Advertisement

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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Sustainable consumption Luxury goods Diamond mining Diamond synthesis Consumerism 

JEL Classification

O2 Q3 

References

  1. Aldenderfer, M., Craig, N. M., Speakman, R. J., & Popelka-Filcoff, R. (2008). Four-thousand-year-old gold artefacts from the Lake Titicaca basin, southern Peru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(13), 5002–5005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ali, S. H. (2009). Treasures of the earth: Need, greed and a sustainable future. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boesch, C., & Boesch, H. (1984). Mental map in wild chimpanzees: An Analysis of hammer transports for nut cracking. Primates, 25, 160–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Camerer, C. (1988). Gifts as Economic Signals and Social Symbols. The American Journal of Sociology 94: S180–S214 (Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structure).Google Scholar
  5. Choudhary, D., & Bellare, J. (2000). Manufacture of gem quality diamonds: A review. Cermacis International, 26(1), 73–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dart, R. A., & Beaumont, P. (1967). Amazing antiquity of mining in southern Africa. Nature, 216, 407–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davis, J. (2003). The Diamond Wars Have Begun. Wired (September, 2003).Google Scholar
  8. Delgado, M. S., Harriger, J. L., & Khanna, N. (2015). The value of environmental status signalling. Ecological Economics, 111, 1–11.Google Scholar
  9. Diamond, J. (2007). Easter Island revisited. Science, 317, 1692–1694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ferro, S. (2002). Synthesis of diamond. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 12(10(9)), 2843–2855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Field, J. E. (1992). Properties of natural and synthetic diamond. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Frank, R. H. (2000). Luxury fever: Weighing the cost of excess. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hazen, R. M. (1999). The diamond makers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hendrickson, C. T., Lave, L. B., & Scott Matthews, H. (2006). Environmental life cycle assessment of goods and services: An input-output approach. Washington, DC: RFF Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hibbard, M. J. (2002). Mineralogy: A Geologist’s point of view. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  16. Horne, R., Grant, T., & Verghese, K. (2009). Life cycle assessment: Principles, practice and prospects. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Johnson, G. (2007). A Question of Blame when Societies Fall. The New York Times, December 25.Google Scholar
  18. Keynes, J. M. (1936). The general theory of employment, interest and money. London, UK: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  19. Krajick, K. (2001). Barren lands: An epic search for diamonds in the North American Arctic. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  20. Martin, A. (2010). Q&A: Synthetic versus mined diamonds. Stanford Alumni Magazine, February.Google Scholar
  21. McGrew, W. (1992). Chimpanzee material culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. O’Cass, A., & McEwen, H. (2004). Exploring consumer status and conspicuous consumption. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 4(1), 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Saad, G. (2007). The evolutionary bases of consumption. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Shigley, J. E. (2008). Gems & gemmology in review: Synthetic diamonds. Carlsbad: Gemmological Institute of America.Google Scholar
  25. Smillie, I. (2010). Blood on the stone: Greed, corruption and war in the global diamond trade. London, UK: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, C. S. (1977). “Into the Smelting Pot,” a review of R.F. Tylecote’s “A History of Metallurgy”. Times Literary Supplement (November 4, 1977, p. 1301).Google Scholar
  27. Tainter, J. (1990). The collapse of complex societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Vermeersch, P. M., & Paulissen, E. (1989). The oldest quarries known: Stone age miners in Egypt. Episodes, 12(1), 35–36.Google Scholar
  29. Walker, A., & Shipman, P. (1996). The wisdom of the bones. New York: Alfred Knopf.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations