Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 115–126 | Cite as

The ecology of diamond sourcing: from mined to synthetic gems as a sustainable transition

  • Saleem H. AliEmail author


Luxury goods such as gemstones constitute a challenge for moving towards a sustainable society. From a purely bio-economic perspective, such goods consume planetary resources to provide a human “want” rather than a “need”. However, their extraction or manufacturing also provides important livelihoods for communities along the supply chain and hence contribute towards development outcomes. Comparing mined versus synthetic gems can provide consumers with important benchmarks on choice. The energy usage and emissions in mined versus lab-created diamonds was evaluated, based on industrial data, since these two factors are often a general indicator of environmental impact that can be useful in product comparisons. Depending on the process and the location of the mine, the data can be highly divergent and cannot be used as a singular measure of environmental impact. There is a need to develop life cycle analysis techniques from industrial ecology to conduct a detailed comparison of synthetic versus mined stones. Informed consumers could help to transition this luxury good towards a mix of mined and synthetic gems that best meet ecological and social metrics of sustainability.


Sustainable consumption Luxury goods Diamond mining Diamond synthesis Consumerism 

JEL Classification

O2 Q3 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Sustainable Minerals InstituteUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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