mined diamonds in its jewelry anymore and will be launching an entire line of lab-grown diamond pieces. The upsides of lab-created gems are plentiful; not only do they avoid the exploitation of workers, violent conflict, and environmental degradation of diamond mining, but they're also significantly less expensive. According to Business Insider, a lab-created diamond can cost 30 to 40 percent less than a traditional diamond.

And according to Pandora, they do all that without sacrificing quality. Lab diamonds are still graded using the standard 4 Cs—cut, color, clarity and carat—as mined diamonds, and Pandora emphasizes that they have all the same "optical, chemical, thermal and physical characteristics" as well.

"They are as much a symbol of innovation and progress as they are of enduring beauty and stand as a testament to our ongoing and ambitious sustainability agenda," said Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik said in a statement. "Diamonds are not only forever, but for everyone."

Of course, the marketing of diamonds has always been a bit of a ruse. The DeBeers family held a near-monopoly on the diamond trade for more than 100 years, and their control of supply created an illusion of scarcity and value that doesn't reflect reality. A highly successful "Diamonds are forever" marketing campaign to make people associate diamonds with lifelong commitment added emotional value to the stone, which led us to where we are today.

In other words, the thousands of dollars that people will drop on a diamond engagement ring is almost completely due to a purposeful plan to make people feel that they need to do just that. That plan may have been brilliant or diabolical, depending on how you look at it, but there's no question that it worked.

Pandora's shift to lab-grown diamonds won't change the association between diamonds and commitment, but it may at least help people recognize that diamonds themselves are not as precious and rare as we've been led to believe. It's also a bid to younger consumers, who want their purchases to be more affordable and sustainably sourced.

The new lab-grown collection, Pandora Brilliance, launched today in the U.K., with pieces starting at US$350. It has also achieved CarbonNeutral® product certification in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol. And when the collection becomes available globally next year, the diamonds are expected to be made using 100% renewable energy.

It's great to see big companies stepping up their game when it comes to ethical practices and environmental sustainability. The planet needs it, consumers are asking for it, science is making it possible, and smart companies are moving the needle in their respective industries. Well done, Pandora, for being a leader on the jewelry front.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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