Would you buy a diamond that was grown in a lab?

There are a lot of reasons why you should.

I'm going to show you four pictures of diamonds.

Some were formed naturally, miles below the surface of the Earth.

Some were grown in a lab.


Can you tell which are which?

(Answers at the bottom of the test. No peeking.)

#1:

Photo by Brilliant Earth.

#2:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

#3:

Photo by Farrukh/Flickr.

#4:

Photo by Brilliant Earth.

ANSWERS: #1. Lab-grown. #2. Natural. #3. Natural. #4. Lab-grown.

It's pretty hard to tell, right?

It's so hard, in fact, that unless you are a machine, you were almost definitely just guessing.

Many in the diamond industry hope that soon it will be easier to spot the difference, according to a recent report in Popular Science.

"Synthetic diamonds are 30 to 40 percent cheaper, and can be produced in a matter of months. They're so indistinguishable to the naked eye that the diamond industry is in an arms race to produce machines that can discern lab-grown from natural ones, in order to keep the synthetics from flooding the market. 'If anyone tells you they can tell the difference without the machine, they're lying,' said Ariel Baruch, a jeweler at Diamonds by Israel Standard Inc., which sells lab-grown diamonds."

Currently, there are four major ways to tell lab-grown and natural diamonds apart. But they're complicated, and you need a machine if you want to be totally sure.

The diamond industry's theory is the one that makes it the most money: Customers prefer natural diamonds and think lab-grown diamonds are "cheap" and "synthetic."

If it's easy enough to tell synthetic and real diamonds apart, the industry believes that most people will go with the typically-more-expensive natural diamond the vast majority of the time.

But! Maybe — just maybe — the diamond companies are wrong.

"We are seeing some increase in interest [in lab-grown diamonds]," said Kathryn Edison Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth, a California-based company that specializes in both lab-grown and ethically sourced jewelry, in a conversation with Upworthy.

"The customers who are interested in lab-grown diamonds are really drawn to the fact that they don't require any diamond mining."

The business of pulling diamonds out of the ground has a long, bloody history.

A diamond mine in Sierra Leone, 2003. Photo by Desirey Minkoh/Getty Images.

Progress in curbing the worst abuses of the diamond trade has been made the last decade but only so much. The primary system implemented by the U.N. in 2003 to halt the sale of conflict diamonds, called The Kimberley Process, has a pretty spotty track record.

Many of the people and organizations that were instrumental in establishing the process in the first place have since denounced it or ceased their involvement, claiming that it hasn't been effective at best and at worst enables exactly the sort of violence and exploitation it was enacted to prevent.

The bottom line? Even with more oversight processes in place, if you're wearing a natural diamond on your finger, it's still really, really hard to know with 100% certainty that no one was exploited, maimed, or killed to get it.

Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, hurt pretty much no one. And they are actually, really diamonds.

Lab-grown diamonds. Shiny. Photo by Brilliant Earth.

Not cubic zirconium. Not white sapphire. Not two middle-aged grifters in a diamond suit.

100% legit diamond.

Turns out, scientists are just as good at scrunching millions of carbon atoms together as the molten inferno of the Earth's mantle. And no one has to go down into a mine to get them. You can just ... put them in a box. Right there in the lab.

"You see the same type of sparkle and crystallization and fire as a natural diamond," Money said.

Not only are lab-grown diamonds conflict- and exploitation-free, they're often less expensive than their natural counterparts.

According to a New York Times report, man-made pink diamonds from one New York retailer range in price between $9,000 and $21,000. Meanwhile, their natural counterparts can sell for over $100,000.

This is despite the fact that the synthetic diamonds are actually, no-doubt-about-it just as diamond-y.

Maybe we should hope that it does become easier to tell the difference.

It's not hard to see why the diamond industry thinks it would be a major boon for them if customers are suddenly able to make the man-made/natural distinction more easily.

But come to think of it, people probably should know for sure whether they're buying a diamond that was pulled out of the Earth or one that is the same quality as the natural stuff but that won't finance wars and didn't require slaves working in giant, ecosystem-smashing mines to dig up.

Photo by Brilliant Earth.

'Cause if consumers know, they might not make the choice the big diamond companies expect.

Heroes

Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as someone refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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