Finding the right jewelry is one thing, but making sure they are ethically sourced brings about a whole discussion.
Luckily, that’s what I’m here for!
Whenever you go to buy your favorite piece of accessory, a couple of questions always pop up: How were they made?
What environment did they come from? How long was the design process? Were they ethically sourced?
In this fast fashion realm, more often than not, manufacturers tend to sell jewelry sourced from areas with unfair mining practices including poor wages and working conditions.
Finding the right ethically sourced diamonds can prove to be a challenging ordeal. Here, we’ll look at some of the best ways to know if your fine jewelry is ethically sourced.
So, before you buy your next set of jewelry, I’d recommend you keep on reading.
What Is Ethically Sourced Jewelry?
The jewelry-making process is quite intense and involves quite a number of parties from the mining process to production until it reaches your jewelry store.
When sourcing for raw jewelry, considering the working conditions of the miners is as important as finding the right piece. A company that has maintained ethical practices has observed all the humanitarian mining practices, including wages and working conditions.
Below is a great video giving you a high level overview ethically sourcing diamonds.
Why Ethical Sourcing In The First Place?
Most jewelry (esp. diamonds) have been a source of controversy in trade due to their size to value ratio. Diamonds, for instance, are so small yet a single carat can fetch thousands of dollars.
Looking at how diamonds are mined, only a few major companies use high tech equipment to dig through the layers of rock (deep-earth mining) or scrape through the sand on river banks (alluvial mining).
Read Also: What are companies doing to be more eco-friendly?
However, some mining companies still use the century-old method- mining by hand or rather artisan mining. This form of mining is common in African countries. Here’s where the issue of ethical practices begins.
Since the old mining technique is unregulated, the working conditions are unbearable- enduring dirty water, lack of proper mining equipment, lack of insurance from landslides, collapses, and other work-related accidents.
The process also brings about serious environmental impacts across huge chunks of farmable land. As miners remove sand in search of raw minerals, land is left open as pits, most of which are filled with water, encouraging the breeding of mosquitoes. Sadly, most of the diamonds mined in such conditions end up in retail stores.
How To Know If Jewelry Meets Ethical Practices?
Once the issues affecting mining practices reached the jewelry community, big brands saw the need to create regulations and protect the miners. First off, companies resolved to have a fair trade policy on all jewelry.
Fairtrade ensures the workers in the mines are paid for their hard work. In an unfair trade environment, the export costs are way too high, leaving little to nothing for the people who actually mine the product.
The Kimberley Process Certification is one of the commonly used methods of regulating the diamond realm. Formed in 2003, this process has been a major player in ensuring all diamonds are free of associations with human rights violations and environmental degradation.
Although the certification is not a complete assurance of conflict-free diamonds, mining companies have been able to phase out unethical jewelry suppliers.
How To Identify Ethically Sourced Jewelry? (6-Step Guide)
As you go shopping, pointing out ethically sourced jewelry can turn out awry. Not to worry, I’ve already researched the best approach to ensuring all the jewelry you choose is ethically sourced. So, let’s dive in!
#1. Do Some Background Work
Some jewelry retailers may not reveal the origins of jewelry, even if you insist. As a conscious buyer, remember to do your research diligently. Look out for companies offering ethically sourced jewelry. Most of this information can be found on the company’s website. This should also include other precious metals used in making the jewelry.
If you don’t find enough details on the website, you can as well go offline and dig deeper. Talk to experts in the field or even better head over to the jeweler’s physical offices. Inquiring about your jewelry not only guarantees good quality but can also help you make a socially responsible purchase.
#2. Know The Origins Of Your Jewelry
The only sure way to determine if a diamond is ethically sourced is to find out exactly where it came from. I know it may sound far-fetched but most jewelers should tell you where a piece of jewelry originated. If the company you're buying from doesn't know where their jewelry came from (or can't tell you) then you know to avoid.
With regards to diamond, you may end up filtering out a couple of countries notorious for such ethical violations.
Generally, avoid diamonds from conflict zones such as Zimbabwe, Angola, DRC, and Liberia. Countries like Canada, Botswana, Namibia, and Sierra Leone have strict mining standards and are a perfect fit for ethically sourced diamonds.
