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Sustainable and ethical Jewelry- the FUTURE of Jewelry is HERE

11 Dec 2020

Image Credit- BIZZITA

In recent years the words sustainable and ethical are often heard associated with jewelry. Especially after the world witnessed blood diamonds, the jewelry buying populace has become more aware and conscious. So, what is this sustainability that everyone is talking about?

Sustainability is described as the, “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance in the global environment”. It is the ability to maintain resources at a certain rate or level.

In the process of producing jewelry from “Mine to Mine” there is a cost on environmental damage and human life which needs to be taken into account. But, since it is almost impossible to accurately measure this cost in gaining true sustainability, most jewelers prefer to call their jewelry ‘ethical’ instead of ‘sustainable’.

Ethical jewelry sourcing covers social wellbeing like health and safety, fair pay of miners, no child/forced labor; and environmental wellbeing minimizing damage to the planet. When we talk about sustainable and ethical jewelry, we have to thus consider the following:

1) Mining -

Fine jewelry is made from precious metals and precious stones both of which need to be mined. So, how sustainably mined is the metal or diamond that you buy in your engagement ring? Not an easy answer mainly because, most metals and minerals come out of the poorest regions on earth before they reach the final consumer. The solution is not to stop using mined materials but to create a movement that recognizes artisanal mining that feeds millions of families – by ensuring mine safety standards and reinvesting mining profits for the welfare of miners and their families to provide basic schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure. Mining can cause air pollution, contaminate groundwater, lead to biodiversity and vegetation losses, and cause greenhouse gas emissions.

For 1 carat of diamond, it is believed an estimated 250 tons of earth are shifted. Thus with millions of carats of precious stones and tons of metal, we mine every year, the world’s largest mines like South Deep gold mine in South Africa, Grasberg gold mine in Indonesia, Olimpiada gold mine in Russia, Aikhal diamond mine in Russia, Jwaneng diamond mine in Botswana, and Udachny diamond mine in Russia are now being compelled to follow more sustainable practices.

2) Supply Chain-

The supply chain for jewelry is long and changes numerous hands making it extremely difficult to trace the origin of raw materials. Before the jewelry reaches the buyer, it goes through a lengthy process of mining, polishing, sorting, cutting, jewelry manufacturing, inspection, and certification. Today, certificates like the Kimberley Process are to a great extent ensuring an ethical supply of mined natural diamonds.

3) Unsafe exposure-

Mining is not the safest profession and neither is jewelry manufacturing.

While there is always a risk of mines collapsing and miners trapped underground, there are other risks like gold miners being exposed to mercury which can lead to disability and death. Miners are even exposed to high levels of dust that cause lung problems and toxins in underwater mines They also carry a higher risk of
skin infections.

Jewelry craftsmen also use cyanide in the jewelry manufacturing process which is one of the most toxic chemicals. Even diamond cutting produces microscopic dust and if laborers are not given proper protective safeguard the dust they inhale, it can lead to what is called the black lung.

It is challenging to create sustainable jewelry but the world is awakening to it. Few ways to contribute to sustainable jewelry is by: –

1. Opting for lab-grown diamonds -

Today almost 70% of millennials are buying lab-grown diamonds because lab-grown diamonds are produced without environmental and humanitarian damage and risk.

2. Buying certified jewelry -

When you buy FLO, Fairmined gold, Fairtrade gold, Kimberley Process certified jewelry, you are in a way contributing towards ethical mining and supply chains.

3. Determining brand value -

When you know the values that drive a brand, you can be more certain they do source and manufacture jewelry ethically.

4. Recycling gems and metals -

Precious jewelry can be easily recycled. Silver and gold can be melted and remolded and diamonds, emeralds, rubies reset into a new piece of jewelry.

5. Understanding Blockchain -

Get familiar with practices of the future. Blockchain of jewelry developed by IBM called TrustChain™ helps DeBeers to determine transparency in the supply chain and confirm that their diamonds and precious stones aren’t from conflict areas.

With growing public awareness, several in the jewelry business from manufacturers to designers are working in the direction of ethical jewelry performance. In the last few decades, there has been a visible shift in consumer attitudes towards purchasing valuable jewelry. Not only are they asking questions about sustainability, environmental responsibility, human rights, Kimberly Process and Fair Trade but they truly care about the environment and the people who are a part of jewelry creation.

There is a growing importance and a trend in sustainable and ethical jewelry. Branding and budgets are giving it new proportions. If global jewelry is projected to reach $480.5 billion by 2025, change is inevitable with changing consumerism trends. The 4C’s of diamond manufacturing are now ready to include
‘Consciousness’ and ‘Customization’. Also with traditional markets shifting to online purchase, it will be difficult to gauge what the customer finally wants especially since the customer is more knowledgeable now than ever before.

As a jewelry buyer before you search the net for ‘jewelry stores near me’ to indulge in buying an expensive piece of jewel or your wedding jewelry, do check whether it is ethical jewelry or sustainable jewelry. That’s your contribution towards a better Planet Earth tomorrow.

About Rukshana -

Rukshana is a freelance content and communication strategist based out of Mumbai, India. She mingles her expertise in PR with comprehensive domain knowledge and creative writing skills to assist and propagate business, worldwide. Being a quick learner, she utilizes her diversified digital expertise to provide copywriting and content writing services to create highly profitable brands, products, and services.