Sustainable jewellery is the way forward – All you need to knowBecky Waldron
We’re all looking for more sustainable ways to live. Our buying habits have a big impact on the planet. So, it’s something we need to be more conscious of in order to look after our home.
The word ‘sustainability’ is everywhere at the moment, but can sometimes be very loosely defined. So, we want to talk about what sustainable jewellery is.
From the buyer’s side, we’re looking at how you can go about finding it – and actually recognising it when you come across it.
On the supply side, we’re exploring the question; what makes jewellery sustainable? And, just as importantly, what do the brands that sell it need to be doing to stay true to their marketing?
Because sustainability is so casually defined, it’s worth clarifying what we mean by ‘sustainable’ in this context. A sustainable practice is one that can persist for a long period of time, without causing imbalanced damage.
When we talk about sustainable jewellery, we’re talking about using materials that can be sustained long-term and not deplete the Earth’s natural resources.
It’s not just the use of materials that are a factor, but all practices within the jewellery production process. Including fair pay and treatment of workers, using equipment that doesn’t cause harm to the environment and not using toxic substances.
What makes jewellery sustainable?
Traceability is a crucial factor in exercising more honest ways of living. If a brand wants to market sustainable jewellery, they should be transparent about their resources and processes. When the materials used for the jewellery, such as metals and gems, can be traced back to their source, this is a promising sign.
Traceability in supply chains is also key for responsible jewellery. When people can trace their jewellery piece back to its root (both resource-wise and labour-wise) it gives them confidence in their buying choices. Especially so for the more ethically conscious generation.
Sustainability is empowered by cyclical processes. This means that recycling goes hand-in-hand with sustainable living. When shopping for sustainable jewellery, the origin of the metals used is crucial. You’d be alarmed by how harmful the metals industry is. A report by Earthworks and Oxfam America highlights that the metal industry is responsible for:
50% of gold taken from native lands
79 tonnes of mine wasteper 1 ounce of gold
Nearly 10% of the world’s energy consumption
96% of US arsenic emissions
Metal mining forces people out of their homes, creates unreliable and unfair working conditions for miners, and can be particularly detrimental for women in mining communities. This is for a few reasons.
For example, women are often not deemed worthy of work in these industries, but, when they do find work, they are horribly mistreated. This kind of work also aggravates health conditions that women are more prone to, and makes the tasks that women are typically expected to do (such as collecting water for her family) more laborious.
You can read more about these issues in the Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment report.
Gold and silver for jewellery is of course only a percentage of this, but it is a contributor nonetheless.
It’s certainly not something that brands can ignore – and so 100% recycled gold and recycled silver are the way forward for sustainable jewellery brands.
A lot of businesses – if not all – strive for economic growth. It’s an inevitable goal. But, the preoccupation with an ever-expanding profit is responsible for many of the environmental problems we’re seeing today.
That’s not to say to be a sustainable jewellery you can't aspire to grow, but it must be done in a more conscious way. Responsible jewellery does not come from mass production. It does not come from a profit over planet mindset.
Considerate of the environment
This is possibly one of the most obvious and most important factors of sustainable jewellery. Ethical jewellery should be a product of pure production. In our definition of sustainability, we spoke about what this means in terms of the resources and processes used in production.
Sustainable jewellery needs to prioritise the environment. It's difficult not to have some impact, but minimal harm is the goal. This includes using recycled materials and production processes that don’t pollute or destroy.
At Skydiamond, we go that mile further, not contributing to CO2 emissions and actually putting the air back cleaner than we found it. Our Diamond Mills absorb surrounding air, storing the CO2 for diamonds and releasing the oxygen and nitrogen back into the atmosphere.
This is because we know that it’s the responsibility of the retailer to be considerate of the environment from initial sourcing right to the end product.
If you’re looking for a responsible jewellery brand, some signs to look for include accessible information on how their materials are sourced, the energy they use (fossil or green for example), and even the packaging used to get it to you.
Want to know more about the environmental impacts of mined diamonds? Read the report by Imperial College London.
Responsibly sourced gems
If a jewellery piece has a gemstone, this adds another dimension to how sustainable it is. Gemstones are pieces of rock that originate from deep within the earth.
To extract these gemstones, the earth must be excavated. This is an environmentally intensive process, harming the surrounding earth and using high energy methods to do so. Gemstones are environmentally conflicted as well as socially. Because of how valuable gemstones are, they have caused lots of social conflicts, resulting in forced labour cases – as well as other brutalities - across the world.
A sustainable gemstone can’t be a product of these harmful practices. You can usually identify brands that use responsibly sourced gems through published statements of commitment to sustainability/ethical working.
Sustainability doesn’t compromise beauty
Through our buying choices, we can help to contribute to a better planet. Jewellery isn’t something we have to give up, we just need to find another way. There are an increasing number of brands and businesses that are now offering sustainable jewellery, giving people the choice to buy more consciously.
At Skydiamond, we source diamonds from the sky, not causing damage to the environment in the process. We are carbon negative by design. The earth remains intact, the only thing we take is CO2 from the atmosphere. Our diamonds are environmentally and socially friendly. While we specialise in diamonds, our sustainable jewellery range is coming very soon. Watch this space.
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