As ethical problems within the clothing industry continue to be a source of controversy, you may not have realized that your jewelry could be just as problematic for both the environment and those who work on sourcing the raw materials. The negative consequences of diamond mining have been widely reported, including devastating deforestation and soil erosion, poor treatment of laborers, as well as the issue of conflict diamonds — all of which has made the industry unsustainable and difficult to know what how to buy jewelry ethically.
Fortunately, changing how you shop for jewelry can ensure you’re not contributing to these problems. More consumers seek ethical alternatives in jewelry, which openly aims to have zero negative impact on the staff involved and the environment in which it is produced. Accessories like rings, necklaces, and earrings aren’t sustainable in the same way that a renewable food source is — after all, you can’t replant gold or other precious metals. Here are three ways you can do your part to buy ethical jewelry.
Look for ethically-sourced jewels.
Shop for jewelry featuring ethically-sourced diamonds and gemstones. Most importantly, you should be sure that your jeweler does not trade in conflict diamonds (also known as blood diamonds). These often originate in war-torn areas and are traded illegally, with the money made from selling them going to fund civil unrest in the stones’ countries of origin.
A popular alternative to these are lab-grown diamonds, which as many as 70% of millennials consider purchasing. These look identical to their natural counterparts but pose no risk to the environment or the workers involved in their production. Natural gems that adhere to the Kimberley Process are an excellent option and come with certification, which ensures that these exported diamonds are conflict-free.
Both options are being embraced by jewelers, who are keen to make their supply chains more sustainable. Taylor & Hart argue that, while the Kimberley Process helps, more can be done to circumvent the technology limitations to ensure that only ethically-sourced jewelry enters the market. They tackle this by working with Everledger, who use blockchain to follow each stone on its journey to the consumer, with a full report available to them on request. They note that this not only emphasizes sustainability but “would also eliminate the demand for paper-based reporting using smart digital contracts instead — simultaneously eliminating the risk of tampering.”
Re-purpose old jewelry
The best jewelry will be worn and loved for years, but many pieces lie untouched for years in jewelry boxes. Next time you want to buy a brand new accessory, see if you can re-purpose something that you already own. For example, if you have a family heirloom that isn’t quite your style, extract the gemstones and reuse them elsewhere. However, you may want to ask other family members for permission first and seek a jeweler you trust to take on the project.
You could also have the gold from the band of a ring in your collection melted down and reset in a new style, or even use the stones for earrings, necklaces, and brooches. This not only allows you to transform an old piece into something even more beautiful but lets you help conserve the precious resources which go into creating jewelry in the first place.
Use recycled materials
Jewelry made from recycled materials has become very popular, and the trend is only growing. Matter Of Form has noted that consumers should “expect to see more jewelers shaking off the drab connotations of ‘recycling’ and elevating it to a luxury practice.” Many jewelers are also using recycled precious metals like gold and silver to create new designs, with many brands using their ethical credentials as a selling point.
Leading sustainable jeweler Arabel Lebrusan believes that there’s “enough metal above ground, we don’t need to keep mining for new metal and destroy the earth.” Melting down and reusing the material doesn’t affect the quality either, and not only gold but platinum and palladium can be melted down and reused.