You have been exploring sustainable fashion for a while and you’re loving it! But here comes a new challenge, how about your jewelry? It’s brand new territory and you really want to know how to pick your sustainable jewelry so it doesn’t hurt our people or our planet.
I have been having that dilemma a few times in the past. I remember being in Chiapas, Mexico looking for an armband with gemstone. That Guatemalan man was making the jewelry in front of me so I was sure I was paying him a fair price and that he was « safe » doing so. But how about the material he used? Were they mined by kids and imported from a different continent? Was the money spent to buy that metal then invested in arms trafficking? So many questions I had!
The good thing though is that you and I are not alone! London jewelersTaylor & Hart, specializing in bespoke engagement and wedding rings, counted a 20% increase in internet searches for “ethical jewelry” in 2020 compared to 2019 and 29% more for “recycled gold”. Can you see how we, as a collective, are moving in the right direction to build a brighter future?
So here is a blog post that will share with you how to pick your sustainable jewelry so you don’t have to feel overwhelmed next time you want to buy a ring.
Make sure you need it!
While not being the most popular first advice, that’s surely the most sustainable option. It’s always the first thing to consider before you add anything to your fashion collection. Do you really need that piece of jewelry or is it just a trend that you are following? Is it FOMO? Are you being called to buy because of some dodgy marketing practice?
If you can say out loud that you need that piece (or that you REALLY want it) without the shadow of a doubt and without feeling any guilt, then it might be true. I highly suggest that you add it to your wishlist for 30 days before you take the leap and buy it. If in 30 days you are still called to make the purchase, please go ahead.
Explore secondhand jewelry
Once you figured out that you really wanted or needed that piece, please consider getting it secondhand. Are your mum or your sister trying to re-home their own jewelry pieces? Does the secondhand shop of your city have something you might like? Buying secondhand does not use any new ressources so it’s a very sustainable option.
How to pick your sustainable jewelry when buying new?
You know me, when I want to buy new from a so called sustainable brand, I always ask myself clear questions to make sure that I do not fall for greenwashing. Before you buy your sustainable jewelry ask yourself the following:
- Is it ethically made?
- Does the brand use sustainable materials?
- Is the packaging eco-friendly?
- How is the manufacturing process like?
- Is the supply chain of the brand transparent?
- Do they try to give back to society in any way?
What are some eco-friendly options?
The main concern raised by the jewelry industry comes from the mining industry. Indeed, mining for diamonds below ground unearthes tons of rock to access the rough diamonds. It all results in ecosystems disruption, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and consumption and air pollution. The process for gold is very similar.As an alternative, you can buy lab grown diamonds or jewelry from recycled gold. There is a huge debate within the jewelry industry to know if lab-grown diamonds are really better for the environment.
We don’t have a real proof that the carbon footprint of lab grown diamond is smaller than « traditional » diamond because it does require a lot of energy to manufacture them. However, it seems pretty clear to me that we can power up those labs with green energies while not disrupting the ecosystems. Can you imagine that we can see those mining wholes from space?
How to know if your jewelry is ethically made and sourced?
Once again, social and ethical concern raised by jewelry production comes from the mining industry. Indeed mining results in human displacement, changes to the environment, child labor, exposure to dangerous chemicals, job site dangers, gem cutting hazards and violent conflicts around the precious ressources.
Other concerns are related to the production itself. Are the people making the jewelry working in a safe environment where they are treated respectfully and paid fairly?
When buying new jewelry, you could look for certifications that guarantee that the brand uses ethically sourced materials and sell ethically made jewelry. For example: fair-trade, fair mined, Institute for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and Responsible Jewelry Council. If a company is not certified, you can email the brand and ask them for reports and proofs that they protect their employees and their partners.
As mentioned, an option to make the jewelry industry more sustainable would be to stop mining and use synthetic or recycled materials. However, let’s keep in mind that the mining industry is creating millions of jobs in developing countries and that those people rely on their jobs to feed their families. In that case, would it be more sustainable to bring all the manufactures back in developed countries so they use renewable energies? I am not sure, how about you?
How does the brand reduce its carbon footprint?
Not only the carbon footprint to mine or make synthetic materials is huge but the rest of the supply chain certainly is too. Are materials coming from Africa? Then shipped to Asia for manufacturing? Then shipped to Europe to be marketed by the brand? Then shipped to you?
Research information about the whole supply chain and how the brand tries to reduce and to mitigate its CO2 emissions. For example: do they offset or plant trees?
How is the packaging like?
When you buy jewelry, if often comes in a very luxurious packaging. So one thing to look at is how the brand greens that up. Do they minimise it? Do they use recycled / recyclable materials?
As a conclusion, there are many things to look at. Maybe you feel a little bit more overwhelmed at the end of your readings but I know that you got this! I made a quick and easy infographic for you to look at next time you make your purchase.
So how does it feel now? A lot more manageable, isn’t it?
In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.However, all the opinions and ideas in that blog post are mine and I would never recommend anything I do not trust myself.