Ethical Engagement Rings
We believe ethical sourcing should be a hygiene factor—something our customers should simply expect from us and not something we differentiate ourselves on alone—so we prepared a comprehensive guide to our supply chain and how it may affect your decision to shop with us.
Your ring is a token of something so intangibly wonderful and so earth shatteringly important that you chose to have it made from the most scarce and exceptional materials on earth: diamonds and precious metals. This is the simple story your ring tells—that there is no other love on earth like yours.
With this in mind, we know how important it is for you to feel confident that your ring was sourced from countries and businesses that have ethical policies and business practices, so below we share how we do things at Taylor & Hart.
Rings we have crafted
Get inspired by our ethical engagement rings, individually designed and set with ethically-sourced gemstones and diamonds.
We devote so much time to determining the cut, colour, clarity, and carat of our diamond… and determining where our diamond or gem came from is equally deserving of our time. This is why we’re opening up our business practices to show you how we do things at Taylor & Hart, and to ensure you have peace of mind when purchasing from us.
But why should you care about the ethical sourcing of your materials?
With the single decision to care, you win more than just the love of your life;
- You sleep soundly at night, knowing you purchased a piece of jewellery that not only averted funding violence, but you may have actually helped people in an underdeveloped country raise their own or their family’s standard of living. That’s right: your engagement can help someone else, while still being your moment.
- You prevent tarnishing a monumental moment in your life with a product that has not been ethically sourced or crafted.
- You vote with your dollar. You help improve the transparency and ethics in sourcing simply through your wallet. One of the greatest moments of your life can also serve as one small step towards a better world.
- You learn. Knowledge is power. Making the right decision, when it comes to such a high value purchase, is knowing you had all the facts about the jewellery piece before you placed your order.
What’s a conflict diamond and what do we mean by “ethically sourced”?
A conflict or ‘blood’ diamond is a diamond that comes from areas—particularly in central and western Africa—controlled by rebel factions opposed to recognised governments and are illegally traded to fund war and violence.
What does it mean to purchase a blood diamond? Leonardo DiCaprio helped bring the term to the attention of the media and general public thanks to the 2006 Oscar-nominated film, Blood Diamond—but is this a factual representation of the diamond industry? Well, some parts are, and some are not. We would like to share with you the “real” status of conflict diamonds, both historically and their status today.
In the early 90s, civil war broke out in Sierra Leone, and thousands died in a war that spanned over a decade. Wars are expensive to maintain and sadly, this one was partly financed by the illegal trade of diamonds, the proceeds of which financed the purchase of weapons which allowed the war to continue and lead to countless deaths.
Conflict diamonds have also sustained violence in Angola, The Ivory Coast, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe.
Our CEO, Nikolay, grew up in Africa, living in both South Africa and Zimbabwe for 15 years. He reflects back on his early memories of the region:
“Growing up in South Africa, we were acutely aware of the human rights violations that were happening in neighbouring Zimbabwe, under the government of President Robert Mugabe. Millions of people were being oppressed by his regime, and thousands crossed the borders into South Africa as refugees, trying to find work illegally. When in 2008 we heard about the crackdown by the government on miners in the Marange mines, we decided to take an active position and though at the time Zimbabwean diamonds were not considered ‘conflict’ by international standards, we would ensure we no longer knowingly offered them and have not ever since.”
Sierra Leone Miners Panning - Attribution: By USAID [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Nikolay sheds some light on the dark, dusty corners of the industry that no one seems to want to talk about. Sure, the Sierra Leone civil war ended in 2002, but insurgent violence and injustice that still continues to slip under the radar. The problems that remain today have evolved and adapted to our ever-changing world, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still unsolved.
What is The Kimberley Process?
Governments, charities, and the diamond industry united after the civil war in Sierra Leone to create the Kimberley Process (KP) in attempt to prevent such a war from ever happening again. They launched the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2003 with the goal of ending the trading of conflict diamonds—or as the Kimberley Process calls them, “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance armed conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.”
The Kimberley Process is made up of 80 participating countries representing most of the nations involved in the diamond trade and it has successfully reduced the conflict trade to less than 1% in the global diamond industry. However, it is not perfect, and it does have its loopholes.
Wait… is the Kimberley Process enough?
In short, no.
Because no one can force the countries in conflict to join the Kimberley Process. Some have politely declined that invitation.
Plus, conflict diamonds continue to enter the trade even from participating countries due to the lack of regular, independent monitoring. As in many industries, there are unethical people working in the diamond trade who see these loopholes as opportunities to slip conflict diamonds into the lawful trade—and they score immense profits by doing so. Without regular monitoring—meaning expert, unbiased, review of a country’s national control systems at pre-established intervals—the Kimberley Process isn’t going to be enough.
A part of the issue is the lack of technology in how the Kimberley Process is run. The certificates are all paper-based, and thus liable to tampering, loss or imitation. We’re working with a company called Everledger that is going to transform how the Kimberley Process works with its innovative Blockchain technology, but more on this later…
How about synthetic diamonds?
