The phrase “diamonds are forever” might be well known as the title of a James Bond film, but that statement is actually very true: these sparkling little bits of ultra-compressed carbon are among the hardest substances on the planet, and will last for centuries (millennia, even) if cared for properly. Did you know that there’s an entire industry devoted to pre-loved diamonds? These gems rarely depreciate in value, and for both monetary and ethical reasons, many people are now choosing to purchase recycled diamond jewelry; especially engagement rings. But what are the benefits of recycled diamonds? Why should they be preferred over “new” pieces?

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Used to mark life events like engagements, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and more, diamonds are glittering symbols of hope and everlasting love. They sparkle as though lit from within, and their beauty has been cherished for thousands of years. That said, although diamonds are eternal, the situations that herald their gifting don’t always follow suit—After a divorce, for example, a diamond ring can be a sad reminder of a relationship that didn’t last, and it may languish in a drawer for years. Meanwhile, to another person, that same ring could be a symbol of hope and promise. It may also be purchased at a more attainable price than “new” pieces, which can pose financial setbacks for younger folks who are just starting out.

We have no qualms about buying houses that others have lived in, but some may balk at the idea of wearing “someone else’s” diamond ring, which really makes no sense when you think about it. Pieces of jewelry are often passed from one generation to another, and it’s not unusual for people to have diamonds removed from Grandma’s old ring to be made into earrings or pendants for grandchildren, so that old piece can be born anew. The same can be said for pre-loved diamonds: whole rings are polished and revitalized before being resold, or gems can be taken from one piece and placed into another, so the ring being purchased is indeed unique, in its own way. Even better, these used gems carry stories of their own: they might have been the center of another’s love story, and are paving the way for a new one to unfold.

Some companies, such as WP Diamonds, buy diamonds directly from the public and specialize solely in the recycled diamond market. It’s nearly impossible to tell a recycled diamond from a newly mined one, but they can be polished up to look “good as new” before being resold.  The most common recycled diamonds come from unwanted rings, such as old engagement or wedding bands, and those who sell them can generally recieve 20-65 percent of what they originally paid for the piece, depending on the size and cut. If the average person spent the equivalent of three months’ salary on a ring, that’s a pretty decent return on what would otherwise just sit in a box somewhere.

With recycled diamonds, there’s also the reassurance that their purchase isn’t going to fund any wars in developing countries. Conflict diamonds (also known as “blood diamonds”) are often sourced from war-torn areas in Africa such as Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Angola, and The Republic of Congo, and both their extraction and their transport are linked to horrific acts of cruelty and abuse, especially towards child workers. These diamonds are often sold to finance civil wars, and thousands of people die every year thanks to the diamond trade alone, while wars fueled by diamonds have claimed the lives of over 3 million.

Related: Why Should You Care Where Your Diamond Comes From? 

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Even supposedly “ethically mined” diamonds aren’t truly green, as the extraction process always damages the environment. Diamonds are mined in the northern Canadian territories, for example, and although the mining practices there aren’t associated with human trafficking or bloodshed, there is massive environmental destruction: loss of habitat for numerous animals, water pollution—which affects indigenous peoples as well as wildlife—and an increase in greenhouse gases. Open pit mining, which is the most common type associated with diamond mining, disrupts migration routes for vital species, and heavy metals from waste water leeches into the local water table, which can cause illness in those living in surrounding areas.

In an era when most of us are doing our best to lead principled, eco-conscious lives, pre-loved diamonds are a great choice, and a smart investment. They’ll remain valuable and cherished for generations, and their owner(s) can feel good about the fact that they were purchased ethically, and with love. Meanwhile, those who wish to part with diamonds that they no longer have an attachment to can do so with confidence, knowing that they’ll be adored by others.

Images via Shutterstock

+ Why you should care where your diamond comes from

+ INFOGRAPHIC: Where do blood diamonds come from?

Blood diamonds, conflict diamonds, infographic, blood diamonds infographic