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Thinking of purchasing a new set of earrings or a new statement bracelet? You might want to consider searching for some artisan-made recycled pieces or vintage finds before making the investment.
Unfortunately, there are some big environmental concerns connected to mining the materials used in fine jewelry. For example, tropical forests have been clear cut to make way for mines, and acid mine drainage can lead to water pollution long after precious metal mines have been closed. If you’d like to make a more ethical choice, look for retailers that use recycled materials or source second-hand finds with timeless designs.
Below, you’ll find some of the best places to shop for sustainable jewelry.
OurCommonplace (view at ourCommonplace) is great because of its wide array of jewelry on offer, plus its ethical measures in place. Also, the website is super searchable and allows users to filter through results, which means you can search for items depending on the issues most important to you.
Of course, we also have to give Ruby Lane (view at Ruby Lane) a shout out, as keeping already made jewelry in use is a win for the environment. Plus, who doesn’t love owning a great vintage piece you can pass down from generations?
What to Look for in Sustainable Jewelry
When looking at diamonds, it’s important to look for diamonds that go through the Kimberly Process, which is a trade regime with the goal of preventing the goal of conflict diamonds. A conflict diamond is a rough diamond used to finance wars against governments around the world, and are often associated with human rights abuses.
Vintage pieces are also a great way to be eco-friendly while jewelry shopping, as vintage jewelry has already been produced, meaning no new materials or labor are needed for production. Yes, it’s hard to know where vintage pieces came from sometimes, but simply keeping them in existence keeps new materials from needed to be extracted and saves energy.
Jewelry designers that recycle precious metals and upcycle other materials also help to lower the impact of their goods.
It’s also important to look for ethically-mined and manufactured jewelry. You’ll know if a company is using sustainable and ethical measures for their jewelry if they’re transparent about where they source their pieces from, and use responsible practices such as sustainable materials and fair wages and labor for workers. Sustainable and ethical pieces also have a smaller impact on the environment and have no conflicts, so look for companies who have a clear policy on sustainability and ethics.
Some people will certainly make the case that jewelry isn’t necessary at all, but for others personal adornments are an important part of self-expression. Nonetheless, buying anything that doesn’t get used is wasteful, so we recommend giving yourself the time and space to select jewelry that you really love and will wear often.
Are there any sustainable jewelry certifications?
For diamonds, the Kimberley Process is an important checkmark to look at. The Kimberley Process reduces conflict diamonds, and covers nearly all global diamond production. If a company can’t provide a Kimberley Process certificate, it should be a red flag for purchasers.
The Responsible Jewellery Council is another organization to watch for when choosing sustainable pieces. With more than 1,200 members, this organization focuses on issues like health and safety of workers, responsible supply chains, and labor rights.
The Institute for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is a third-party certification available for industrial-sized mining sites. It applies to specific mines themselves rather than companies that oversee mines.
As always, Fair Trade products made from fair-trade materials and fair-trade production measures are important to look at. Fair-trade products are backed by companies that work to improve working conditions and better environmental practices and wages.
Is vintage and second-hand jewelry more sustainable than new jewelry?
There are pros and cons to both new jewelry and second-hand jewelry, but we say if you find a second-hand piece you love, absolutely go for it. With new jewelry, you obviously have the opportunity to customize pieces and be the first owner, but with vintage pieces, you can get more for your money by avoiding traditional new jewelry mark-ups and lessen your impact on the environment by not buying into the demand (labor, mining, mark-ups, etc.) that comes with new pieces.
Vintage pieces have already been created, so you don’t have to worry about environmental factors for the most part, and you can actually feel better by knowing you’re continuing the lifecycle of a vintage piece that might have otherwise ended up being discarded.
Why Trust Treehugger?
Treehugger is committed to helping our readers reduce the environmental impact of their day-to-day lives. Author Amanda Ogle is a veteran reporter who loves writing about sustainability and believes it is important that we all strive to be as environmentally friendly as we can. She enjoys giving readers an honest idea of where to buy sustainable products online that make a difference in our environment.