Synthetic diamonds are made in labs using a range of techniques. These labs either replicate the high pressure and temperature found in the Earth’s mantle where natural diamonds are formed or they use super heated gas to grow the diamond. Like natural diamonds, synthetic diamonds are made from carbon, but just like flat- pack plywood furniture, there simply isn’t as much emotional and financial value in something made in a lab as there is in its rare, natural and traditionally sourced counterpart.
At Taylor & Hart, we are fascinated by the story of each mined diamond. What better symbol for your love and commitment than a diamond formed in the heart of the earth that has endured for millennia through the harshest of conditions?
Diamonds are actually a source for good in most countries that make up the supply chain. Negative media rarely mentions this, but the truth is that destroying the natural diamond industry would be detrimental to the incomes of many people all around the world (from the people who work in the mines, to the polishers and cutters who transform the rough diamonds into the ones we find in our jewels).
Rough diamonds before being cut and polished. By Ptukhina Natasha [CC BY-SA 3.0] (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Natural diamond mining should, of course, be more regulated to protect and develop the communities where the mines are located. And while synthetic diamonds have a shorter and cleaner supply chain, they do hinder the opportunity to help and support countless communities who depend on the natural diamond mining trade to earn a living.
We think the solution is somewhere between the two, similar to the public-private partnership in Botswana.
One of the most influential people in the fight against conflict-diamonds, Martin Rapaport, shares his opinions on this topic in the video below.
A brief case study on ethical sourcing in Botswana
De Beers, a diamond mining company and one of the largest companies in our industry, has a public-private partnership with the Republic of Botswana Government, giving them partial ownership of their mines.
De Beers then brought in the expertise to train locals in the surrounding communities, creating a secondary industry around the mining industry. They taught skills including diamond cutting, polishing, sorting, and grading. They also ensured that these locals included women, which paved the way for equality in an industry traditionally male-dominated.
Thanks to the partnership, Botswana has gone from being one of the poorest countries in Africa to one of its biggest modern economic success stories. The diamond industry accounted for 35% of Botswana’s economy in 2016. And it’s no coincidence that people in Botswana are living longer than ever before—64.43 years (there’s still room for improvement), or that their literacy rate is higher than ever at 88.5%.
The public-private partnership between De Beers and the Government of Botswana is a model for the diamond industry and how it can play a role in the success of underdeveloped countries by making a natural resource work for the people who live there.
Where do we stand on ethical diamond sourcing at Taylor & Hart?
In case you couldn’t tell… everyone at Taylor & Hart is emotionally invested in solving the lingering problems in the diamond industry. Sure, things are better than they were back in 2002, but we can’t afford to settle for just “better.”
So to be as transparent as possible, we are sharing as much as we can on where our diamonds (and diamonds in general) come from and what the supply chain looks like, in terms of the flow of both diamonds and coloured gemstones around the world.
Let’s talk about our supply chain.
Each ring we deliver is crafted as a made-to-order bespoke piece therefore each ring requires different components and often is delivered to a different country, at a different manufacturing speed. As such our supply chain process varies from ring-to-ring depending on the requirements.
The standard process is to prepare the 3D design file in London, ready for 3D printing later in the process. We then send the file to a large production facility in China, which produces jewellery and rings for a number of famous brands.
The 3D printing is done there and the 3D wax is cast into metal. They may also do some of the initial work on the ring preparing it for our craftsmen.
All rings are then sent for completion by hand to a workshop in the country of final delivery of the ring. So for UK customers, all rings are hand finished in London. At this final stage setting, polishing, engraving and quality control happens. The Assay office also checks the metal fineness and stamps the ring with our hallmark.
You can see some of the locations we use for producing rings and sourcing gems in this image:
We have worked with suppliers around the world including companies in India, the UK, Italy, South Africa, Portugal, Thailand and China, and we have found that our current partners produce best quality for bespoke pieces, which is why they have already helped us craft and deliver over 2,000 pieces.
A diamond begins its journey when it comes out of the mine.
During the 20th century, as demand for diamonds grew around the world, original reserves ran dry and now the diamond supply chain looks rather different from what it once was pre 1900s. In Blood Diamond, De Beers was depicted as a monopolistic organisation seeking to limit the flow of diamonds into the market to keep their prices high.
Whilst De Beers have led most of the diamond industry in the early 20th century, discoveries in Russia, Canada, and Australia led to the rise of several other diamond mining companies. Diamonds are now more of an oligopoly (like oil) than a monopoly.
With demand rising around the world, and fewer and fewer new diamond reserves being discovered, the value of diamonds continues to steadily increase. This seems to be the case with most commodities, in part due to globalisation and in part due to some countries, like China, experiencing a rapid growth in their demand for fine jewellery.
Here are the current top 10 diamonds mines in the world:
We’re sure you were surprised to see some of the countries on this list, like Australia and Russia.
Next, the rough diamonds are grouped and auctioned off to large diamond polishing companies, many of which are in India but they are also in Botswana, China, South Africa, the Middle East, and Israel, among others.
