Jewelry sustainability is the process of making jewelry, using ethical materials, with the least negative impact on the environment and the people that make it.
Let’s check out what is being done and how the process has been documented.
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Jewelry Sustainability was the subject of the 2006 film ‘Blood Diamond’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
It brought to light the violation of human rights as well as the environmental destruction, connected with the extraction of diamonds to finance military rebels. Much has been written about the problems linked to gold mining.
The recent documentary film ‘Dying for Gold’, tells the story of mining in South Africa. It has increased awareness about the gold mining industry. Environmental connected diseases, such as Silicosis, linked to the mercury and cyanide used for separating minerals from the ore, have decimated generations of miners.
Eco-friendly jewelry is jewelry that has been sourced with the least possible negative impact on the environment and made, where possible, with conflict-free gemstones and materials that can be recycled.
Recycling reduces the need for newly mined metals unless they come from responsible mining.
Setting Sustainable Jewelry Standards
The Kimberley Process is a multilateral worldwide trade agreement, which was set up in 2003, to try and prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. Suppliers are required to be a member of the certified Jewellery council and to source from mine operators that follow internationally recognized labor, trade, and environmental standards.
Precious metals can normally be melted down and reused.
As reported by ’ The Alliance for responsible mining’ in 2017 just over 50% of gold, that went into jewelry manufacturing was from recycling old gold. According to their statistics and I quote, ”jewelry in Europe and North America does not need to use newly mined gold”.
Many brands use recycled gold. Check out this well-priced diamond bar ring ethically made in Ireland with recycled gold and hallmarked in Dublin Castle. It is set with four white lab-grown diamonds and is branded Edge Only founded by radio DJ Jenny Huston. It is available through Wolf & Badger
In fact, most of the gold that is mined industrially is used for other purposes-especially investment or financially related. However, small artisan gold mines still exist and give work to a lot of people, even though it accounts for only 15% of gold output.
Responsible Jewelry council
In this scenario, the Fairmined label was set up in 2004. It guarantees the source of origin and helps small mines, that supply the jewelry industry. It also guarantees livelihoods for the miners.
There is a case for jewelers to balance their gold buying between recycled gold and Fairmined gold. For example, in Eastern Congo, a group of women miners led by Kahambu Vaherenie have returned after the civil war and are being helped by a Canadian NGO called Impact which allows the women to sell their gold at a fair price.
How do we know if gold or diamonds come from ethically sourced mines? There are companies such as Haelixa which will create transparency by offering proof of origin of raw materials. The company is able to identify the specific mine or location of cutting and polishing.
Mining is often linked to exploitation and unethical practices but there is an alternative. The stones can also be lab-created whereby diamonds are created with the same physical and optical characteristics offering exceptional value. Today many brands offer these types of diamonds
Brilliant Earth, for example, was started in 2005 and was one of the first to raise the ethical standards of the diamond industry.
Check out this nature-inspired twisted vine engagement ring
For a short time, they have a promotion whereby if you spend over $1000 you will be gifted diamond earrings.
The company offers Beyond Conflict FreeTM Diamonds which are selected for their ethical and environmentally responsible origins.
Brilliant Earth is also the first jeweler to offer blockchain-enabled diamonds. To find out how this works check out this link from Trust Chain.
They also have a very clever system so it is easy to choose the type of diamond you are looking for as far as carat, cut, clarity, and color from the comfort of your own home so you can design your own ring.
Other jewelers offer recycled diamonds whereby the stones are re-cut and polished.
Training indigenous craftspeople to make Ethical Jewelry
Then there are Ethical Jewelry makers like London-based Pippa Small who has helped train and employ artisans and even refugees from third world countries. She collaborated with the world’s first registered Fairtrade gold mine in Bolivia and has helped women in Afghanistan, Kenya, and Burma develop skills in making jewelry.
In fact, she was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth for her services in promoting ethical jewelry. Others have found ways to give back to third-world miners and artisans, a small percentage of their profits.
Jewelry Sustainability: made in the USA
This is a growing, dynamic sector as environment-related questions touch more people.
To name just a few:
- Aide-memoire based in Seattle makes bespoke jewels using 100% recycled precious metals and ethical fair-trade, recycled or lab-grown diamonds.
- Able is an ethical fashion brand that employs women as a solution to end poverty. They make their jewels in Nashville.
- Brilliant Earth is based in San Francisco and has been creating ethically sourced jewelry since 2005
- Made Trade makes responsibly made jewels from minimalist bracelets to geometric necklaces.
- Washed Ashore is based in Los Angeles and is specialized in recycled metals and gemstones from vintage jewels.
Jewelry Sustainability: made in the UK
Monica Vinader is a UK-based contemporary demi-fine jewelry company making affordable jewels that have been made by ethically sourced family-owned manufacturers. They are specialized in Vermeil jewelry and belong to the Responsible Jewellery Council. The company supports charities that help women and children in third-world countries.
See my post “Demi-fine Jewelry Rings Women Should Wear in 2022”
Check out this 18ct Rose gold vermeil diamond ring which is responsibly manufactured using ethically sourced diamonds and recycled gold and silver. It is set with 57 sparkling diamonds totaling 0.17 carats.
Wild Fawn is a London-based ethical company that makes minimalist custom-made jewels using sterling silver and re-cycled 9 K gold.
Jewelry Sustainability: made in Italy
Not as developed as in other countries, there are however notable exceptions
Emi & Eve run by Cassandra Postema makes original pieces from brass that have been recuperated from American or Chinese bombs and bullets which have fallen on Cambodia. They then use local artisans to make with local stones and the pieces are then finished and gold plated in Italy.
Damiani adheres to the Kimberley process and uses ethically sourced stones using suppliers that adhere to the Kimberley Process.
Maraismara is a workshop that only uses Fairtrade gold, recycled silver, and responsibly sourced diamonds.
Many brands are now using eco-friendly packaging with 100% recycled paper which is of course great for the planet.
As the new generations become more aware of green issues, the Jewelry sector which, until recently has always been very conservative, has found ways to evolve to meet their demands so it can offer jewelry sustainability