Sustainable Jewelry: What It Is and How to Find It
If you’ve ever heard the term “sustainable jewelry,” you probably know it’s a good thing, but you might wonder what it really means. You’re not alone. “Sustainability” is a buzzword in the jewelry industry, and it’s a broad term that can be applied in various ways. If you’re interested in shopping with jewelry brands that aim to make the earth a healthier place and are committed to treating people with respect, then you’re probably looking for a sustainable jewelry company. Curious to find out exactly what sustainability is, why it’s beneficial, and what it means in the jewelry world? Let’s dive in.
What Does Sustainability Mean?
Sustainability is the practice of ensuring our planet’s resources are used responsibly so they are not depleted. Sustainably made jewelry is produced without harming the planet or taking advantage of the people involved in the process. Unfortunately, the jewelry industry has historically been known to use harmful practices. To make a safer world and to take care of the earth’s resources, many jewelry brands have been making an effort to seek out practices that are more sustainable.
How is Sustainable Jewelry Made?
The areas where there has been a history of harmful practices are raw material sourcing (finding materials like metals and gemstones in the earth) and supply chain management (all the people, organizations involved in the entire jewelry making process). Let’s take a look at each area and how the jewelry industry can apply sustainable efforts to each:
Ethical material sourcing
Sourcing raw materials can be an involved process and can be destructive to the planet. Mining for metals and gemstones generates carbon emissions which are harmful to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. In order to cut down on those emissions, many manufacturers and brands are turning to lab-created diamonds, which don’t require any raw material mining.
These diamonds are grown in a controlled laboratory setting and use a scientific process to create a gemstone that has the exact same chemical composition as a diamond. They have the same sparkle, but they don’t create any negative impact on the environment — and on top of that, they’re also much more affordable than natural diamonds. A win-win-win!
Another way to combat the effects of raw material mining is to use recycled metals or gemstones. Just like we’ve always been taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle, the jewelry industry has found a way to produce new pieces using materials from previously created and worn jewelry. This is another great way to avoid raw material sourcing, and provides an efficient and simple way to make use of the resources that are already available.
Ethical supply chain management
A supply chain is the entire system of how a product gets made. In the jewelry industry, that involves steps like mining for materials, manufacturing, and finally selling jewelry at retail stores. A sustainable supply chain is one that focuses on eliminating any negative environmental or human impact at any stage of creating a product.
Building an ethical supply chain is an important step toward safeguarding communities in conflict. For example, a sustainable supply chain avoids the use of conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds. These illicitly traded diamonds are sourced in war zones, where the profits are used to fuel unrest. Ethical supply chains create a more just way to create jewelry without supporting or contributing to violent conflict.
Promoting human rights is another key part of sustainability, and protecting the health and wellness of the many people behind each piece of jewelry should be a top priority for sustainable jewelry brands. Movements like the fair trade system have established standards that ensure safe working conditions and support for the communities that supply chains depend on. Fair Trade Certified is just one of the organizations trying to make ethical business practices the norm across every industry by keeping brands accountable while they manufacture and sell their products.
To summarize, sustainable jewelry works to protect natural resources, safeguard communities, respect people, and support the planet as a whole. Creating sustainable jewelry means responsibly sourcing materials, creating safe working conditions, and trading fairly — all while producing gorgeous items that you can’t wait to wear.
How Can I Find Sustainable Jewelry?
If you’re interested in making a difference by protecting our planet and supporting brands that responsibly produce jewelry, here are some ways you can shop for sustainable jewelry:
Inquire about sourcing practices
The best way to find out about a jewelry brand’s sourcing practices is to check their website. If they haven’t published anything on their homepage about their commitments to responsible sourcing or sustainability, check to see if they have a mission statement or a separate page for their certifications.
Often, brands will mention the Kimberley Process, which establishes ethical standards for diamond sourcing. If you can’t find anything on a brand’s website about their sustainability practices, you can always reach out to them. Although as a general rule, if a brand is committed to sustainability, they’re likely to be open about it and discuss it with pride.
Buy lab-grown gemstones
Buying lab-grown gemstones instead of naturally sourced ones is a great way to ensure that you’re shopping sustainably. Look for brands that have lab-grown options — it’s an affordable alternative that delivers all the shine without any of the mining. These stones aren’t limited to diamonds either; you can find almost any type of lab-created gemstone to ensure that you’re not supporting any unethical mining or sourcing practices. There are plenty of different lab-created gemstones that you can find, like emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Get creative while you shop sustainably!
Find jewelry made from recycled metals
Find a brand that uses recycled metals to create their new jewelry. Metal doesn't lose any of its original luster or value when it’s repurposed; brands will often send it through a refining process to remove any impurities so it looks identical to newly mined metal. Wearing beautiful, shiny, metal jewelry feels even better when you know it’s making the world a better place!
At Miki & Jane, we’re proud to use recycled gold in our jewelry as often as possible. Browse our collections to see what pieces speak to you and wear them with the confidence that you’re helping the planet, caring for others, and looking good doing it!