How to: Buy Ethical and Responsible Jewellery
“When we buy things in one place, it has repercussions some place else…. When we put our credit card down we endorse a corporation and their practices and what it takes, and how it affects thousands, if not millions of lives.” — Edward Zwick, director of the Hollywood movie, Blood Diamond
As with beauty and fashion, the ethical element of jewellery is dependent on source and supply chain. While arguably the brightest and possibly most expensive items in our wardrobe, the glitter of jewellery can mask the deplorable conditions that are rampant in this industry: civil war and conflicts fueled by gems and minerals, child and forced labour and environmental catastrophes.
But all is not lost – there is some incredible, ethical and responsible jewellery available and to find it, you just need to ask the right questions (and listen for the right answers).
Buying responsible jewelry is easy if you know which questions to ask and what answers to seek. When considering a piece of jewelry, here are some questions to consider and corresponding answers that will help you vet the item:
- Where is the piece of jewelry made?
If made in the US that is great, but make sure to ask if the piece is made in-house by the jeweler. A lot of times jewelers send out their work to be produced and the chain of custody is no longer clear. If the jeweler does produce their own work, confirm that the jeweler is green certified by a legitimate governing agency (like the state of domestication or an organization like Fashion Positive.) If they are not certified, ask about recycling, carbon offsetting and water and chemical use and treatment in their processes. At the bare minimum, all chemicals should be treated and all energy sources should be green or offset.
- Do you use recycled or fair trade metal in your work?
At this point, it is incredibly easy and reasonably affordable to use either. If the jewelry is not made with a responsible metal there are plenty of other options that are.
- What is the chain of custody on your stones?
No stone, unless mined and cut by the jeweler himself, can be “green”. It is inherently not environmentally friendly to take stones out of the ground. However, there are mining practices that are more responsible than others- those that are zero waste and use only water and air pressure to remove stones- and, as a consumer you should be looking for those. However, it is incredibly important to realize that the raw resources for responsible mining do not yet fully exist at a mass consumer level. This is why it is so important to ask the questions and create the demand. Without your help asking the system won’t change. If you love stones look for those cut in the US and that are purchased direct from mine owner.
In short, look for recycled or fair trade metal jewelry made in house by a certified green jeweler who has a competitive social program that gives back to local communities while supporting their own thorough fair labor practices.