What You Need To Know About Buying Diamonds In 2022

MILENA LAZAZZERA reports on how NET-A-PORTER jewelry houses are enhancing the ethical and environmental credentials of their diamonds to deliver responsible jewels with crystal-clear provenance

Clockwise from top right: ring, Nadia Morgenthaler; necklace, Chopard; hoop earrings, Octavia Elizabeth; earrings (sold as pair), Kimberly McDonald

Even if a piece of jewelry is purchased on the spur of the moment for its sheer beauty, or simply because ‘why not?’, we inevitably link our rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings to momentous occasions or phases of our life – each piece is a double skin that holds memories longer than our own can.

Therefore, it’s understandable that we want our jewelry to be untainted by any nasty association with the environment or someone else’s misery, just as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou attested in the blockbuster Blood Diamond more than a decade ago. In fact, according to the 2021 De Beers’ Diamond Insight Report, jewelry now ranks third – after only food and clothing – as the category most often purchased with sustainability considerations taken into account. Certifying the provenance of diamonds has, therefore, become a priority for many jewelry houses. ‘Sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are no longer the niche of obscure, lackluster brands – now, they’re badges of honor for cult and contemporary maisons crafting the jewels that we all want to wear. Choosing to buy them sustainably is now chic, smart and simple – guaranteeing a purchase as crystal-clear as the diamond itself.

The Kimberley Process was the first initiative to instigate a seismic shift towards this total transparency. Established in 2003 through the joint efforts of the United Nations, diamond-producing countries and diamond-industry representatives, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme requires rough diamonds to be exported in numbered and sealed, tamper-proof containers alongside the documents of origin issued by governments. With frequent inspections and barring non-compliant countries from the trade, the scheme has been successful in ensuring that, today, approximately 99 percent of diamonds sparkling in branded jewelry houses come from conflict-free sources.

Some jewelers, however, have chosen to go above and beyond the requirements of the Kimberley Process. This is the case with Cartier, which adheres to the Voluntary System of Warranties, which requires every seller of cut diamonds to issue a ‘statement of warranty’ that is passed on each time the diamond changes hands, thus enhancing transparency along the entire supply chain. In addition, as part of Richemont, Cartier benefits from the Aura Blockchain Consortium, which provides innovative technology that enables consumer access to product history and proof of authenticity, offering additional transparency and traceability.

Elsewhere, Pomellato – already a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, which imposes stringent ethical and environmental standards – has gone one step further by launching an app that traces the journey of every jewel sold by the house. By simply scanning the QR code on a piece of Pomellato jewelry, consumers can access the certificates pertaining to the stones and follow its journey from design studio to store.

Traceability, however, is not the preserve of established maisons. Up-and-coming jewelry houses, such as Octavia Elizabeth or Viltier, have chosen to place ethical and environmental practices at the heart of their businesses, too. Viltier, for instance, works exclusively with natural diamonds to enhance the positive impact diamond mining can have on the wellbeing of communities and the conservation of natural habitats. Indeed, the young Parisian brand exclusively deals with diamond sightholders who are members of the Responsible Jewellery Council and source their diamonds directly from mines. “We may be small, but we believe ethical credentials are of paramount importance,” says Thomas Montier Leboucher, Viltier’s co-founder and CEO.

Similarly, anthropologist-turned-jewelry-designer Pippa Small MBE puts the development of disadvantaged communities at the heart of her business. Her jewelry is crafted in partnership with grassroots organizations operating in Borneo, Thailand and India, with a strong focus on the environment. One of her latest collections features Herkimer diamonds sourced from a family-run mine near ground level in and around Herkimer County, New York.

With this vast array of measures in place, contemporary diamonds sparkle with a new light, one that positively contributes to communities and the environment – and keeps our conscience crystal clear.