Canada boasts some of the wildest and most punishing environments in the world – but also some of the most beautiful. From frozen lakes and snow covered mountains to acres of forest, prairies, and wetland, it offers a glimpse of an ancient world – and its creations.
True, when we think of the diamond world, we think of Botswana’s sprawling Orapa mine, or of the hard, permafrost landscape of Yakutia in the Russian far east. For many of us, it’s easy to think of the world’s diamond resources as remote from us – parts of landscapes that would be, in some way or another, unfamiliar. The jewelry store feels a world away from the images we see of colossal mines tunnelling down (seemingly) into the center of the earth, after all.
In many cases, this is true. Botswana and Russia represent two of the largest producers of rough diamond, and countless shoppers who reside on the other side of the world carry small pieces of those unique landscapes on their fingers, wrists, and necks.
In others, however, it’s totally false. These days, diamond mining in Canada grown into a major industry, and the diamonds represent a particularly popular choice among shoppers who want to ensure that their stone has been mined and cut according to a high standard for ethics and sustainability.
As in the case of any diamond on the planet today, Canada’s diamonds rely on the strength and fortitude of those who mine them. Brought into some of the most hostile climactic conditions imaginable, where snow and ice and darkness oversee a barely habitable landscape, these diamonds represent a feat of human ingenuity and modern mining methods.
Recent years have seen Canada diamonds undergo a meteoric rise in terms of popularity, but the general population only received confirmation of their existence a little over thirty years ago. Their existence is, however, thought to have been known by indigenous groups.
While preliminary geological investigations of the area De Beers had sparked that initial wave of interest in the country’s diamond mining potential (signs of volcanic deposits that so often accompany kimberlite, a rock often interspersed with rough diamond) it wasn’t until 1989 when the first kimberlite pipe was found by two geologists: Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson.
A kimberlite pipe is a little like an inverted cone, with the narrowest point buried deep under the earth’s surface. From these pipes, kimberlite ore can be extracted and, from that, rough diamond.
More kimberlite pipes were found and, accordingly, more and more mines were created close to the turn of the century. Some of these mines were tucked away in remote corners of the Canadian wilderness, and became accessible only by air or ice road, open for just a fraction of each year.
From the moment the diamond industry’s interest turned in Canada’s direction, the country has stipulated some of the most stringent rules in the world for the ethical treatment of indigenous groups living in the area surrounding these mines, and of the environment itself. From local flora and fauna to entire communities, the emphasis was placed squarely on sustainable and ethical practices from the very beginning.
This is one possible reason why so many consumers look specifically to Canadian diamonds. As a relative newcomer, and one that did not go through the same political struggles that some of the world’s prominent producers went through in the past, it feels like a ‘safer’ choice for ensuring an ethical choice.
Canada’s pre-existing labor laws provided a strong footing for the fledgling diamond industry back in the 1990s and early 2000s – not to mention their dedication to preserving the country’s unique and, at times, vulnerable landscapes, and cultural groups.
The introduction of diamond mining into Canada was not without its ethical quandaries. For instance, the caribou population – something indigenous groups rely on quite significantly for meat – is thought to have been impacted severely by the production of mining-related dust, since it disrupts the balance of local flora that the caribou feeds on. Similar impacts have been felt by other species that are important for Canada’s bionetwork, and aquatic life, but ongoing work is being done to ensure greater protective measures for the environment.
Canada is, in other words, tackling many of the same issues felt in any other country with a significant diamond output: contamination, displacement, environmental changes and declining animal populations.
Nevertheless, the country has been working to counteract those impacts since commercial mining began – and, thankfully, the relative newness of Canada’s diamond industry meant that it had better technologies and information at its disposal to safeguard from the very beginning.
In 2019, Canada accounted for around 12.5% of the world’s production by value, making it the third largest producer behind Botswana (2nd) and Russia (1st), and a major source of economical growth over the past fifteen to twenty years.
Much of its production is centered around the Northwest Territories, with its largest mine, Daivik, employing around 1,000 workers and covering approximately 7km2. Ongoing work is being done to create opportunities for indigenous peoples to benefit from the economical growth brought by diamonds.
The popularity of Canadian diamonds stems almost entirely from their traceability, and the robust rules surrounding their production. While a number of other countries around the world have amended their approach to diamond mining over the years, Canada started off differently and, for that reason, proves popular among consumers.
For this reason, Canadian diamonds are often marketed as ‘Canadian diamonds’ – and sold at a slightly higher price than diamonds sourced from other parts of the world. While reputable sellers will always be aware of their diamonds’ origins, it’s less common for them to market them as specifically Namibian diamonds or Botswanan diamonds.
Of course, there are plenty of ethical diamond sources outside of Canada, but the unique way in which Canadian diamond mining came into being means that it represents a pretty obvious choice for many consumers
In 2020, a flawless 102 carat diamond mined from a Canadian mine – and originally 271 carats when rough – was sold at an international auction for an incredible $15.7 million. While it’s not the largest diamond to be found in North America, its flawlessness meant that it gripped headlines.
In general, Canadian diamonds are known for their low fluorescence and good clarity – although, as with any other of the world’s diamond sources, there will always be a lot of variation between any rough diamond brought to the earth’s surface.
The only difference between a Canadian mined diamond and a diamond mined elsewhere is the fact of its origins – the measures in place to protect the workers and the environment involved along the way.
Sure, Canadian diamonds might be known for their low fluorescence, but a Botswanan diamond with the same level of fluorescence (and cut, color, clarity, and carat weight) won’t be distinguishable from the Canadian diamond without an origin report.
