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Ask a Diamond Pro: Choosing a “Conflict-Free” Emerald Cut Diamond

By Mike Fried,

As we often mention in our diamond education guides, we’re always happy to help readers find and compare diamonds. We love getting emails and helping you out, whether it’s to compare a range of diamonds or find something special that’s uniquely yours.

While most of the questions we receive from readers are related to diamond pricing or the four Cs, we also get emails about the ethical side of buying a diamond. 

The ethics of buying a diamond have been in the news a lot over the last few decades. This is definitely a good thing overall, as it’s important to buy products that are produced ethically, but it’s unfortunately something that can produce confusion for many would-be diamond buyers. 

Below, you can find one such email from a reader who is interested in buying a diamond that’s conflict free: 

“I am looking for a emerald cut diamond G-H color VS1 clarity around 1.0 carat at $4k solitaire setting in 18K white gold

Also curious about a company called Brilliant Earth and their claims about conflict free diamonds and how most diamonds are still mined in ways that are very harsh to the workers and that their diamonds are not.

Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blood diamond

We’re big supporters of conflict-free diamonds, but we aren’t such big fans of the way terms like “conflict-free” are used to sell diamonds (generally at a significant premium) that often aren’t any different from those available from other vendors.

The reality is that all of the diamonds available in the US market today are conflict free, primarily due to procedures such as Kimberley Process, which imposes clear and extensive requirements on its members to ensure that their diamonds aren’t linked to violence. 

This means that you can buy a diamond from most US-based vendors with confidence that it’s a conflict-free diamond, all without any need to pay a premium for a “sustainable” vendor.

We’ve expanded on this more below, including on the numerous processes and laws that apply to the diamond industry to prevent “blood diamonds” from making their way into the mainstream diamond supply chain. 

Brilliant Earth and “Beyond Conflict Free” Diamonds

Brilliant Earth is a popular online diamond vendor that markets itself as a sustainable choice for buying an engagement ring, wedding ring or other jewelry.

They do this by offering diamonds that are “beyond” conflict free, meaning they use a unique sourcing process to select diamonds that are ethical and environmentally responsible. 

Diamonds from Brilliant Earth come with origin traceability, and the company aims to use 100% recycled precious metals to minimize its environmental impact. The company also claims to use strict standards to provide extra protection against human rights abuses to its suppliers. You can read more about what our opinion about them is in our review.

Before we get into more detail, let’s get one thing out of the way. We strongly support any efforts to offer ethical diamonds, or any other type of jewelry. It’s a very good thing, and it’s excellent to see diamond vendors that prioritize offering ethical options to their customers.

blood diamonds graphic

However, if you’ve read any of our diamond guides, you may be aware that we’re not supporters of much of the marketing propaganda that’s endemic to the consumer diamond industry.

In fact, we think it’s vital to peel back this propaganda and provide accurate, factual information about diamonds, whether it’s about industry pricing or the processes that go into verifying that a diamond is conflict-free.

The United States is a participant in the Kimberley Process — a global effort to monitor the supply of diamonds and ensure that conflict diamonds aren’t sold to people looking for engagement rings, earrings and other diamond jewelry.

More than 80 countries participate in this process, including most of the world’s major exporters and importers of diamonds.

The Kimberley Process allows for diamonds to be closely and carefully monitored, from mining to cutting right up until the final purchase by a consumer. Diamonds that complete this process are awarded a Kimberley Process certificate to verify that they’re conflict free. 

The Kimberley Process is thorough, and as a diamond buyer, it ensures that every effort has been taken to make sure the diamond you’re purchasing isn’t linked to any type of violent or dangerous groups. The State Department actively participates in enforcing the process through its Office of Threat Finance Countermeasures, and the process for gaining a Kimberley Process Certificate is handled by an international consortium that includes states, industry and civil society partners.

The GIA, the most trusted diamond certification entity, fully supports the process and works actively to uphold its principles. In other words, there’s a strong commitment to this process at both the diamond vendor level and at the government level.

Online diamonds vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile both sell conflict-free diamonds that are mined in compliance with the Kimberley Process. 

An example of an emerald cut diamond in a ring
An example of an emerald cut diamond in a ring

However, some companies market the same diamonds as something even more ethical, allowing them to charge significatnly more per carat.

That said, you can find ethical, conflict-free diamonds from vendors such as James Allen or Blue Nile that are priced at a much more competitive level, largely because these vendors don’t add a large margin to their diamonds like some other companies do.

We discuss this more in our guide to conflict-free diamonds, which explains how online vendors such as James Allen and Blue Nile have their own internal ethical guidelines that either adhere to or exceed the Kimberley Process.

Our Recommendation

It’s a great thing to be a conscious consumer, especially when it comes to an engagement ring or other diamond jewelry. 

However, it’s important to understand that many vendors use gimmick marketing to make their products seem like the only ethical choice, even when their competitors offer products that are also sourced using strict, fair guidelines.

In the end, we suggested that this reader select a 1.01 carat, H color, VS1 clarity diamond from James Allen similar to this 1.00 carat, H color, VS1 clarity one.  

Not only is a diamond like this sourced in compliance with the Kimberley Process — it’s also very affordable, allowing more of the reader’s budget to be put towards a beautiful setting or a special honeymoon. 

You can read our guide to ethical diamonds in full lenght if you wantt o know more details.

If you have questions about the process of buying a diamond, or about how the diamonds used in jewelry are sourced, feel free to contact us.

We help hundreds of readers compare and purchase diamonds every month, and we’re happy to find something that matches your tastes, budget and values as a consumer.

James Allen James Allen is the leader in online diamond sales. Their imaging technology is the same as inspecting a diamond with a jeweler's loupe. They have the largest exclusive loose diamond inventory online and fantastic prices. They also have the nicest collection of lab created diamonds online.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. James Allen will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free International Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisals
  • One free resizing within 60 days of purchase
  • Free ring inscriptions
  • Best-in-class high quality imagery of all diamonds in stock
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • Best-in-class packaging
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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing.
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Free Shipping
  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
  • Provide insurance appraisal
  • One free resizing within the first year of purchase
  • High quality images of about half of their diamonds
  • 24/7 Customer Service
  • 100% credit towards future upgrades (must be at least double in value)
  • Best in class fulfillment
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