October 8, 2019 12:00 PM PT

Canadian Diamonds vs Regular Diamonds

Read more about Diamonds
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Canadian diamonds are sought after for being ethical and higher quality. Is this true? And are they worth the premium? Read on for the truth.

Who Canadian Diamonds May Appeal To

  • Socially conscious shoppers
  • If you like the thought of a diamond from the Arctic
  • If you don't mind paying a premium for branding

History of Canadian Diamonds

Canada is a relatively young player in the diamond market, but is already one of the world's largest producers of diamonds.

Diamonds were first discovered in Canada in the early 1990s. The first diamond mine—Ekati Mine located in the Northwest Territories—started operations in 1998. Over the next couple of decades, vast areas rich in diamonds were discovered throughout Canada and multiple mines were opened.

Since then, Canada has produced over 150 million carats of diamonds. It's now the third-largest producer, supplying about 15% of all the world's diamonds.

The history of diamond mines in Canada:

  • Ekati Mine (Northwest Territories)
    First Canadian diamond mine opened in 1998

  • Diavik Mine (Northwest Territories)
    Opened in 2003

  • Jericho Mine (Northwest Territories)
    Opened in 2006; dormant since 2008

  • Victor Mine (Ontario)
    Opened in 2008; shut early 2019

  • Snap Lake Mine (Northwest Territories)
    Opened in 2008; shut in 2015

  • Renard Mine (Quebec)
    Opened in 2014

  • Gahcho Kue Mine (Northwest Territories)
    Opened in 2016

Main Benefits of Canadian Diamonds

The main appeal of Canadian diamonds is that they're ethically sourced.

All diamonds on the market today are conflict-free due to the Kimberley Process. However, this merely means that the diamonds are not from mines used to fund civil wars. It doesn't address other ethical concerns, such as child labor, unsafe working conditions, and unfair wages.

Canadian diamonds go way beyond merely "conflict-free." The mines impose very strict standards to ensure the highest ethical practices. This means:

  1. Conflict-Free
    There are no civil conflicts or rebel groups in Canada.

  2. Fair Wages
    Diamond production has provided a lot of jobs for the indigenous people. Workers are given fair wages and employee benefits.

  3. High Safety Standards
    All workers are given safety training and sites are continuously monitored to maintain safe production.

  4. Sustainable Mining
    The Canadian government imposes very strict regulations to protect the environment and wildlife. Before any mining activities, studies are done to see how they would impact the air, water, people in the community, and local flora and fauna.

  5. Fully Traceable
    The journey of a diamond—from the mine to your finger—is tracked at every stage. This way, you can be sure of its authenticity.

Why Are Canadian Diamonds More Expensive?

Canadian diamonds are about 10%–20% more expensive than a similar quality diamond mined elsewhere. This is due to several reasons.

  1. Harsh Mining Conditions
    Mining in the Arctic is very difficult. For example, there are no roads to access the remote mines in the Northwest Territories. Every winter, ice roads are built over the frozen lakes to support the equipment and trucks. They only last about 6–8 weeks before melting, and after that, access can be done only by air.

  2. High Operating Costs
    Operating in the frozen tundra costs a lot. There needs to be special equipment and machinery. And mines need to provide housing for their workers since their locations are so remote.

  3. Tariffs
    The Canadian government imposes high taxes on diamond mining companies.

  4. Tracking Process
    Since every step of the tracking process is audited, this incurs extra cost.

These costs are often passed on to the customers. The retailer makes that decision. To some people, the higher price tag is justified because they know that the diamond is mined as ethically as possible.

Are Canadian Diamonds Really More Beautiful?

There's a common belief that diamonds from the Artic are more pure, beautiful, and brilliant.

However, this belief is just due to great marketing. Some jewelers may even tell you a Canadian diamond is better because they want to sell you a more expensive diamond.

Just like diamonds mined from other regions, Canadian diamonds come in all sorts of qualities. They're not physically any different than other diamonds.

A diamond's quality and value is determined by its 4Cs (cut, carat, color, and clarity)—NOT by origin. Two 1-carat, VS2, H, Excellent cut diamonds will be identical and the same quality whether they come from Canada or Russia or Botswana.

As for a diamond's beauty, this mainly comes down to the cut. A well-cut diamond will reflect more light, and, therefore, appear brighter and more beautiful. On the other hand, a poorly cut diamond will appear dull. No matter where the diamond comes from, its final beauty will depend on the skill of the cutter.

How Are Canadian Diamonds Certified?

How can you really be sure that your diamond is from Canada?

Not all Canadian diamonds are officially certified. Some retailers and suppliers guarantee the diamond's Canadian origin themselves, but there may be no proof.

To really know that your diamond is Canadian, it needs to be 100% traceable—from the mine to the retailer. A true Canadian diamond should have:

  • Certificate of Origin
  • Unique Diamond Identification Number
  • Laser Inscription
  • Independent Grading Report (such as from GIA)

The unique serial number allows you to trace the diamond's entire journey from the mine to the retailer. Every step of the way should be tracked and audited.

Did you know? Diamonds are certified as Canadian as long as they're mined from Canada. But they don't need to be cut in Canada. Most diamonds mined in Canada are cut and polished in other countries, such as India, China, Vietnam, Belgium, and Israel. As long as there is a tracking system and audit trail, the diamond is still considered a Canadian diamond.

There are several certification programs that verify authentic Canadian diamonds, including:

  • Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct
    Sets a standard for the handling, packaging, storage, and marking of diamonds from the point they leave the mine. Authenticated diamonds mean that the Code requirements have been met.

  • Canadamark
    An independent verification program that certifies diamonds mined from the Ekati and Diavik Mines.

  • GNWT Diamond Certification Program
    This program from the Government of the Northwest Territories certifies diamonds that are mined, cut, and polished in the Northwest Territories—making for truly 100% Canadian diamonds.

Note that these programs only guarantee the origin of the diamond. They're not a guarantee of quality. You will still have to look at the GIA grading report for quality.

Where to Buy Canadian Diamonds

Where Else Can You Buy Ethical Diamonds?

If you are a truly socially conscious shopper (and that's great!), there are other options for ethical diamonds.

  • Buy diamonds from Fair Areas
    Canada isn't the only country with more socially responsible mining. The governments in Botswana and Namibia also impose labor and environmental requirements in mines.

  • Lab-created Diamonds: Instead of being mined from the Earth, these diamonds grow in a lab. They're environmentally friendly and are made in safe labs with fair wages. As a bonus, they often cost less than mined diamonds.

  • Brilliant Earth
    All diamonds and gemstones from Brilliant Earth are mined ethically. It also has large selections of lab-created diamonds and recycled diamonds. Proceeds from every sale are donated to help provide economic development in diamond mining areas in Africa.

Bottom Line

Aside from being responsibly sourced and traceable, Canadian diamonds are no different than other diamonds. Whether it's right for you depends on your personal values.

While diamond mining cannot be 100% green, we do applaud the higher standards set by the Canadian government to make it as ethical as possible. If this is something really close to your heart, you may feel the higher price tag is justified.

However, it's NOT true that Canadian diamonds are more beautiful. No matter the origin, a diamond's quality depends on the grading. So if your main goal is to get the best diamond possible on your budget, then it's silly to pay more for origin.

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Brilliant Earth

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Shop for diamonds at Brilliant Earth, a CreditDonkey recommended partner for socially-responsible diamonds.

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