The fashion industry has a poor reputation when it comes to environmental impact and workplace exploitation. These issues extend to the jewelry industry as well through the fast fashion trend and unethical factory conditions.
However, eco-friendly measures for creating jewelry have become more prevalent in recent years. Many designers have adopted more sustainable manufacturing methods and business practices which improve the situation. These measures range from more sustainable sourcing to reducing energy usage.
The benefits of eco-friendly jewelry also include better conditions for workers due to more ethical practices. We’ll go over how eco-friendly jewelry makes the industry more sustainable, as well as how to identify sustainably-sourced jewelry.
In the jewelry industry, sustainable sourcing refers to methods of manufacturing and production that prioritize environmentally-safe practices. For example, many designers use recycled metals for jewelry production.
There are a few ways to recycle existing jewelry into new products. Designers can melt down precious metals like gold and silver in order to reuse them for new jewelry. Since gold and silver don’t lose their quality during this process, the value of these metals doesn’t diminish.
Mining for gemstones is an expensive and hazardous process. To address this, many manufacturers have turned to creating their own artificial gemstones. Manufacturing diamonds, for example, requires less electricity and produces less waste than mining.
The arguments against lab-grown diamonds come from the industries that profit from existing mining operations which irreversibly damage the environment.
Benefits of Sustainable Sourcing:
- Conservation of natural resources
- Reduction of carbon footprint
- Minimization of environmental damage caused by mining operations
Conflict-Free and Ethical Production
When people talk about conflict diamonds (also known as blood diamonds), they’re talking about diamonds that originate in war-torn countries. These diamonds are mined by prisoners and slave labor in order to finance insurgencies and military factions in specific regions. The trade of conflict diamonds is strictly illegal around the world.
It’s not hard to see why using conflict-free diamonds is so important. The only way that conflict diamonds are sold is through smuggling operations. Legitimate jewelers make sure that their diamonds aren’t sourced from conflict zones by tracking their supply chains.
Ethical Practices In Eco-Friendly Jewelry Production:
- Fair treatment of workers
- Compliance with labor and human rights standards
- Transparency in supply chains
Health and Safety Considerations
The other potential ethical issue that the jewelry industry faces stems from safety and fair treatment in the workplace. Mining is a dangerous job with a long list of hazards and health risks including cave-ins and poisonous gas. Similarly, some manufacturing plants use harmful chemicals such as cyanide to clean their gemstones.
Eco-friendly jewelry seeks to address these issues through safer conditions and processes. Using man-made diamonds or recycled metals removes the need for mining entirely. Sustainable jewelry manufacturers also use harmless chemicals for cleaning to ensure factory workers stay safe and healthy.
Positive Social Impact
Supporting brands and jewelers that adhere to ethical sourcing helps shift the industry toward normalizing those practices. It’s also important to remember that the expenses involved in making man-made diamonds are lower than mining. This allows smaller-scale industries to get involved, which creates new opportunities for jobs without the risks involved in mining.
Since lab-grown diamonds are less expensive to acquire, the price of diamond jewelry becomes more competitive, which benefits consumers. This also allows local jewelry stores to compete with larger chains, which helps drive the economy.
In simpler terms, eco-friendly jewelry means that consumers and jewelers can purchase high-quality items at a more affordable price.
Aesthetic Appeal and Unique Designs
There are many misconceptions about the aesthetics and quality of eco-friendly jewelry.
One of the most common misconceptions from detractors is that eco-friendly jewelry is lower quality or less pure. As mentioned before, precious metals like gold and silver don’t lose quality when melted down and reformed. Now consider the fact that lab diamonds are chemically identical to diamonds found in nature. So no, eco-friendly jewelry is not inherently lower quality.
A similar misconception is that lab-grown diamonds all look the same and have the same value. This is untrue and seems to suggest that man-made diamonds are made using a mold or similar tool. Lab-grown diamonds vary in size, shape, and quality just as much as diamonds found in nature.
Consumer Awareness and Education
We hope by now you’re aware of the importance of eco-friendly jewelry. With all the misconceptions and misinformation around, it’s easy to get the wrong idea. But as more people become aware of the benefits of eco-friendly jewelry, the demand for sustainability increases. This extends into other industries like the fashion industry as well.
If you’re wondering how to find out whether jewelry comes from sustainable sources, fear not. Organizations like the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) offer certifications for global manufacturers and jewelers who adhere to responsible business practices. So look out for this certification when shopping for jewelry to support ethical jewelry practices.