Diamonds are forever, but they also impact the environment. It has many carbon footprints and environmental costs, like the fashion industry. But, it’s not only our clothes that are getting a more sustainable and ethical makeover. It seems that jewels have become sustainable, too!
So what is sustainable jewelry, anyway? These are jewelry pieces made with materials that aren’t harmful to the environment. Moreover, people who work for it get fair pay and safe working conditions. So sustainable jewelry has minimal effect on the environment and isn’t involved in any conflict.
A sustainable ring, for instance, could be composed of recycled/Fairtrade gold, set with ethically produced stones, and treated with sustainable chemical alternatives currently used. In addition, environmental and safety production rules are followed when manufacturing rings, and if the production scale increased, the laborers are compensated fairly.
Are you planning to fill your store shelves with these jewelry pieces? Then, you must understand what sustainable jewelry is. This article will tell you about its materials, manufacturing processes, and appropriate labels. Keep reading if you want to know about these and more!
Recycled Stones and Metals
Precious metals for sustainable jewelry, such as gold and silver, are infinitely recyclable, which means they can be reused without losing their purity. Repurposed diamonds and stones can also be used to create new pieces.
Because recycled jewelry does not contribute to extractive mining, it is nearly sure to have a few environmental impacts than new jewelry. In terms of energy consumption and global warming potential, a recent lifestyle assessment of recycled gold, for example, concluded that it is three times better than primary production.
While most sustainable jewelry companies get their recycled materials from within the jewelry industry, some are now utilizing resources from other sectors, such as technology (golds and other metals from circuit boards and computer parts).
According to recent research, roughly 70% of millennials are interested in buying lab-grown stones, like lab-grown diamonds, for wedding rings. But since companies generating these alternatives may portray themselves as “eco-friendly,” it’s crucial to evaluate the facts.
These precious stones have grown above ground using renewable energy with less environmental damage. However, millions of mine employees in developing countries may lose their jobs, considering that around 250 tons of ore are extracted for every single karat of a polished diamond.
Metals and stones must be mined, cut, treated, and fashioned into jewelry, consuming a massive amount of energy and sometimes dangerous chemicals.
However, cutting gems creates microscopic dust, which is harmful to the lungs. In addition, gem cutters frequently work without sufficient ventilation or safety equipment. Jewelers often use dangerous chemicals to create and finish their pieces, regardless of the size of the factory.
When the items are made in third-world nations, most artisans don’t have a safe working environment. There is no safety equipment and no effective waste management for poisonous ingredients. This means that both poor people and nature suffer repeatedly.
So, look for companies that employ low-impact processing, rely on renewable energy, or reduce their emissions while looking for a piece.
Supply Chain Transparency
While the silver and gold markets are simpler, diamonds and jewels pass through many hands before reaching your store shelves. So if you’re buying new jewelry, it is recommended to look for sustainable jewelry from a documented supply chain with a conflict-free guarantee. This means they won’t be sold to fund military activities and atrocities by rebel groups.
It’s a risky industry, but buying sustainable jewelry from local handmade jewelry artisans is usually the most transparent option. When you’re ready to broaden your search, look into certification programs that confirm the supply chain of precious stones and jewels brought to a country.
With transparency being a bottleneck in the jewelry industry, a company that can track the path of raw materials at various stages all across the supply chain is one step ahead. It’s also worth noting that building relationships with like-minded companies will echo the company’s dedication to ethical and sustainable outcomes.
It’s unlikely that you’ll come across high-quality jewelry from a business that shares your ideals regularly. With this in mind, your customers will appreciate your jewelry more, keeping it from ending up in the garbage, where quick fashion frequently ends.
Regardless of whether you are selling lab-grown, recycled, or new pieces, invest in jewelry pieces that are timeless and well-made.
Certifications and labeling can be difficult to manage due to the complex supply networks of the sustainable jewelry industry, and each country often has its regulations in place.
However, a few popular labels and methods strive to authenticate sustainable and ethical jewelry. While they are not perfect, they do provide essential transparency to the sector and can help you narrow down your options:
- Fairmined (metals): This standard verifies silver, gold, and platinum from small-scale mining groups that employ environmentally friendly extraction methods. They seek things like native eco-system rehabilitation and reduced chemical use, to name a few.
- The Kimberly Process (diamonds): This global certification program collaborates with countries worldwide to eliminate conflict diamonds.
- Gemological Institute of America (gemstones): This non-profit assesses and grades stones, diamonds, and pearls for quality and authenticity. It verifies that the purchased item is genuine, but it doesn’t provide much information on its environmental impact.
- Fair Trade Certified: This is a well-respected seal in the industry. Fairtrade International aspires to certify goods that empower workers by establishing standards that highlight fair wages and safe, lawful working conditions.
Today, “sustainable jewelry” refers to any jewelry mentioned above. But, perhaps, soon, it will stand solely for a holistic green approach to jewelry making, which considers and applies both ethical and environmental principles. It will address the problems of mining metals and production, the environment, and people.