Companies bet on diamonds made from carbon dioxide

by Kelvin
Companies bet on diamonds made from carbon dioxide

The companies Aether and Climeworks announced the sale of diamonds made in the laboratory, made from carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The initiative represents a transformation in the jewelry industry and its global trade — an industry valued at $76 billion — with the adoption of sustainability and ethical goals.

The strategy is shown to be a concern in combating climate change related to the removal of gases that form the greenhouse effect and are responsible for the Earth’s warming. In addition, it brings a social issue linked to the quest to break through ancient ways of extracting the crystal, a 150-year history full of allegations of environmental and human degradation.

In an interview with the news agency E&E NewsRyan Shearman, founder and CEO of Aether, explained the development of a patent, still pending, capable of making a batch in just 4 weeks — in nature, diamond formation takes up to 1 billion years. “We are committed to the unprecedented modern alchemy of turning air pollution into precious stones,” he said.

  

Shearman revealed that he buys some of the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by the Climeworks company. Then, the gas is sent to a facility in Europe and undergoes a chemical reaction, being subjected to high pressures and temperatures, to convert into methane. This product is then sent to a reactor in Chicago, where it is finally turned into diamonds using renewable energy sources.

Sales of this type of product by Aether began earlier this year with prices ranging from $7,000 per ring to around $40,000 for earrings with crystal arrangements. “We have a pretty big waiting list right now,” Shearman said.

In an interview with the magazine Vogue, the businessman said that each carat is responsible for removing 20 tons of greenhouse gases. According to him, this is an index higher than the average emissions of a person in 1 year; therefore, if someone buys a 2-carat diamond “it will be worth 2 and a half years of your life”, he pointed out.

Another case of this type of company is Skydiamond, founded by environmentalist Dale Vince. Over the course of 5 years, company scientists sought ways to make the “first zero impact diamonds [na natureza]” of the world. The phrase is seen as a direct attack on the traditional diamond industry, which emerged in 1871 in South Africa.

After the discovery of the gem at the site, the so-called “diamond race” took place, a phase that attracted explorers who commanded the extraction of precious stones with precarious and abusive methods. These activities were carried out by contract workers, often children and women, who, because of the conditions, developed health problems or suffered serious accidents.

For Vince, the lack of regulations on the production and marketing of crystals is responsible for creating civil wars on the continent, financed by smuggled stones called “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds”.

Over the years, these problems were increasingly evident, so alternatives for the sector began to emerge. In 1954, Tracy Hall, an American chemist, was the first scientist to create synthetic diamonds by combining a General Electric reactor with a press to subject powdered coal to high temperatures and pressures.

In 2000, a coalition of trade groups developed a set of ethical standards that included human rights, labor and environmental laws for the activity of extracting and producing crystals. These actions culminated in the emergence of a special supervisory committee of the United Nations (UN), the World Diamond Council.

These developments spurred reforms to create competitive and ethical pressures on the industry in general, but they are still the target of criticism. “There are processes in place to ensure conflict diamonds don’t enter the market, but they don’t work. To an insane degree, they hit the market every day, and you can’t monitor them properly. Abuses go unnoticed,” said Shearman.

“In the way the market was built, and because of the many players, it’s very easy to lose track of the origin of diamonds. The main challenge for the industry [de diamante natural] is to develop a process that falls into these problems. We’ve got around that completely because we take carbon out of the air,” added Vince.