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What is Brilliant Earth? Here’s what you should know about the ethically sourced jewelry brand

Shop conflict-free diamonds, recycled diamonds, recycled gold, and more.

An image of a woman with two diamond rings on her fingers, one on her ring finger. Credit: Brilliant Earth

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Selecting an engagement ring or wedding band can seem like a monumental task. From pricing to materials to the diamond itself, there's so much thought that goes into this often costly decision. In recent years, we've seen heightened demand on sustainability in the engagement ring space—lab-grown diamonds have grown more popular, as have "conflict-free" diamonds.

We've combed through the best places to buy engagement rings online and one of the most popular retailers is Brilliant Earth, which offers sustainable, conflict-free diamonds and engagement rings made with recycled precious metals. It also offers online tools—like virtual appointments and jewelry consultations—that can help buyers whittle down their selection and make informed choices when buying engagement rings.

We looked deeper to see what Brilliant Earth does and what they claim to do to reduce harm within the diamond and jewelry industries.

What does Brilliant Earth offer?

Brilliant Earth is home to engagement rings, wedding rings and wedding bands, fine jewelry, custom-made rings, gemstone rings, and more. You can build your own wedding band or diamond ring, or shop the selection of pre-made options, as well as diamond- and gemstone-studded fine jewelry made with ethically sourced or recycled gold.

As part of its ethos, Brilliant Earth professes a commitment to "cultivate a more transparent, sustainable and compassionate jewelry industry" by providing access to Beyond Conflict Free diamonds (more on that later), recycled diamonds, sustainably rated lab diamonds, and more.

What does 'ethically sourced jewelry' mean?

An image of two diamond rings.
Credit: Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth released a Sustainability Report outlining their committment to ethically sourced diamonds.

From diamonds to gold, the jewelry industry has long been a source of human rights abuses and environmental destruction, from funding conflict to polluting ecosystems. ‘Ethically sourced’ in a jewelry context refers to the adherence to strict regulations that prevent the exploitation of workers and the environment where diamonds and other minerals are being mined. In addition, diamonds that are conflict-free are diamonds that have been mined without contributing to the finance of violence.

What ethical practices does Brilliant Earth employ?

An image of two engagement rings from Brilliant Earth in gold settings, one with an attachable wedding band.
Credit: Brilliant Earth

What does it mean to wear Beyond Conflict Free diamonds?

In terms of Brilliant Earth's "Beyond Conflict Free" approach to diamonds, the company says it aims for diamond-mining practices that are conflict-free. It also claims to offer workers protections and safe labor practices, claims to minimize environmental degradation, and says it supports community development. All Beyond Conflict Free diamonds are sourced from either Canada, Botswana, South Africa, or Namibia, and undergo strict tracking protocol.

Recently, Brilliant Earth released its 2020-2021 Sustainability Report, highlighting the brand's commitment to transparency, fair labor, and sustainable materials. The report had a few highlights, among them:

  • Adherence to the standards set by the Responsible Jewellery Council and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, as well as the use of Sustainability Accounting Standards Board framework to determine the brand's operational sustainability
  • Specific outlining of the Supplier Code of Conduct
  • Carbon-free certifications and vendor certifications

One of the biggest updates to the Brilliant Earth catalog is the arrival of blockchain-enabled diamonds. Brilliant Earth partners with Everledger, a company that employs blockchain-based technology to track the gemstones' origins and verify the use of sustainable practices. Blockchain technology and processes can utilize a large quantity of energy and resources, however, so it's difficult to say whether the tracking and transparency provided by the blockchain technology in this case is actually sustainable.

Brilliant Earth is also home to recycled diamonds, which have been mined, cut, and polished previously and are being repurposed for new wearers.

In addition to sourcing sustainable, ethical jewels, Brilliant Earth works to primarily utilize recycled gold and responsibly sourced precious metals. Brilliant Earth has an outlined recycled metals policy, which details the various organizations that it works with to source metal, including the Responsible Minerals Initiative and more. Gold fine jewelry is made with 93% recycled gold and silver fine jewelry is made with 99.8% recycled silver.

Even with protocols in place, it can be incredibly difficult to ensure that diamonds, especially, are entirely conflict-free and sustainable. From its various initiatives, as well as the Sustainability Report, it appears that Brilliant Earth tries to navigate the ethical landscape of diamond jewelry in various ways, and is consistently updating its processes to adapt to new developments.

Brilliant Earth also partners with Fairmined, a company that supports community wellbeing and environmental legacy within the global mining community.

Are Brilliant Earth diamonds real?

Short answer: yes. Brilliant Earth sources 'real' (i.e., not lab-made, though lab-made diamonds are also considered 'real' diamonds and cannot be differentiated by the naked eye) diamonds that adhere to the Beyond Conflict Free standards. It also sources 'real' recycled diamonds, which are either in original condition or re-polished and re-graded.

What's the difference between lab diamonds and natural diamonds?

Beyond their source, the goal with lab diamonds is that they resemble natural, or organic, mined diamonds, as closely as possible. Lab-grown diamonds are made almost entirely of carbon, and carry the same physical properties as mined diamonds. Lab diamonds can also come in different colors, and Brilliant Earth has upward of 300 colorful lab diamond options available.

Lab-made diamonds are not, by virtue of not having been mined, necessarily sustainable. Brilliant Earth works to create sustainably rated lab diamonds, meaning that the diamonds themselves are created with technology and processes that prioritize climate neutrality and clean energy.

How does Brilliant Earth help customers select diamonds?

If you're shopping for diamonds, you can start by determining where you'd like your rock to fall within the realm of cut, color, clarity, and carat—will the diamond be round, oval, or pear-shaped, which carat count do you prefer, and so on. You can explore the Brilliant Earth diamond education guide to learn more. After that, you have a few more decisions to make; do you want an engagement ring that utilizes lab diamonds, do you have preferences on your ring setting, etc.

Brilliant Earth makes it very easy to design jewelry to your exact specifications, too. You can start with a setting or a diamond and build out your creation from there, sorting by style, diamond shape, diamond type, and more. In almost any of their engagement ring and wedding band categories, you can make adjustments by adding engravings.

If you or your partner aren't certain of your ring size, you can learn how to measure yours with our guide.

What happens after you buy with Brilliant Earth?

If you are unhappy with your Brilliant Earth order, you can return your Brilliant Earth purchases within 30 days, for an exchange or full refund. You can also resize your purchase within 60 days for free. In the event that your purchase was a custom-designed piece, modified, engraved, or resized, you cannot return the purchase.

Brilliant Earth has flexible payment options and insurance options as well. Otherwise, keep your jewelry clean to ensure that it lasts.

Shop for diamonds engagement rings, recycled diamonds, fine jewelry, and more at Brilliant Earth

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.