The fine jewellery industry isn’t historically known for being ethical or eco-friendly. Metals and stones are often mined with child or slave labour, or in ways that create a lot of collateral damage in the environment. Admittedly, the jewellery industry as a whole has been improving: consumers have been demanding better, making “Ethical” extremely marketable. And we’ve seen advances in technology that allow us to create and produce jewellery more mindfully than ever before.
If you’re choosing to purchase new jewellery for your wedding (including wedding rings), then you should make an effort to produce or buy ethical jewellery. While there isn’t any truly ethical consumption under Capitalism, there are several very easy steps you can take to minimize your impact on the Earth and support more ethical jewellery suppliers & producers. It doesn’t take much- just a little research and/or creativity!
Use Recycled Materials. If you’re using recycled metal or stones, then you can be sure that no new material is being mined for your consumption. This is popularly accomplished by re-using the wedding rings of parents or grandparents… but it can be done with anything made from the right materials! If you have some old jewellery that you don’t use anymore, then you may even be able to use that. Don’t have any metal, stones, or material to provide? Many jewellers will offer to provide recycled materials for you!
Use Lab-Grown Stones. Lab-grown gemstones are chemically identical to the ones you can find naturally occurring in the ground. You could easily argue that they’re superior to Earth-mined stones: they’re usually more attractive, they aren’t as ecologically destructive, and they’re far more affordable. Lab-grown stones are generally indistinguishable from mined stones- even with a jeweller’s tools! Your choices aren’t limited to diamonds, either… plenty of gemstones can be created in a controlled laboratory.
Work with a Local Jeweller. Working with small and/or local businesses goes a long way for minimizing your carbon footprint and helping the local economy. Working with a small/local jeweller will generally lead to less transportation of goods (and therefore, less pollution). You’re also likely to see a shorter supply chain (and therefore, more ethical working conditions for those involved). In addition to this, purchasing goods from a small/local business helps keep money in the community. Instead of a part of your payment going towards corporate higher-ups or out-of-country “middlemen” companies, your payment will go towards paying for the business owner’s groceries for the week, paying off their debt, or paying for local goods or services that they or their family make use of. By buying local, you are investing in your community.
Use Fair-Trade and Conflict-Free Materials. If you’re dead-set against lab-grown stones, or if recycled material isn’t accessible for you, do your best to use ethically-sourced materials. Ask any jeweller you use about how they (or their employers) source their stones, and do your research about gemstone and metal certifications. At the very least, look for stones and metals that are fair-trade and conflict-free… and DO NOT use blood diamonds!
Consider Alternative Materials. If you want to stick with metal, aluminum and stainless steel are some of the most eco-friendly metals you can use. If you’re open to other options, resin or wood (recycled or ethically-sourced) can make beautiful pieces! For something more permanent, tattoo wedding bands (or just matching tattoos) allow you to have creative control and won’t get in the way the same way rings would. There are plenty of activities that are dangerous or impractical to do while wearing a ring: operating heavy machinery, electrical work, baking, martial arts, dance, etc. If your ring is under the surface of your skin, then you have far less to worry about!