An estimated 142 million carats of rough diamonds were dug out of mines in 2019 alone. One carat of diamond yields to 100 square feet of soil removal, resulting in nearly 6000 pounds of waste material. In general, traditional diamond mining leads to soil erosion, deforestation, and ecosystem destruction.
With climate change concerns continuing to grow, sustainable diamonds are a more attractive option. And Aether Diamonds is leading the charge. The new lab-grown diamond company set out to use carbon as a resource to fight climate change. "Knowing diamonds are made of the same carbon warming our atmosphere, we started discussing how to address that," co-founder and CEO Ryan Shearman says. The conversation started back in 2018 and led to the inception of sustainable lab-grown diamond company, Aether.
The Aether Process
"The Aether Process" is a three-week, three-part procedure that includes carbon capture, manufacturing, and hydrocarbon. Aether's partnership with a Swiss company allows for the use of direct air-capture technology to pull harmful atmospheric carbon dioxide from the air. Giant vacuums pull in the air through a filter to trap carbon dioxide and other pollutants, preventing them from escaping and harming the environment. The second step, manufacturing, takes the carbon gas and alters it into hydrocarbon. And finally, the hydrocarbon is used to create gem-grade diamonds through chemical vapor deposition.
The entire process saves 127 gallons of freshwater, and every one-carat diamond removes 20 tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
Are The Diamonds Real?
Short answer: yes. "Our diamonds are in the top 2% of quality of diamonds available on the market," co-founder and CMO Robert Hagemann says. All of the diamonds are tested and graded by the International Gemological Institute and the Natural Capital Partners, who evaluate their diamond-making process and carbon impact.
The Product Offering
Since launching in December 2020, the brand has generated over two million dollars in pre-orders. Designed by Jenna Housby, their evergreen collections, entitled "Commitment" and "Masculine," were used instead of "Engagement" and "Men's" to fall in line with the vision they have for the jewelry industry moving forward. "Most jewelry websites are very traditional in their approach, and while we recognize that that works for some people, it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone," Hagemann says, "The world is finally starting to realize humans have such an enormous range and fluidity of identity, gender, orientation, and lifestyle. We want to celebrate that in our jewelry."
With their evergreen collections and signature collection, Earthly Pleasures, you can shop through their rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, and cuffs. "A lot of our design inspiration came from the concept of air and negative space, so as you look at our designs, you’ll see a lot of that come through," Hagemann says, "We will create gaps and spaces in the jewelry that will allow air to flow through."
The jewelry is shipped in a plant-derived, ultra-suede jewelry box with FSC-certified recycled paper and sustainable wool felt inside. The founders hope the customers will reuse their Aether jewelry boxes, but the recyclable exterior is biodegradable regardless.
The Aether Difference
A core component of Aether’s business is forward thinking. "Part of the creation of Aether and the diamonds themselves is understanding the changes that we need to see in the diamond industry," Hagemann says, "Not just from an environmental impact perspective but from the perspective of the shopper, who has tried to navigate this industry for such a long time and doesn’t really have an all-encompassing or universal source of information."
This radical transparency came from the frustration consumers feel entering a website or store where the salesperson is also your source of information. Aether aims to change the power dynamic by placing the power and information into consumers' hands. "Even if an Aether diamond is not the right choice for them, at least we know that we’ve empowered them with knowledge and information so that they can make the right choice for themselves," Hagemann says. "We don’t want to create a bunch of confusion or haze around diamond shopping."
Right now, you can buy Aether diamonds directly on their website. The brand ships domestically and has plans to expand its shipping range internationally. "The idea of a physical store is something we’re thinking through," Hagemann says, "Our whole vision and mission are around how we can help to clean up the atmosphere and reduce our carbon footprint and that of our customers. An actual store location has many implications for the impact we have on the planet—the materials, construction, and ongoing operation all have implications for the environment. Once it's the right time and we're able to do it in the right way, we'd love to offer our customers an immersive in-store shopping experience where they can explore the world of Aether."