Cornwall LivingIssue #111
Shining bright with Ethica Diamonds
An eco-friendly diamond business combining ethics with aesthetic.
It was in a laboratory at General Electric in the 1950s that the first man-made diamond was created. Born from a small diamond ‘seed’, these first diamonds were not grown for gemstones but as functional diamonds for industrial, computational, health care, and scientific applications. Consisting of carbon atoms, they display similar chemical and the same optical characteristics as a natural diamonds and are graded in the same way, but it has only been in relatively recent years that engineered diamonds have become viable for fine jewellery.
It was an appreciation of fine jewellery that was the catalyst for Elaine Reffell’s relationship with lab-made diamonds. Elaine was given a pair of earrings as a birthday present, but these differed to her other jewellery in the fact that the diamonds in them weren’t mined, but created in a laboratory. Elaine explains: “It didn’t matter to me that they weren’t mined diamonds. I couldn’t tell the difference, they were every bit as beautiful and meaningful and I was fascinated with how they had been made.”
Elaine’s aim was to source beautiful lab-made diamonds that came without the conflict and the associated price tag. Several years of research and travel led Elaine to find a supplier who was producing diamonds in a laboratory that were every bit as beautiful and strong as their mined counterparts. She set up her earth-friendly diamond business, Ethica Diamonds, in 2011 and has been able to combine ethical good practise with excellent customer service.
Even most lab-grown diamonds have an associated carbon footprint and emissions and the pricing of these stones is fixed against the mined diamond market, which she believes is unethical. With all this in mind, Elaine is proud to only work with laboratories who share her ethos. Ethica Diamonds is currently the only supplier in the south west of pure, lab grown diamonds from the Diamond Foundry; the world’s first certified, zero carbon footprint producer of diamonds where production is 100% hydropower, meaning zero emissions.
Elaine tells us: “We work closely with our suppliers and are pleased to say that we’re the only business of this kind in the UK. We are able to bring people an ethical diamond at a time when everyone is looking deeply into the origins of what we purchase. Nothing that has been dug up from the ground can ever be free from environmental impact to the seabed, wildlife or climate. Our belief is that if something is given from the heart, symbolising a special time such as an engagement, the birth of a child, an anniversary or a wedding, its production should not be associated with any humanitarian environmental harm
Ethica Diamonds has its home in Truro – a beautiful, welcoming showroom where customers can come, by appointment, to choose their piece of jewellery. There is the option to select from a catalogue of designs, or Elaine and her team are happy to take customers through the bespoke process. They will help couples to design their own ring, which is then lovingly made by their own very talented jeweller who lives nearby.
In keeping with the ethos of the business, the metals used, be it gold or platinum, are predominantly recycled. Customers are able to select every element of their diamond, from the cut, to the shape and the size. If a bespoke ring has been chosen, then sketches will be done and silver or wax samples made up so that they can see the proportions and get a good idea of a sense of scale.
Elaine explains: “We often find that people have seen something they like at Tiffany, Beaverbrooks or Boodles and want to recreate it using an ethically
made diamond. Many of our customers have a science background and, having researched the product, have discovered that there is an ethical alternative to purchasing a mined diamond, that also saves them money.”
Each appointment takes around two hours, which shows the love and care that everyone at Ethica puts into their work. Elaine’s daughter Emily has now joined the family business, becoming a valuable part of team. “The reason why we do what we do is all about the customer experience and their journey – it is such a lovely time to be involved with a couple who have recently become engaged,” says Emily.