What Is Sustainable Jewelry And Why Does It Matter

April 20, 2022

Quality jewelry lasts a lifetime. However, many people today choose disposable pieces and throw them away after wearing them a few times. Men and women need to stop doing so and make a move to sustainable jewelry. What is sustainable jewelry, and why should you choose it?

Sustainable Jewelry

Ask ten people their definition of sustainable jewelry, and you will receive ten different answers. In general, however, sustainable jewelry is those pieces that are made with recycled or sustainable materials. In addition, workers who produce these pieces receive fair pay and have a safe work environment.

The production of these pieces has little impact on the environment, and the materials are not involved in any conflict. Furthermore, jewelers create the pieces to last, so the owner can hand them down through the generations.

A permanent bracelet serves as a good example of sustainable jewelry. This piece lacks a clasp or fastener, and a jeweler fuses it on the wearer. As a result, the risk of the bracelet being lost decreases, and it remains in place for weeks, months, years, or decades before the person has it removed. This is one type of sustainable jewelry every person should own.

Recycled Materials

Sustainable jewelry makes use of recycled materials in many cases. Jewelers can recycle gold, silver, and other precious metals with no loss of purity. In addition, jewelers may repurpose gemstones for a new piece.

When a jeweler uses repurposed materials, the environment benefits. No extractive mining takes place, and there is less energy used in the repurposing of jewelry when compared to the energy used in crafting new pieces. The environment benefits when new gold is recovered rather than mined.

The same holds for lab-grown diamonds. They benefit the environment, as they are not mined. However, consumers must take care to ensure they do not fall victim to greenwashing. While manufacturers grow these diamonds above ground with the help of renewable energy, this could lead to the loss of millions of jobs around the world.

Low-Impact Processing

After being mined, metals and stones undergo several processes before jewelers use them in pieces. These processes consume large amounts of energy and often involve the use of hazardous chemicals.

For example, when cutting gems, workers are exposed to microscopic dust, and this dust may harm the lungs. They often lack sufficient ventilation and the proper safety equipment when carrying out this task. This lack of a safe working environment remains a concern in third-world nations.

Consumers need to research companies to learn which suppliers use sustainable practices when making jewelry and which only claim to do so. Companies making use of renewable energy, working to reduce emissions, and employing low-impact processing should always be the first choice of buyers.

Transparency Within The Supply Chain

Gemstones move through many hands before arriving in a retailer’s display case. Conflict diamonds remain a concern within the gemstone supply chain, as consumers want to know they are not purchasing a stone with money that people will then use to fund rebel groups in certain countries.

Many people find the easiest and most transparent way to purchase sustainable jewelry is through a local jewelry artisan. However, they may not find the piece they desire through one of these suppliers and must expand the search. Certification programs allow them to learn more about each company and how they got the precious stones and jewels used in their pieces.

A company that can trace the raw materials used in its products from their origin to the jeweler’s display case has an advantage over competitors. Furthermore, developing relationships with suppliers dedicated to sustainability shows consumers the jeweler remains committed to this practice.

Labels

Each country has regulations regarding jewelry certifications and labeling. It falls on the consumer to know these regulations. However, certain labels and methods today focus on sustainability and ethical practices. Consider the following labels when you wish to purchase sustainable items.

Fair-mined metals are metals obtained through small-scale mining groups. These groups use extraction methods friendly to the environment. For example, they use fewer chemicals in the production process.

The Kimberley Process is a certification program focused on eliminating conflict diamonds, while the Gemological Institute of America assesses and grades gemstones for authenticity and quality. However, this institute provides little information on the environmental impact of the stone.

Fairtrade certified pieces are those pieces certified by Fairtrade International, an organization dedicated to empowering workers. The organization highlights the need for safe working conditions and fair pay.

Sustainable jewelry today is any piece that meets the above requirements. These pieces must adhere to environmental and ethical standards. In the future, all manufacturers may agree on what sustainability is in jewelry making. Until that time, consider the above when you make a purchase to ensure you are doing your part to protect workers and the environment. 

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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