A Review of Brilliant Earth: Expensive But Worth It?

Brilliant Earth’s unique selling proposition is its ethically and responsibly sourced diamonds. Brilliant Earth claims that all their diamonds come from ethical mines. This means,(among other things), that the mines treat their workers properly and that they work to prevent harm to the environment. Additionally, they offer recycled and lab-created diamonds, which are environmentally friendly. Read any number of Brilliant Earth reviews and they will all mention these facts. However, they also tend to mention that Brilliant Earth is more expensive than other online jewellery retailers. So the question is, is the price worth it? Let’s look critically at Brilliant Earth and find out.


Are Their Diamonds Really Ethically and Responsibly Sourced?


Brilliant Earth claims that their diamonds meet 5 important criteria:

  1. They are not conflicted diamonds, meaning they aren’t used to finance civil wars.

  2. They come from mines without human rights abuses.

  3. They are mined in a way that is environmentally responsible.

  4. The mines that supply them use fair labour practices.

  5. The mines they work with are involved in community development initiatives.


Brilliant Earth offers five categories of diamonds, each of which are said to adhere to the ethical criteria listed above. These categories are diamonds purchased in Botswana and sourced from DeBeers, Canadian diamonds, Russian diamonds, recycled diamonds, and lab-created diamonds.


The DeBeers sourced diamonds pose a particular problem. How is a consumer to know whether the suppliers DeBeers works with actually follow these ethical criteria? Brilliant Earth doesn’t have paid inspectors to continually oversee their supplier’s inventories. While they claim to audit their suppliers, they aren’t clear about the extent of these audits or whether the suppliers are aware of the audits ahead of time. Furthermore, audits are events that take place at singular times, they can’t represent the reality of ongoing business. Therefore, Brilliant Earth must depend on the honesty of their suppliers. And ipso facto, so to must the consumer assume honesty on the part of Brilliant Earth and its suppliers.


Canadian diamonds are inscribed and tracked from the mine to the store. This means that they can be reliably traced to a mine that follows the ethical criteria. However, not all Canadian diamonds have this inscription and tracking protocol. Only CanadaMark diamonds follow this procedure. Additionally, the rules for tracking these diamonds are set out by the Canadian Diamonds Code of Conduct (CDCC). Unfortunately, while Brilliant Earth lists Canadian diamonds, they don’t sell the CanadaMark brand. Therefore, Canadian diamonds fall into the same box as DeBeers diamonds whereby the consumer must put blind trust in Brilliant Earth and its suppliers.


Russian diamonds are also problematic. Alrosa is a group of diamond mining companies in Russia that owns 95% of the market share of Russia’s diamond production. Additionally, it is 77% owned by various Russian government entities. So essentially, this money is going to Vladimir Putin who is famous for his human rights abuses.


The only Brilliant Earth diamonds that can be wholly trusted as ethically sourced are their recycled diamonds and their lab-created diamonds. Recycled diamonds are not only ethical but they are environmentally friendly as well. However, Brilliant Earth sells recycled diamonds for almost as much, if not more than a new diamond. One would think that a recycled diamond should cost less. For example a 0.70ct I SI1 diamond sells on Brilliant Earth for $2480, whereas on the site Blue Nile, the same quality diamond sells for $1548.


Lab-created diamonds are diamonds that have the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as an earth-mined diamond but they were grown in a controlled lab environment. Lab-created diamonds are not unique to Brilliant Earth. The only reason to buy a lab-created diamond from Brilliant Earth is that you can customize the shape, cut, carat, colour and clarity of the diamond you want, as well as choose the setting you prefer. Brilliant Earth has a very fine selection of engagement ring settings, which is why you might choose them. However, other sites offer lab-created diamonds of comparable quality and choice at a lesser cost.


Is the Price Worth It?


We come back now to our original question, is the price worth it? Brilliant’s Earth’s unique value lies in its claims that its diamonds are ethically and responsibly sourced. However, we have shown that these claims depend on the consumer’s belief in the trustworthiness of Brilliant Earth’s suppliers. This is because there is no reliable way to prove that the diamonds come from where the suppliers say they come from. This take-our-word-for-it protocol leaves much to be desired. Therefore, with no evidence proving the diamonds are in fact ethically sourced, the price is too high. That being said, Brilliant Earth does offer a variety of vintage settings that would be hard to find elsewhere. In this case, the price of one-of-a-kind jewellery is worth it.


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