Last updated on May 12, 2022
The technology behind lab-grown diamonds has made crucial advances in recent years, allowing companies to grow diamonds with zero carbon footprint. But what if there is a company that creates diamonds by sucking carbon pollution from the air. Meet Aether, the world’s first producer of carbon-negative diamonds.
What Are Aether Diamonds?
Aether diamonds are a revolution in the lab-grown diamonds industry, created with energy generated from renewable sources and carbon sourced from air pollution. This process positively impacts the environment, leaving the planet in better condition with each carat produced.
For comparison, diamond mining destroys ecosystems and wildlife habitats, while the majority of lab-grown diamonds available on the market rely on fossil fuels as their carbon source. Supporting drilling and fracking and the attendant environmental and wildlife harm is synonymous with fossil fuel dependency. Today, Aether’s are the only available diamonds in the world that help reverse the diamond industry’s historical damage done to ecosystems and the environment.
Aether lab-grown diamonds are the first carbon-negative diamonds in the world. The stones are physically and chemically identical to mined diamonds, except they do not come from deep inside the earth. They are transformed from excess carbon dioxide found in air pollution that would otherwise contribute to global warming. Certified by the International Gemological Institute, Aether diamonds are held to the same standards and are just as “real” as naturally-occurring diamonds. All Aether stones are almost entirely devoid of impurities and account for less than 2% of all diamonds on the planet – the rarest diamonds you can buy.
How Are Aether Diamonds Created?
Aether’s creation process starts with direct air capture. They are currently partnering with Climeworks, a Switzerland-based company that uses equipment to vacuum excess CO2 from the air and trap it in a specialized filter. The unit then heats the CO2 to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (∼ 94°C), producing a clean, concentrated product. From there, the CO2 is sent to a facility where it undergoes hydrolysis – a chemical reaction in which H2O molecules break down the CO2’s bonds, ultimately producing methane (CH4).
Then, methane becomes the raw material for a chemical vapour deposition reactor, acting as a diamond incubator. A tiny “seed” of a diamond is placed in the reactor, which looks like a sideways refrigerator, and is then filled with methane and other gases. With a blast of a microwave, the hydrogen and carbon of the methane break apart, and the carbon trickles down and bonds with the diamond seed. The diamond is grown atom by atom for a few weeks until it is ready to be cut, polished, and set in jewellery. The finished product is indistinguishable from a mined diamond – it has the same chemical makeup and is just as clear and luminous.
The desire for lab-grown diamonds has grown within the last decade or so. As consumers become more aware of the environmental and social impacts of diamond mining, interest in sustainable engagement rings and wedding bands has grown as well. But just because a gem is manufactured instead of mined does not automatically mean that it is sustainable.
Lab-grown diamond reactors require two inputs: energy to fuel it and the raw material, carbon. While green energy sources can power the reactors, the carbon for most lab-grown diamonds is often sourced from fossil fuels, obtained through drilling and fracking – two destructive practices contributing to climate change.
Aether’s goal is not just to design a more sustainable diamond – it is to actively make the world a better place. Beyond trapping CO2 molecules from the atmosphere, the manufacturing process is entirely powered by renewable energy sources. In fact, Aether is the first company to produce carbon-negative diamonds, meaning they remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they use in production. There is no harm done to people, animals, or the environment throughout their process, earning the company vegan certification for its efforts in developing a creative new approach to creating sought-after jewellery.
One way Aether goes beyond carbon-neutrality is by offsetting 20 metric tons of CO2 for every carat sold. Carbon offsets help individuals or corporations compensate for their carbon footprint by pulling CO2 out of the air through methods such as reforestation or direct air capture, which will make up for the emissions produced.
Aether also leans into the concept of skin as a canvas for jewellery designs. This not only allows them to explore the craftsmanship of jewellery in a new way, but it also acts as a representation of the human element’s integration with the natural world. It is a subtle nod that human beings are part of this planet, and the planet is a part of us. All Aether jewellery is also set in Fairmined gold, which has the highest standards for human rights and environmental impact.
By committing to clean, ethical manufacturing and carbon offsets, Aether is redefining what it means to be a diamond company in a historically destructive and cruel industry. Beyond that, they are proving that even the most luxurious products, such as diamonds, can be innovatively produced without risking people and the environment. Doing so does not diminish the product’s value – it adds to it.