The world of sustainability has grown significantly over the past few decades as individuals, companies, and governments race to reverse the damage of climate change. This has resulted in many technological advancements that create a domino effect of continued change and hope.
One such advancement was prompted by the startup Aether Diamonds, which brings a unique approach to the carbon capture industry that isn't common. Typically, companies aim to find unique ways to remove atmospheric carbon and store it in a suitable source within carbon capture. With Aether Diamonds, they predominately focus on the latter half of that process, with their carbon storage of choice being diamonds.
Down to the Nitty Gritty
Aether was founded in 2018 with the goal of direct air capture. Today, their plan includes capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and using them to create diamonds, which can then be sold and used to help support the carbon capture industry.
The company purchases captured air from the widely-known Climeworks, based out of Switzerland. Aether then ships that air to the United States, where it undergoes a slew of processing and converts it into high purity methane (CH4). The methane is then sent through a diamond reactor, where it goes through more processing and eventual growth, resulting in a diamond by-product.
These newly manufactured diamonds are then shipped off to India. They will undergo refinement that includes cutting and polishing before being sent back to the United States to be sold in New York City.
So far, the company states that they began providing their diamonds for sale in mid-2021 and expect to have even a more extensive inventory this year due to improved processing and company growth.
Aether suggests "that each carat sold equals 20 metric tons of CO2 taken from the atmosphere, using a mix of direct air capture and other carbon removal methods that involve long-term carbon sequestration, which could offset the average American's carbon footprint by 1.25 years."
The company also claims that the lab-grown diamonds are done with alternative energies that help lower their environmental footprint and have recently been granted a B Corp certification for their social and environmental performance.
A Dark History
There is far more to diamonds than meets the eye. One of the earliest records of diamonds can be found as far back as the first century A.C.E, when Roman naturalist Pliny said, "Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones but of all things in this world."
Today, a similar sentiment remains, with many places in the Western World holding diamonds to a level of luxury and exclusivity. Diamonds have even reached a level of desire as the go-to choice for special occasions, such as engagement and wedding rings.
Though the diamond has ebbed and flowed throughout history due to current times and societal wealth, this iteration of gems saw a rise during the mid-20th century in Hollywood. During this period, the diamond would see a considerable surge in marketing from movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, which featured the infamous diamond store, Tiffany's, and Gentleman’s Prefer Blonde, where the famous Marylin Monroe sang the song Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.
This period in time was a turning point for the stone, as it became more and more desirable amongst everyday people who were now clinging to the luxurious feel and namesake behind diamonds.
Before a diamond makes it to the customer or even reseller, it must go through quite the process of mining and refining with more times than not, resulting in inhumane workplaces for the miners.
Diamonds form roughly 100 miles underground as a result of intense heat and pressure. They must then be mined by people who often must do so in unethical conditions that have only recently reached mainstream knowledge.
As a result of the growing awareness of their unscrupulous source, there has been a surge in lab-created diamonds. These manmade gems were once -and by some still are- considered to be of lesser value than natural diamonds. However, due to the awareness of this unethical sourcing and the rise of environmental consciousness, many people have leaned toward purchasing lab-created diamonds over their natural counterparts.
Nevertheless, alternatives to natural diamonds can help save lives and improve working conditions due to supply and demand. Companies such as Aether Diamonds finding a practical way to store carbon that can help support the industry and make another industry more humane, shows that there is still an array of possibilities due to ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance.