Transforming pollution into greener diamonds

category - sustainability
sector - luxury
type - opinion
Opinion
Future luxury goods could lie in unexpected places, explains Bob Hagemann, CMO at Aether Diamonds, a company turning pollution into glittering stones

After the advent of lab-grown diamonds, how is Aether seeking to disrupt the diamond industry further?

What we’re trying to do with Aether is to position ourselves as the next frontier for the diamond industry. Right now, you have the two categories of mined diamonds and lab-grown diamonds, but we're trying to create a third category, the Aether diamond.

We’re taking carbon back [from the atmosphere] and turning it into diamonds. It’s not just a new process but the vision we have for taking something that is inherently either displeasing, wrong or ugly and turning it into something beautiful. It’s a sort of modern alchemy.

You describe this as 'turning pollution into a solution’. How do your carbon-negative diamonds clean up the environment?

It’s a three-step process. We begin with atmosphere vacuums, which are like a fan but in reverse. They pull air from the atmosphere and capture carbon dioxide among other things in a filter grid. This is put into canisters, and at the next stage, we filter out the carbon and isolate it. This is turned into a usable base, which we put into a lab-grown diamond reactor to create Aether Diamonds. Diamonds are measured in carats, and on a per-carat basis, we're removing 20 metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. To quantify that, it’s about about two-and-a-half years of carbon offsets per person, so a one-carat diamond to offset your carbon footprint is pretty fantastic, and meaningful too.

Marketing is everything for diamonds: a diamond is for ever, a girl’s best friend. How do you translate such a technical process into romantic storytelling?

We talk about morphing and alchemising carbon into a better version of itself. We have this very complicated, intense technology underpinning the brand but it serves to help us tell our story, which is that we see a better future for diamonds. Traditionally, too, diamonds are valued and certified against the four Cs – clarity, cut, carat weight and colour. But now there’s a fifth C, carbon. Most people will buy diamonds not knowing the source or that stone’s carbon footprint. We've had people from [diamond grading authorities] the GIA [Gemological Institute of America] and IGI [International Gemological Institute] reach out to us because they've seen what we're doing and what it means for the future of how diamonds are graded, certified and marketed.

Published by:

7 January 2021

Author: Kathryn Bishop

Image: Aether Diamonds, New York

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Aether Diamonds, New York

Is customer education crucial to this new direction for diamonds?

Yes, because what most consumers don't understand – and what most lab-grown diamond companies don't tell you – is that they have to source their carbon from somewhere. And that somewhere is inevitably from fossil fuels and it’s often sourced through methodologies such as fracking and drilling. So when customers are on a lab-grown diamond brand's website and see the claim that it's sustainable, they are not always getting the information they need to make an informed decision. With an Aether diamond, that’s one of the things we’re trying to do: shift the diamond industry towards full education and radical transparency, better informing consumers who are already very well informed and will read up on your brand.

Why is it crucial for companies like Aether to take a whole-system approach? For example, you only work with 100% Fairmined gold to produce your pieces...

Firstly, the aforementioned radical transparency not only adds integrity to the industry but gives the consumer tools and knowledge. Then, while we can create these carbon-negative diamonds, they still have to be set into a ring or piece of jewellery. So we have put that same intention into not just the Fairmined gold that we're using but every other element of creating a piece of jewellery, including logistics, delivery and our packaging. I’m proud of our packaging because every single element is either from a renewable source, is entirely recyclable or biodegradable – and it still looks luxurious. We're really going to be the first and only ‘luxury’ lab-grown diamond brand.

Do you anticipate a future of by-product luxury, where pollution or surplus materials are elevated into desirable goods?

I love this question. What's exciting for us is that you can approach [jewellery] from a by-product or a residual impact standpoint. For us, it's about taking that pollution and repurposing it. We’ve already seen luxury footwear and handbags being developed in sustainable and repurposed ways. So much waste is just sitting in landfill sites right now – gold in particular – that I'm very optimistic that there’s going to be a solution to reclaim the things we’ve been wasteful about in the past.

Could we see Aether produce or market diamonds based on where the carbon has been sequestered; for example, a Mumbai diamond or a New York engagement ring?

That’s something we're working on developing, but as a marketer I see our main consumers as eco-minded, focused on the sourcing integrity of the products that they buy. But at the same time, we are focused on the early adopters. We’re already seeing this on our waiting list – people who are excited simply by the fact that this is a technological marvel. We're taking air and turning it into something solid that’s beautiful, desirable and valued. Ultimately, our customers will overlap in that they will have a vision for the future, whether it's for the planet, for the person they love or just their own understanding of what the future looks like.

Learn more about sustainability and how the luxury market is working towards a greener world on L:SN Global.

‘We’re taking polluted air and turning it into something solid that’s beautiful, desirable and valued – people are excited by this technological marvel.’
Bob Hagemann, CMO, Aether Diamonds

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