As these diamonds travel the world, the Kimberley Process aims to track their progress through sealed parcels—the goal being to ensure conflict diamonds do not enter the supply chain.
From here, the supply chain would traditionally fragment into smaller wholesalers who purchase from the polishing firms. Often these middlemen form a series of connections between polishing firms and the final jewellery retailers—each one making a profit on the sale to the next company down the chain.
As you can imagine, this would mean that the price the final customer pays may be higher than if the customer were able to access these diamonds further up the supply chain.
Enter the internet. E-commerce companies like ours purchase directly from the polishing firms. Because we do not hold stock—instead connecting directly to the stock of our partners—we are able to pass on the cost savings to you, our customers.
So can conflict diamonds enter this supply chain? Yes, they can, but they very rarely do. Since the beginning of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2003, the number of conflict diamonds in circulation reduced to less than 1%. But can we do more? Yes…
Here is our action plan:
- We’re working with the very best suppliers—companies who buy diamonds only from countries compliant with the Kimberley Process. This is just a start, but we do rely on our partners having healthy reputations to maintain, and in part, we trust their systems, processes, sourcing policies and transparency.
- We’re actively making an effort to not purchase Zimbabwean diamonds, even though they are now deemed Kimberley Process compliant. We’re using the Kimberley Process only as a benchmark – but we’re actually more discerning than the process itself.
- We’re offering CanadaMark diamonds for those who are passionate about knowing the exact origin and history of their diamond. More on that in a moment!
- One of our investors and partners is Everledger. They’re working to transform the tracking of diamonds to the source. They’re using the innovative new Blockchain system (upon which Bitcoin is built) to securely track and store the data tracking diamonds through the supply chain, making that data available to customers and retailers. This system would also eliminate the demand for paper-based reporting using smart digital contracts instead—simultaneously eliminating the risk of tampering. As a relatively new company they have a long way to go, but we’re working closely with them to add further levels of transparency in our own sourcing policies.
We acknowledge openly that this is not enough and that the definition of “ethically sourced” now spans beyond just blood diamonds and is applicable to all materials used, manufacturing methods, and even the policies and actions of the government regimes in every country that is a part of our supply chain.
This acknowledgement is what transparency is. We’re doing everything we can right now, admitting that we’re not happy with the state of the industry at the moment, and chomping at the bit to do more at every opportunity we get.
What YOU could and should be doing…
- Know the facts. You’ve already taken the first step. You read this article! Bravo! But don’t stop here. Stay tuned into our sources, the news, and share what you’ve learned with friends, family, and colleagues. Knowledge is power!
- Ask for source certification. Sadly, there are plenty of companies who won’t be able to provide you with this information. We can and we will. Each diamond search for our customers is bespoke and asking for source certification is something we can include in our search criteria, by working with suppliers who can inform us of the country your diamond was mined from.
If you’d like to go a step further and get a certification as proof of origin for your diamond, another option is to get a CanadaMark diamond.
These diamonds are mined in Canada and they receive an additional certificate and laser inscription from the CanadaMark organisation.
Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada
Canada was instrumental in the establishment of the Kimberley Process. The Dominion Diamond Corporation, owner of CanadaMark, has worked tirelessly to support the local native communities and mines by investing in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and training for their employees.
We have a limited number of CanadaMark diamonds, but all you need to do is ask us if a CanadaMark diamond is available that fits your price point and search parameters. If there’s not, CanadaMark will still get back to us with options that have accompanying source information.
We’re on the front lines of the diamond industry revolution because we understand the unique power a diamond can have—for someone like you looking for a matchless way to document your love, but also for the family in western Africa whose livelihood depends on an honest diamond industry. We have faith in you that you’ll choose to care. And we promise you can have faith in us to always do the right thing—never sacrificing transparency or genuine heart.
Given the constraints on how much a company like ours can do to change the entire global diamond supply chain, we decided our responsibility goes beyond sourcing.
Because we are passionate about entrepreneurship, among other things, we joined thousands of other innovative consumer and tech companies in the Pledge 1% Initiative.
Pledge 1% is a global movement to create a new normal in which giving back is integrated into the DNA of companies of all sizes. Pledge 1% encourages and challenges individuals and companies to pledge 1% of:
- their equity,
- their profit, and
- their employee time.
Launched in December 2014, Pledge 1% is spearheaded by companies like Salesforce. Over 1,500 companies in 40 countries have taken the pledge to date.
Our commitment is twofold.
- 1% of profit is committed to financing entrepreneurs in Africa. We work with PlaySeeds, a company which provides microfinance services to entrepreneurs in Africa seeking funding to start to grow their businesses.
- Employees at Taylor & Hart mentor and support other local entrepreneurs through initiatives like Unipreneur.com (founded by our CEO, Nikolay) that aim to encourage young people to learn about and consider entrepreneurship as an alternative career path.
Through our commitment to technology, transparency, entrepreneurship, and preserving human rights, we believe we are making a difference in both the diamond industry and our wider circle of influence. If you would like to learn more about any of the points made above, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.