#3. Insist On a Certificate
More often than not, jewelers tend to overhype their products. Certification is the surest way to ascertain the quality of gemstones, diamonds, or any other piece of jewelry. A certificate can also tell you the origin of the jewel and the processes that took place to ensure the piece is of the highest quality.
As you streamline your search to ethically sourced jewelry, a certificate can come a long way to helping you identify whether they were sourced in an ethical manner.
Read Also: Which diamond labs should you avoid?
Certificates like GIA or AGS dig deeper into the details of jewelry and you could use the same certificate to find out its origins. The GIA, for instance has recently developed an origin report where you can trace a piece of jewelry to where it came from.
#4. Ask The Right Questions
Never be afraid to throw a couple of hard inquiries, especially when looking for ethically sourced stones. I’d recommend asking questions like:
- Where is your jewelry mined?
- Can you track back its origins?
- What are your policies on jewelry sourcing?
- How do I know you stand by your jewelry ethical standards?
#5. Watch Out For Vague Answers
Anytime you enter a jewelry shop, you’ll be greeted or even escorted by a salesperson. As with sales, sometimes they’ll just throw in big words to convince you to buy a certain piece of jewelry. You should always be careful not to give in too quickly.
As a smart buyer, make sure your jeweler should answers all your questions without dodging or giving vague explanations. Ask questions regarding labor laws, environmental factors, and the history of particular jewelry. A retailer should be able to answer all these questions or any other information regarding their company policy.
#6. Consider Lab Diamonds
If you’re still having a hard time finding a conflict-free item, you can always explore synthetic jewelry. Such pieces are made purely in labs and are obviously conflict-free. However, you won’t find all kinds of jewelry having lab-grown alternatives.
What Are Some Brands That Offer Ethical Jewelry?
Below is a list of brands that appear to source diamonds in an ethical way. These are not 100% certified endorsements of these companies, but starting points in your own personal research to pick a diamond seller. I've noted why I included each in the list below.
Fair Trade Jewelry Co.
Ever heard of Fair Trade coffee or cocoa? Well, Fair Trade Jewelry goes through the same process of quality assessment to ensure they’re ethical. The Canadian-based company is the first in North America to use such standards.
If you’re not new here then you’ve probably come across a couple of pieces on James Allen. The online jeweler has long been one of the best in giving high-quality diamonds. Furthermore, they have gone beyond the Kimberley Process to ensure that none of their diamonds are sourced from unethical origins.
James Allen is also the only online retailer of CanadaMark Diamonds, one of Canada’s highest quality of diamonds when it comes to ethical diamonds.
Clean Origin is a company that specializes in selling lab grown diamonds. As I mentioned above, lab diamonds are 100% ethical because they are man-made vs mined out of the ground.
Since Clean Origin specializes in lab diamonds, they can buy in bulk and secure even better pricing than companies like James Allen.
Etsy may not be your average jeweler. The company involves a lot of private sellers who make their own jewelry and out of…anything! Be it wood, platinum, gold, the online jeweler has a wide variety of jewelry that you wouldn’t find in an average mom and pop store.
Since all sellers are basically making the jewelry for themselves, you can be sure that they are ethically sourced and also cheaper than most jewelry products.
Blue Nile is also another online retailer selling diamonds that are conflict-free. In fact, if you go to their website, you’ll find a section addressing ethical sourcing. To back up their claims, Blue Nile addresses the Zimbabwe issue and goes further to refuse to purchase diamonds from the conflict-prone zone.
One thing that probably makes Brilliant Earth stand out is how the company started. The founders were looking for ethically sourced diamonds and despite not finding one, they decided to open up a company that solely distributes ethically sourced jewelry. They get most of their diamonds exclusively from the Diavik and Ekati mines in Canada.
When looking for jewelry, having knowledge on how to identify ethically sourced items is the first step of the process. Any jeweler should be able to outline the company’s policies and assure their customers of conflict-free items. Buying ethically sourced jewelry helps build sustainable and responsible practices in the industry. With all this information, I hope your search for ethically sourced jewelry will be much easier and, of course, fun!