Engagement season is just around the corner. So Marcie Muehlke from Celia Grace wedding dresses and Fab You Bliss have put together this ethical engagement ring guide to help those navigating the engagement ring market.
Have you heard about conflict or “blood diamonds” but been overwhelmed or unsure about what to do? No problem, we are here to help!
Below is an insider’s guide to ethical jewelry.
First up in this post: a quick refresher on why people should care about where their diamonds and gold come from. After that comes the eye candy – a bunch of stunning engagement rings you will love to wear day after day – because of how they look and how they were made.
Image by Ken & Dana Design
Not planning to ring shop with your sweetie but want to make sure you get a ring you’ll love and feel great about? If a direct conversation about what you want (stone type, shape, setting, cut, etc) is an option then great! You can use this blog post as a starting point and then decide what feels right for you as a couple.
Or, if you don’t want to come right out and ask for a ring, here are more subtle ideas:
• Talk to family or friends that your partner might turn to for advice to buy your ring and tell them what is important to you and why (you can even send them this article)
• Mention this National Geographic article you read about the bad conditions are in gold mines
• Watch the movie Blood Diamond together
• Talk about the things you think about when you make any big purchase and why
If you don’t already know the issues involved, let’s begin with a brief overview of why some diamonds and gold, (beautiful things), can be such a problem.
The human cost of the diamond trade was illustrated in the movie Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Essentially, income from selling diamonds funded and prolonged an extremely brutal conflict in Sierra Leone and Angola in the late 1990s.
Although the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is trying to resolve this problem, it has serious problems. For example, this certification does not protect people when it is a government itself committing the violence. Diamonds from one of the worst mining areas (the Marange Fields in Zimbabwe where torture, rape, and killings have been documented) are Kimberly Process approved. Diamonds from conflict zones are also smuggled into the legitimate diamond trade.
Issues with Gold
Gold mining may be one of the world’s most polluting industries and jewelry accounts for two-thirds of the business. Gold mining is so harmful to the environment because massive amounts of toxic chemicals and mercury are used to extract the ore and then are disposed of in rivers or on the ground. This not only harms the environment but also the people who live nearby–for generations. Finally, it takes 20-30 tons of toxic mine waste to produce enough gold for one ring.
The human cost of gold
Like conflict diamonds, gold mining also fuels civil wars. In addition, small-scale gold mining is incredibly dangerous because miners often work in remote areas under harsh conditions. These miners have little or no safety equipment to protect them from explosions, toxic gas, and tunnel collapses which cause illness, injury, or death.
Millions of gold miners work for little or no pay, sometimes laboring for free for 30 days in order to work one day a month when they can keep what they find, if they’re lucky, according to National Geographic. Perhaps worst of all, an estimated 600,000 gold miners are children. Learn more here.
What you can do
So now that you know why gold and diamonds can be such a problem, let’s get to the fun part–finding an engagement ring that you’ll love both because of how it looks and how it was made.
Each of the rings below have been created by companies who have made ethical and eco-friendly sourcing a priority in their jewelry. The specifics of what makes each company eco or socially-responsible varies but this information is clear and easy to access.
Barbara Michelle Jacobs
These rings by Barbara Michelle Jacobs are handmade in New York with recycled precious metals and fair trade, reclaimed, or conflict free gems.
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This ring is by Brilliant Earth, a company that guarantees that their diamonds originate from pure, ethical sources. They also offer lab-created and fair trade diamonds and uses recycled precious metals.
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This ring is by handcrafted in Philadelphia by Bario Neal who uses reclaimed precious metals, Fairmined gold, ethically sourced stones, and low-impact, environmentally conscious practices. And they support marriage equality.
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These sleek rings is from Ash Hilton, a family-run New Zealand-based jeweler who uses recycled, reclaimed, and ethically-sourced metals and stones and donates to environmental and human rights causes.
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Fair Trade Jewelry Co.
Looking for something sleek? The Fair Trade Jewelry Company has just what you need and they work directly with mining communities to improve their practices. They were the first in North America to use Fairmined and Fairtrade certified gold and they are a certified B Corporation.
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Simply Wood Rings
Want to skip metal and gemstones all together? Then opt for Simply Wood Rings.
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The UK-based CRED Jewelry offers Ethical wedding rings in Fairtrade gold or recycled platinum. Don’t see what you like? They do custom designs.
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Ken & Dana Design
Ken & Dana Design makes each ring in New York city and uses a holistic approach this is environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and incredibly unique.
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Ingle & Rhode
Ingle & Rhode designs and makes each ring in the UK using only ethically sourced precious metals and gems, such as Fairtrade gold and Canadian diamonds.
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McFarland Designs has a great Etsy shop where you can browse handmade rings made from recycled metals and ethically sourced gemstones that are skillfully combined to create wearable works of art that you can truly feel good about.
For more ring options to browse through, please check out our Ethical Ring Pinterest Board.
We hope this article has been educational and will be beneficial in your engagement ring shopping. As you can see, there are loads of ethical options!
Thanks for stopping by!
Article written by Marcie Muehlke from Celia Grace wedding dresses