The modern consumer is growing increasingly conscious. This means that industries across the spectrum must meet higher standards, and the jewellery industry is no exception. When it comes to jewellery, making sacrifices for the sake of aesthetics is losing its appeal: sustainable jewellery is the way forward.
But what is sustainable jewellery – and how do you ensure that the brands you purchase from work to cultivate a more ethical and transparent jewellery industry? In this entry, we’ll walk you through the issues surrounding sustainable and conscious jewellery and what you as a conscious consumer need to consider before choosing where to purchase your jewellery.
What is sustainable jewellery?
The Brundtland Commission has defined sustainable development as development which ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
When it comes to jewellery, on a macro level this means that jewellery can be made sustainably through transparent and responsible sourcing practices in the jewellery supply chain and the use of sustainable materials. The environmental impact is minimal, the production is conflict free, and workers receive fair wages and working conditions.
On a micro level, however, the matter is far less straightforward. The jewellery industry lacks clear certification standards for materials and manufacturing methods. This makes the industry challenging for the conscious consumer to navigate – particularly due to terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’, and ‘conscious’ becoming more frequently used by jewellery brands across the world.
There are several reasons that the jewellery industry is currently not a sustainable industry:
How metals are mined
There is no way around the fact that mining has a negative impact on the environment. Metal extraction techniques contribute to both the loss of biodiversity and the contamination of soil and water. Even with increasingly stringent sustainability regulations, this contamination remains an issue.
Another problem surrounding mining is labour. Though illegal in most countries, child labour is still an issue present in the mining industry. Some local communities are exploited by the industry, and mining companies are sometimes preyed upon by criminal organisations such as drug cartels.
How gemstones are mined and cut
Gemstones are not cheap – so when they are, it usually comes at a cost. Gemstone mining is subject to the same ethical and environmental issues which surround the mining of metals. And though only 0.2% of market diamonds are conflict diamonds, this is nevertheless something to bear in mind when sourcing diamonds.
In addition, gem cutting produces microscopic dust particles that are damaging to the lungs. Many gem cutting facilities do not offer proper ventilation or equipment for their workers, making the working conditions unsafe.
How jewellery is produced
No matter where jewellery is crafted or produced, the process often requires harsh chemicals. However, when production takes place in third world countries, crafters are often subjected to poor and unsafe working conditions. Lack of protective gear and proper waste management for toxic substances continually cause unnecessary harm to the workers and the environment alike.
What you can do to cultivate a sustainable jewellery industry
Reading this, you may feel powerless to do much about a problem of this magnitude. But the good news is that you’re not: you, the conscious consumer, are helping raise industry standards for sustainability.
When you search for ‘ethical diamonds’, ‘sustainable gold jewellery’, or ‘conscious jewellery’ online, you’re actively telling brands what matters to you. This makes brands more likely to work towards offering what the modern consumer wants. And that means that by your focus alone, you play a vital role in cultivating a more conscious, sustainable, ethical, and transparent jewellery industry.
Of course, what matters even more than your interest is where you choose to spend your money. So before choosing where to purchase your jewellery, here are a few things to consider:
- Where does the brand purchase their gems? Are the workers educated in the field, and do they receive fair wages and working conditions?
- How much of the ‘mine to market’ journey can the brand trace? Do they know the areas of the world and the people involved in the process?
- Does the brand use materials that last a long time, and do they offer repairs?
- Does it seem like the brand is genuinely committed to cultivating a sustainable, transparent, and ethical jewellery industry – or does it seem like they’re simply trying to tap a new market?
Fine jewellery with a clear conscience
When it comes to sustainability, the jewellery industry has a long way to go. At RoughDiamonds.dk, we take our part in cultivating a more transparent and sustainable industry very seriously.
All our jewellery is crafted in our workshop here in Copenhagen. This guarantees a fully transparent production process, fair wages and working conditions for our craftspeople, and minimal environmental impact.
Further, we use only ethically sourced diamonds in our rough diamond rings. All our diamonds have been purchased in accordance with the Kimberley Process, ensuring that our diamonds are conflict free and traded in agreement with UN resolutions.
More importantly, however, our rough diamond supplier is a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, working with members worldwide to create a sustainable supply chain.
Our diamonds are mined with great attention to limiting the environmental impact of the process, and they can be traced directly from the mine and all the way to our rough diamond jewellery. There is no child labour at the mines where our diamonds are sourced, and the workers have fair wages and working conditions.
As our designer and founder Maya Bjørnsten says: ‘We have always loved diamonds. At RoughDiamonds.dk, we will always work to make sure that we can continue loving them – and that’s why we only use ethical diamonds. We want to share the positive stories of the diamonds we use and highlight the importance of choosing only ethical diamonds. We can only get answers by asking questions; and we want to do what we can to contribute to a responsible and ethical use of diamonds in fine jewellery.’
You can find more information about ethical diamonds here. To keep up with our work, visit our Facebook and Instagram pages and let yourself be inspired by the beauty of natural diamonds in their uncut, unpolished form.