Lab-grown, Natural or Antique diamonds. Which is the most ethical choice?

Lab-grown, Natural or Antique diamonds. Which is the most ethical choice?

When it comes to diamonds, simply being conflict-free no longer cuts it. Today, customers expect diamonds to be ethical and make a positive impact on communities. Lab-grown diamonds are marketed as an ethical and sustainable choice. But, should you believe all the hype? Or is this another case of opportunistic green-washing? For your enquiring mind, we meticulously examine lab-grown, natural-mined, and Antique diamonds to help you take the guesswork out of making an informed choice. 





ORIGIN: A commercial factory.  
TIME TO GROW: 2 – 10 weeks
MADE: On a mass scale, by machines, in a controlled environment using a lot of energy.
MYTH: Lab-grown diamonds are the most ethical and sustainable choice.
CERTIFICATION AVAILABLE: GIA Synthetic Diamond Grading Report.
PRICE POINT: Typically around 30% cheaper than a Natural diamond at the moment but this continues to plummet as supply increases and more players enter the market



Lab-grown diamonds are created in a laboratory setting using advanced technology that simulates the Natural diamond-growing process. They are made by recreating the high-pressure, high-temperature conditions that exist deep within the Earth's mantle, where Natural diamonds are formed. 

Lab-grown diamonds are made of crystallised carbon, just like Natural diamonds—however, they are formed by machines using extraordinary amounts of energy to replicate what occurs in nature over billions of years, in a fraction of the time. The result is a diamond that has very similar physical, chemical, and optical properties to a Natural diamond. However, as they can be created on demand their value has and will continue to plummet.


  • More affordable. 
  • No direct contribution to deforestation.

  • In many ways, you are buying blind. The lab-grown diamond industry is a Wild West right now with many ethical and sustainable claims being made, but with no industry regulations in place to substantiate these claims. There is no assurance on workers’ rights nor of the true environmental cost of production processes. 
  • A recent Trucost ESG analysis, Part of S&P Global, estimated that the CO2e associated with energy use in laboratory-created diamond production is nearly three times greater than diamonds produced by DPA members in 2016. 
  • Fabricated in a lab as opposed to formed in nature. 
  • Extremely-low rarity and therefore low return on investment. 

Lab-grown diamonds are marketed as an ethical and sustainable choice. But, it pays to scratch beneath the slogans. With no checks and balances in place for lab-grown diamonds—there is very little known regarding ethical work conditions and sustainability claims.  Just like any other manufactured product (such as sneakers or automobiles) lab-grown diamonds are produced using energy, materials, machinery, and human labour—with little to no transparency on what occurs behind the scenes. 

One of the founding partners of CUSHLA WHITING, Anna Whiting, weighs in on lab-grown diamonds. 

Unfortunately, at this moment, the available data and details are insufficient to make a comprehensive and informed analysis or conclusion. Therefore, it is currently not possible to provide a thorough response or make any definitive statements.

The majority of lab diamonds are made using large amounts of fossil fuel energy, with on average three times as many greenhouse emissions than natural diamonds.

The price of lab-grown diamonds is still quite high, but the value is falling rapidly (as with anything that can be produced on demand). With more competition in the next couple of years and more cost-effective technology on hand, their price is expected to fall exponentially.

THE VERDICT:  CW is yet to be satisfied that we can transparently source lab-grown diamonds with proven minimal environmental impact, use of majority renewable energy, and a framework for ethical practices with checks and balances in place. As such, we do not currently offer lab-grown diamonds. If we were to offer them, we would provide our customers with a warning about the likely value drop over time of their lab-grown diamond. We would also educate our CW customers on the pros and cons of both lab-grown and Natural diamonds. 




ORIGIN: Deep Earth
TIME TO GROW: 1 to 3.3 billion years
MADE: By nature over billions of years and just-right conditions.
MYTH: Natural diamonds fund conflict. 
PRICE POINT: Medium to high. 

Natural diamonds are formed deep within the Earth's mantle. They are created when carbon is subjected to extreme heat and pressure, causing it to crystallise into a diamond. They were formed over billions of years and are a finite commodity. Natural diamonds are mined from the Earth's surface, either through open-pit mining or underground mining.

Today, approximately 96% of Natural diamonds are both ethical and sustainable. It is a legal requirement for all diamonds entering Australia to be Kimberley certified conflict-free

At CUSHLA WHITING we buy all of our Natural diamonds directly from “sight holder” companies. These sight holder companies are carefully selected by the big diamond producers for upholding industry-leading standards of professionalism, and ethical and sustainable practices. They provide good salaries and working conditions. Through buying from a sightholder we know that the diamonds have come from one of the members of the DPA (Diamond Producers Association). After the De Beers controversy over blood diamonds resulting from diamonds being mined to fuel violent conflict in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s, the DPA has been under a huge amount of scrutiny, particularly the operations based in Africa. The members of the DPA today have the most stringent ethical and sustainable checks and balances in place. In addition to that, their operations are incredibly important to the local communities that they support, being responsible for a large chunk of the nation's GDP, local employment, infrastructure and general opportunities.


