Illustration: Nick Liefhebber
Aether uses CO2 sucked from the air to create their diamonds, providing the industry's most ethical alternative available to date.Spotted: Aether, a NYC-based startup, is creating what may be the world’s first carbon-negative diamonds.
From worker exploitation to deforestation and water pollution, traditional diamond mining is fraught with issues. Even lab-grown diamonds, which are marketed as a more ethical alternative, are typically made from fossil fuels.
Pioneering carbon-capture technology is used to pull C02 from the atmosphere, with multiple machines located on the rooftop of a power-generating waste incineration plant. After this, Aether refines it so that it can be used in a reactor and then turned into a diamond over the course of two or three weeks.
A two-carat Aether diamond can offset an impressive two and a half years’ worth of the average American’s emissions (on average, the carbon footprint in the U.S. is around 16 tons). However, the startup will incorporate the diamonds into a new line of fine jewellery with the aim to appeal to consumers based on design — not only because of their environmental message.
“We want to make sure that this is something that you’d buy on its face, just because of the way it looks, because of the way it makes you feel. The environmental element to this is really kind of the icing on the cake. Because at the end of the day, most Americans – most people in general – don’t know their carbon footprint,” said CEO Ryan Shearman.
Aether will start with limited production but believes the process will scale. The company will launch first with a waitlist and plans to begin selling products by the beginning of 2021.
From here onwards, every year there will be fewer and fewer diamonds produced through traditional mining methods. New mines are low in capacity, of short lifespan and are few in numbers. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, compared to around 50 active mines available for production today, approximately only 15 new mines are expected to become operational in the next 40 years. Whilst we have a declining supply of mined diamonds, there is a growing demand for diamonds in general. For companies such as Climeworks, diamonds offer a financially attractive market. However, direct air capture is still a costly way of capturing carbon -- particularly compared to planting trees. Subsidies and further technological investment are needed.
Written By: Katrina Lane
16th October 2020