Not necessarily. While Canadian diamonds are subject to some high standards for protecting the environment and those living and working in the area, plenty of other countries responsible for producing diamonds also impose high standards on their industry leaders.
Remember that it isn’t a case of Canada’s approach to diamond mining, and then the rest of the world. Every country takes its own approach to diamond production, which means that Canadian diamonds are not the only ethical choice.
Canadian diamond mining still causes some concerns for Canada’s environment. These issues are, of course, being addressed very rapidly to ensure that the least impact possible is made on the planet, much like it is in a number of other countries.
Any shopper who makes the decision to home in on Canadian diamonds will inevitably run up against the name ‘Canadamark’ sooner or later. As more and more shoppers become aware of the long journey that diamonds make from the earth to the jewelry store, brands that push for greater transparency are growing increasingly popular.
We’ve already touched on the fact that the popularity of Canadian diamonds largely stems from the fact that shoppers feel that they offer more guarantees of fairness, safety, and environmental concern than they do when diamonds come from countries still, to some extent, tarnished by the legacy of blood diamonds. While the overwhelming majority of African diamond-producing countries have totally transformed their diamond industries (and others, like Botswana, never experienced that conflict in the first place), Canadian diamonds still have a certain edge for shoppers who haven’t looked deeper into the subject.
This is where a name like Canadamark comes into the picture. They are an authority in the diamond industry – a familiar name that tells shoppers exactly where their diamond came from, and that its journey was overseen by someone they can trust…
A Canadamark diamond has been mined from one of a small number of Canadian diamond mines overseen by the Arctic Diamond Mining Company.
It was previously known as Dominion Diamond Corporation, until it was eventually acquired and renamed by The Washington Companies. The Washington Companies have a big stake in the diamond world, having once owned Harry Winston, Inc. – a luxury retailer on a par with Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tiffany & Co. While ownership passed to another buyer in 2013, The Washington Companies’ involvement in luxury gemstones continued.
The label Canadamark was first introduced in the early 2000s, when consumers grew significantly more aware of the dubious histories behind many diamonds produced in countries experiencing civil unrest. Of course, this is also the time when the Kimberley Process was first established – and, ultimately, when the diamond world started to augment its efforts against blood/conflict diamonds.
So, what does it mean for a diamond to be ‘Canadamark’? It means that these diamonds are traceable straight back to the source. They are mined from one of a limited number of locations in Canada – locations that are subject to Arctic Diamond Mining Company’s own standards and regulations for its workers and the environment.
The diamonds are inscribed with Canadamark’s branding (and a unique serial number) along the girdle to assure buyers that they are genuine Canadamark diamonds – a big selling point for anyone under the impression that ethical diamonds are in the minority.
Canadian diamonds in general are more expensive than diamonds imported from further afield.
In fact, diamonds sourced from Canada can be between 10-20% more expensive, simply because shoppers who have not done their research consider it the ‘safest bet’ to avoid unfair or harmful working conditions. It’s certainly understandable why they feel this way, but research is easy these days – easier than paying above the odds.
That’s not to say that Canadamark diamonds aren’t what Arctic Diamond Mining Company say they are. Canadian mines are subject to some incredibly high standards – but they’re not alone in that. Canadamark is backed by an effective marketing strategy, and, for that reason, it gets to charge shoppers a premium.
Canadamark does not have any showrooms or stores of its own; instead, a number of retailers stock Canadamark diamonds.
In 2017, James Allen became Canadamark’s exclusive online retailer but, since then, a number of other big name retailers have started to stock them too. Stuller, for instance, stocks Canadamark diamonds.
There are, however, different ways for retailers to convey a philosophy of fairness and environmental concern to their customers. As one example, Tiffany & Co. clearly state the origins of their diamonds – a practice they began back in 2019, making them the first luxury jeweler to specific the origin of any diamond above 0.18 carats in weight that they sold from any of their stores.
Countless small-scale jewelers up and down the country – and, for that matter, around the world – have been offering a similar level of traceability to customers, and with the global diamond industry now stronger than ever against crime and exploitation, finding an ethical diamond is easier than ever before.
No, Canadian diamonds are generally more expensive than diamonds sourced from other parts of the world.
It can be tricky to draw up direct comparisons, however, as you would need to find two diamonds with the exact same characteristics – both graded by the same lab (preferably the GIA, or you can’t depend on that lab’s ability to remain consistent).
There is a very good reason why Canadian diamonds are so highly regarded on the global market: the country’s entire industry has been built according to rigid rules and codes of conducts that were specifically written to preserve its natural landscapes – the very landscapes that gave rise to the country’s diamonds in the first place – and the people living within them.
It’s commendable, and a great way of ensuring that the diamond you buy has not left a negative mark on the world since the moment it was brought to the surface.
As consumers, however, it is important to remember that Canada’s strengths do not represent another country’s weaknesses, and that Canadian diamonds do not represent the only moral choice.
In countries all around the world, diamonds are being mined, and environments are being cared for. True, there is more work to be done to ensure that humans, animals, and plants are able to thrive, unhindered by diamond mining, but the same can be said to some extent for Canada.
At WillYou.com, we are passionate about ensuring that shoppers can find diamond experts who are as committed to sourcing their diamonds ethically – whether from Canada, Botswana, Russia, Angola or anywhere else – as they are. You can use our Jewelry Store Locator to ensure that you are putting your trust in the right place.