“Why is there the need to mine more?” asked ethical jewellery designer, Lilian von Trapp, of traditionally sourced gold back in June. “Why go on killing people and polluting the environment in the process...?”

A similar charge can be levelled at diamonds; so much so that, more and more, brands of every scale are eschewing increasingly antiquated techniques of acquiring these precious gems. Swarovski, for example, has taken leaps and bounds in recent years towards a more sustainable way of working, with its internal CLEAR standard that ensures its own products (and those of its suppliers) are free from harmful chemicals; added to that, its Waterschool initiative has also educated over 500,000 children in 2,500 schools worldwide on the topic of water sustainability and safety.

Lark & Berry is yet another example of a label that’s looking for alternatives. Created in 2017 by Laura Chavez and designed by Creative Director, Katie Rowland, the self-proclaimed ‘diamond disruptors’ have been cultivating a name for themselves through cultivated diamonds. (See what we did there?)

“When I met Laura, I started looking into how we could be more ethical with our diamonds,” Katie told us. “Cultured diamonds are 100% conflict-free; they’re traceable. We know the people who grow them.”

It was on discovering key flaws and often-abused loopholes in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme – a programme that’s supposed to ensure a zero-abuse supply chain – that Chavez and Rowland decided to do things differently. “The bonus side,” Katie says, “is the price! They actually work out cheaper too, because you’re not displacing land. It costs phenomenal amounts of money to dig huge, crater-like mines in the earth.”

Image courtesy of Lark & Berry.

It’s a win-win situation, right? Or, at the very least, it certainly looks a whole lot like one... Which begs the question, why on earth aren’t more designers jumping on the bandwagon?

“This particular side of the industry has been really hidden,” explains Laura. “We’ve worked with people who have been in the industry for years doing some really high-end pieces, and they didn’t know about it!

There are so many studies now that demonstrate that people can grow food from proteins and protein cells. Cultured diamonds are a similar thing in that they’re sustainable going forwards as well – but they’re still graded in the same way as traditional diamonds, and you get a variety of clarity and colour. It’s not like it’s even a little bit different; it’s exactly the same!”

Perhaps then, the real issue is in convincing customers that a cultured diamond is just as precious as a ‘traditional’ one. As Laura says: “It’s also about educating people at the consumer end.”

Given that diamonds are held up as the pinnacle of luxury – the height of all that is haute – it could very well be that the idea of growing one’s engagement ring in a lab setting just isn’t as appealing. The song doesn’t say that cultured diamonds are a girl’s best friend...

Image courtesy of Lark & Berry.

“It does take your head a bit of time to get around the idea,” says Katie. “Once I’d seen the results though, as a designer and as a consumer, it ticked all of my boxes.”

After all, is there even a place for this traditional and narrow definition of ‘luxury’ anymore? Sustainably minded brands such as BITE Studios are re-angling the proposition to include ethics, transparency and environmental longevity as part of its specifications. Can a material truly be defined as ‘luxury’ when there is suffering to produce it? More and more, the resounding answer from consumers is “No!”

“As consumers and designers, we are much more aware of how things are made... And we should be!” says Katie. It’s brands like Lark & Berry that mean our future, however ethical, is not without a little sparkle. 

Click here to shop Lark & Berry.

Also on Because Magazine:

+ This designer's résumé reads like a roll-call of fashion’s finest.

Patcharavipa celebrates Japanese tradition in 18k gold.

+  We're squeezing an orange from SS19 for a healthy dose of Vitamin C.