You Can’t Just Make “Green” Diamonds Happen

By Elissa Knight

              Diamonds are remarkable. Generally known for their extreme hardness, sentimental value, and brilliance; nothing shines quite like a diamond but its journey from mine or lab to consumer is anything but scintillating.

“Consumers are led to believe that there is a certain romance in wearing a diamond that has grown in the belly of the Earth for millions of years.”[1] Diamond mining has led to disastrous consequences on ecosystems, rerouting of rivers, and soil erosion[2]. It has been studied that one carat of mined diamond approximately removes 250 tons of soil, requires 120 gallons of water, and emits 140 lbs of carbon dioxide[3]. In recent years however, alternative technologies have been used to create diamonds for the consumer. First produced in the 1950s[4], lab grown diamonds have become a growing trend in the industry for a variety of environmental and humanitarian reasons. However, with this new popularity, are we now leading consumers to believe there is a certain ecological romance in wearing a diamond that has been grown in the belly of the Earth for millions of years grown in a lab?

Lab-grown diamonds have been seen advertised to consumers as “eco-friendly”, or “sustainable”[5], which certainly implies environmental benefits. However, a report produced by the Diamond Producers Association, which represents seven of the largest diamond miners, suggested that the greenhouse gas emissions produced mining natural diamonds is three times less than those created when growing diamonds in a lab[6]. While figures published by Diamond Foundry, a producer of lab grown diamonds, suggest the exact opposite. They report that “it takes an entire factor more energy to extract an underground diamond from Earth than it takes to create one above ground…on top of this, the energy use in mining is generally dirty diesel versus renewable energy in our above-the-ground production” suggesting that the mined diamond environmental footprint is much greater than lab diamonds[7].

For the average consumer – this is all too confusing.

With an increase in sustainability advertising and “environmentally friendly” products, a legal issue that arises is whether consumers are being protected from “green” claims. In recent years, the Federal Trade Commission has weighed in on claims around the environmental value of lab grown diamonds[8]. The FTC has sent warning letters to organizations flaunting environmental benefits to their jewelry in comparison to mined diamonds[9]. Further, they have created Green Guides, which offer advice on how to make environmental claims non-deceptively. Under these guides, product advertisers must have a reasonable basis for any environmental benefit claims; and must qualify their claims adequately to avoid deception[10]. Additionally, the government regulates deceptive advertising through Section 5 of the FTCA which declares unlawful “unfair methods of competition . . . and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” and gives the FTC enforcement authority over such acts[11].

Environmentally conscious consumerism is on the rise. When technological advances are made in any industry, it can be noteworthy but it is vital to protect the integrity of such assertions. The FTC intends to revise the Green Guides in 2022, the first time since 2012, bringing expanded guidance to environmental marketing claims[12].

[1] Diamond Mining, Ethica Diamonds (July 10, 2019),

[2] Hannah Sheaf, The True Environmental and Social Costs of Mined Diamonds, blue and green tomorrow (July 23, 2021),

[3] Id.

[4] Paul Sullivan, A Battle Over Diamonds: Made by Nature or in Lab?, N.Y. Times (Feb. 9, 2018)

[5] Olivia Pinnock, FTC Cautions Lab Grown Diamond Brands on Sustainability Claims, Forbes (Apr. 10, 2019, 1:33 PM)

[6] Harriet Constable, The Sparkling Rise of the Lab Grown Diamond, BBC: Future Planet (Feb. 9, 2020),

[7] Id.

[8]  Leslie Fair, The Many facets of Advertising Diamonds with Clarity, FTC (May 3, 2019),

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11]15 U.S.C. § 45.

[12] Meghan Graham, What Brands Should Know as FTC Prepares to Update Green Marketing Guidelines, Wall St. J. (Aug. 9, 2022, 7:00 AM),