Sustainable Jewelry is the making of 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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Sustainable Jewelry 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.
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.
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.
10 easy ways we become environmentally conscious shoppers:
- Choosing jewelry made from recycled materials
- Investing in pieces that are designed to last
- Looking for brands that use ethical production methods
- Supporting independent makers who prioritize jewelry sustainability
- Opting for natural materials like wood that are biodegradable
- Buying easily repaired jewels rather than disposable ones
- Investing in secondhand or vintage pieces
- Preferring ethically-mined gemstones
- Avoiding materials that harm the environment such as coral or conflict diamonds
- Supporting brands that give back to the environment and help social causes
Most of the gold that is mined industrially is used for non-jewelry purposes. It might be used for investment.
Small artisan gold mines still exist and give work to a lot of people. However, they only account for less than 15% of gold output.
Precious metals can 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”.
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
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.
Sustainable Jewelry: 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. The Company has partnered with Carbonfund.org to help fight global warming.
Sustainable Jewelry: 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.
Wild Fawn is a London-based ethical company that makes minimalist custom-made jewels using sterling silver and re-cycled 9 K gold.
Alighieri makes beautifully textured pieces made from recycled bronze or silver which are then plated with gold.
Sustainable Jewelry: 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.
Sustainable Jewelry Packaging
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.
Now you can buy from beautiful collections of sustainable jewelry or ethical diamonds and help protect our planet for future generations.
Now check out ‘ A Potted History of Jewelry’