  • An artifact from a time before humans and even dinosaurs walked the earth. 
  • Likely to increase in value over time. 
  • The Natural diamond industry provides enormous socio-economic benefits to developing countries. 
  • Rare. 
  • Organic. 
  • Currently lower CO2 emissions than the majority of lab-grown diamonds and a lot more transparency around ethics and sustainability.


  • Higher price point due to rarity. 


The implementation of Blockchain technology allows diamond retailers and consumers to track a diamond through the supply chain leading to full traceability of that diamond. It is almost impossible to erase or change data contained in the blockchain giving Natural diamonds a traceable, transparent and permanent audit trail from mine to final sale. Whilst this technology is new and not widely used yet, it is groundbreaking technology for the diamond industry and we are very excited to be able to move in this direction. At CUSHLA WHITING, we are working on introducing this technology so our customers can see the origins and supply chain of their diamond. 

One of the founding partners of CUSHLA WHITING, Anna Whiting, weighs in on Natural diamonds. 

We want our customers to know that each diamond they purchase from us has a positive impact on lives and communities as well as coming from a company whose processes and working conditions are tightly regulated and scrutinised.

On average, 160 kg of CO2e per polished carat (a third of the average of CO2e emitted for lab diamonds currently. The environmental cost of producing a diamond is 37% of a single one way airline ticket from New York to Los Angeles. The DPA (Diamond Producer Association) collectively protects three times the land they use for mining globally as well as implementing long term biodiversity conservation programs. The DPA is working towards achieving UN Sustainability Development Goals.

Being a non-renewable source, Natural diamonds hold their value due to the economics of supply and demand. However, when buying a diamond at retail price you will rarely see a return on this investment in the event that you need to resell it as you would likely only be able to sell it for trade/wholesale price.

THE VERDICT: Natural diamonds are a genuine treasure from the Earth. Billions of years old, Natural diamonds are a perfect representation of forever and commitment. All Natural diamonds are valued in USD and, being a finite resource, they are a commodity of which the value fluctuates and is affected by global political and financial events. But due to their scarcity, they hold their value and have been traded for centuries as not only jewellery but as a form of currency. In reaction to the blood diamond crisis of the ’90s and the negative effect this had on consumers' perception of Natural diamonds, the industry has pulled together to put checks and balances in place to ensure ethical and sustainable practices are at the heart of the Diamond Producers and sightholders operations. Like many industries, there is room for improvement and one very necessary and exciting development is the introduction of Blockchain technology which will allow us to trace each diamond back to its discovery.




ORIGIN: Natural diamonds that were mined and cut hundreds of years ago.
TIME TO GROW: 1 billion to 3.3 billion years
MADE: Cut by hand by the light of a candle.
MYTH: Antique diamonds are less valuable than modern cut diamonds. Antique diamonds are not as well cut as modern cut diamonds.
CERTIFICATION AVAILABLE: No certification is currently available from GIA and HRD for Antique diamonds. However, they will certify the cut type which is why it is critical to work with an expert in Antique diamonds to make sure you are buying a genuine Antique and not a replica.
PRICE POINT: Variable depending on the grade of the diamond.

Antique diamonds are diamonds that were mined and cut by hand between 1600 and 1930. Antique diamonds were cut entirely by hand giving each stone a unique character and charm. They have broader faceting and a soft “blocky” sparkle. They are repurposed diamonds that have reentered the marketplace after being removed from estate jewellery. Each has a unique story and charm—given by the hand who cut them. Each is a relic of the past. They are truly one-of-a-kind and, as part of the circular economy, they’re also considered the most sustainable choice. All of our Antique diamonds are sourced by our Gemologist and co-founder Hamish Whiting directly from the Antwerp diamond bourse where he is based. 


  • Due to their rarity, Antique diamonds provide some of the highest return-on-investments out of all diamonds. 
  • Extremely sustainable—part of the circular economy (instead of mining for something new)


  • Environmentally conscious customers need to be mindful of “antique style” diamonds (which are in fact newly-mined, Natural diamonds cut in the style of an Antique diamond). It’s best to engage with an expert in Antique diamonds to ensure that your Antique diamond is genuine..


One of the founding partners of CUSHLA WHITING, Anna Whiting weighs in on Antique diamonds. 

Antique diamonds are sourced ethically in Europe by diamond brokers, in our case from the Antwerp Diamond Bourse. To trade in diamonds in the Antwerp Diamond Bourse one must meet ethical and professional standards of trade to become a member.

Antique diamonds are fully repurposed, removed from vintage jewellery once worn and recycled back into the diamond market.

Antique diamonds are very rare, being genuine antiques cut by hand in the 1800’s or early 1900’s. The value of Antique diamonds is increasing all the time as increased demands puts pressure on low supply.

THE VERDICT: Antique diamonds can not only be the most beautiful gemstone in the world, they are without a doubt the most sustainable and ethical (judged on how they have been sourced today, directly from the certified diamond broker in Antwerp). Further to this, of all gemstones, due to their rarity they offer the best investment opportunity.