From Marilyn Monroe’s famous performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, to Sean Connery’s 007 role in Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, pop culture has prized diamonds as tokens of glamour, resilience and luxury in the 20th and 21st centuries. So, will diamonds continue to possess their irresistible allure in another 70 years?
New York-based jewellery brand Aether trust in the enduring value of diamonds but believe the way they are currently sourced will soon be a thing of the past. Although considered a “natural” commodity, mining for diamonds is fraught with controversy.
It’s an energy intensive process of carving gems from the earth and is an industry rife with unreliable certifications and plagued by unethical work practices (you’ve heard of Blood Diamonds, right?). In the last decade, the industry’s lack of traceability has fostered a growing trend of lab-grown diamonds, but they too have come under scrutiny. Labs have to source carbon from somewhere, and more often than not it’s from fossil fuels via oil drilling or fracking.
Co-founded by Ryan Shearman and Dan Wojno, Aether are the first company to create a carbon negative and truly sustainable third option: diamonds made from excess CO2.
To turn carbon into diamonds, Aether have partnered with a company that operate direct air capture units (effectively giant vacuums that pull in air from the atmosphere). A special filter traps the CO2 and other polluting elements and is converted to methane (the raw hydrocarbon material that will eventually become a diamond). It’s then placed into a reactor where in less than 30 days, atom by atom, beautiful diamond crystals form. “Those crystals are then cut and polished into the gemstones we all know and love, which are then set into responsibly sourced metals by artisan jewellers,” Shearman explains.
So, exactly how “green” is a diamond ring from Aether? “For every carat of diamond we sell, we have committed to pulling an additional 20 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere, which is a pretty significant impact,” Wojno says. That number is higher than the average annual carbon footprint of a person in the United States.
One of Aether’s most popular designs, the Horizon Double Diamond Ring, which costs a client around $26,000 (US dollars), has the potential to remove more than three years’ worth of an individual’s carbon emissions.
In their efforts to redefine the future of the diamond industry, Aether have chosen not to categorise their collections as engagement, men’s or women’s. They’ve instead opted for Commitment, Earthy Pleasures and Masculine. It certainly gives a nod towards the style you have in mind but is more open-ended reflecting the different symbols jewellery can have. “We don’t want to be limiting. It’s not indicative of the future we want to see for humanity,” Shearman says. It’s this foresight that has seen Aether’s first collection of rings, earrings, bracelets, geometric necklaces, and other pieces sell out.
Their focus is not only on ramping up production and manufacturing but working towards becoming a fully independent carbon-negative company by 2023. Although their labs already source and use sustainable energy, they still need to offset the impact of logistics and administrative operations, so their plan is to generate their own green energy and send their excess to the grid.
“We want to do right by this planet and making sure we take the right path as we scale our business is very important. Otherwise, we’d be going against our own values,” Shearman says. Over the next 70 years, as the phenomenon of making diamonds out of thin air increases, we hope to see a new surge of pop culture references which only guide us in one direction: towards a sparkling, cleaner future.