Jewellery

SkyDiamond creates sustainable diamonds mined from the sky

You've heard of growing diamonds in a lab, but what about the sky? Dale Vince OBE, founder of SkyDiamond, speaks on the future of the industry and his vision of a zero-impact diamond that gives back more than its takes from the planet

by Rachael Taylor

Diamonds are changing. Once, these glistening hunks of carbon had to be dug up from deep within the earth, where they were formed by way of incredible forces of heat and pressure millions of years ago. Now, you can grow them in a lab, and even, as one British producer is doing, mine them from the sky. 

This is not to say that the clouds are littered with diamonds, ripe for the picking, of course. Instead, what SkyDiamond is doing is using the carbon it extracts from the air as the starter seed to grow a man-made diamond.

Lily Cole for SkyDiamond photographed by Rankin

“We use technology from Switzerland to take CO2 from the atmosphere and that is our starting place,” explains SkyDiamond founder Dale Vince OBE, who is a well-known eco-entrepreneur. “We then have a sequence of gas production to make it suitable to feed into our ‘diamond ovens’ or furnaces. Everything we need to create a SkyDiamond comes from the sky: the carbon it’s made from is taken from the atmosphere; wind and sun provide all our energy; and we use rainwater. The only thing we put back into the world is cleaner air than we took out.”

SkyDiamonds

SkyDiamond is under no illusion that its products are helping to clean up the atmosphere in any meaningful way; the amount of carbon it is collecting is miniscule, but the message is powerful. Vince is not a jeweller after a quick greenwash for his products, he is a staunch environmentalist, having founded what claims to be the world’s first green energy supplier, Ecotricity, in 1995. 

He has since amassed a fortune that was at one point estimated to be in excess of £100 million, and has put it to good use. In 2015, he used his influence as the UK’s wealthiest green energy businessman to lobby Labour, to which he is a major donor, to implement a cow tax to reduce beef consumption, alongside other suggestions on how to lower our carbon footprint. He also bought football Forest Green as a vehicle to take his environmental message to a new audience, implementing changes such as vegan-only catering and an organic pitch tended by solar-powered windmills.

Dale Vince OBE, founder of SkyDiamond

“Nothing about diamonds per se was interesting to us,” says Vince of his motivation to create SkyDiamond. “The project started as a thought doodle about removing carbon from the atmosphere, then realising that’s only half the job… it needs locking into a permanent form – and the diamond is the most permanent form that we know of. The idea was born from that.”

That is not to say he’s not serious about the project. The laboratory in Stroud is producing small batches of diamonds – about 100cts per month – that are being released in drops. The first was in December, consisting of 30 lab-grown diamonds, and SkyDiamond claims these loose stones sold out in six hours. A pop up followed in April at Selfridges, as part of the London department store’s SuperFutures project that celebrated products that could change how we live in the future. 

Lily Cole for SkyDiamond photographed by Rankin

SkyDiamond has also teamed with fashion photographer Rankin to create a campaign starring model Lily Cole, who is known for her environmental activism. “Diamonds are synonymous with beauty, but for many years, the mining of jewels has been a very ugly business,” says Cole. “Skydiamond blew my mind when I first learned about them: we can mine the sky, turning an existential problem into this coveted thing of beauty. They represent the perfect metaphor of how we ought to be evolving every industry in the face of the climate crisis: carbon negative by design; a solution rather than a problem.” 

Just as the process behind the creation of SkyDiamond lab-grown diamonds turned Cole’s head, Vince believes his gems could attract a whole new audience not yet under the spell of traditional diamonds. “[The first stones] were all bought by people wanting to make an ethical purchase; some of them would not normally buy a diamond but we are offering them something new,” says Vince. The next drop of loose SkyDiamonds, which are identical in price to mined diamonds of a comparable quality, is coming in July.

Dale Vince OBE, founder of SkyDiamond

There has been much debate within the jewellery world as to where lab-grown diamonds should sit. Some argue that they are a tech product, likely to have a value that descends rather than follows the long-term ascension of finite natural diamonds. As such, some believe these stones have a value as a fashion product. Or as a purely ethical alternative to mined stones; although it is important to note that not all lab-grown diamonds are produced to the same environmental standards as some labs produce a lot of energy that is not offset. Those considering a lab-grown diamond for this reason should seek out carbon-neutral diamonds, or those certified by the SCS-007 standard for sustainability. 

I ask Vince where he sees his lab-grown diamonds, and he believes they are bound for luxury jewellery creations. “The way we make our diamonds is so very special,” he says. “It will be different for your average lab grown.”

Indeed, his methods have caught the eye of jeweller Stephen Webster MBE, who was the first person in the jewellery world Vince ever spoke to about his idea. The pair have continued to talk for the past few years, and now are inching closer to the release of a collection of Stephen Webster jewellery set with SkyDiamonds, which Vince says has “moved from R&D into production”, although he declined to give an exact date for the launch. 

Lily Cole for SkyDiamond photographed by Rankin

“I cannot remember a time in my life where a gem has not been dug out of the ground,” comments Webster. “This already is extraordinary – but when you add into the mix that a gem has come from the sky by a carbon-negative process that transmutes atmospheric carbon, it is truly exceptional – an innovation and product we are excited to collaborate with.”

Like this? Mona Akhavi of Vrai tells us why lab-grown diamonds are the sustainable choice