Jewellery is sentimental. It is something that is bought to last, given with love, and often passed down through generation to generation. From wedding bands and friendship bracelets to promise rings and lockets, jewellery often holds significant emotional attachment.
But what about the emotions and sentiment that are attached to our jewellery before it comes out of the box? Who made it? Whose hands has it passed? What is its story?
There is a history behind everything we purchase. Just as with clothing, it’s important to start asking questions about the story behind your Jewellery. Because once you wear it, it becomes your story too. And nothing says ‘eternal love’ like a blood diamond engagement ring, right?
What is “Ethical Jewellery”
Ethical jewellery is a broad concept that generally refers to jewellery that is consciously made with care being taken to reduce its negative socio-environmental impact. In essence, it is about creating beautiful pieces without exploiting human labour or costing the environment.
While there is no universal definition of ethical jewellery, the following themes can help illuminate the core pillars of ethical jewellery, and help you to understand which questions we should start asking:
Responsible sourcing refers to how the materials- such as minerals & gems- are sourced. Mining is a notoriously exploitative, crime-ridden industry that often thrives in conflict-ridden regions. In 2003, the UN launched the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to prevent “conflict diamonds” (also known as “blood diamonds”) from entering mainstream markets.
Since then, we have seen the emergence of several certification bodies, such as Fairmined, an independent assurance label that certifies that gold has come from responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organisations. There is also a rise in Fairtrade Gold, and other programs that support responsible mining and sourcing.
Every single person that helped create your piece of jewellery should be paid fairly and treated with respect. From the miners to the makers and everyone in between. At a minimum, this means no forced or child labour, fair wages, and safe working conditions (you’d be surprised how many high street brands don’t meet these basic standards…).
Respect for the Environment
While many of the pillars of ethical jewellery focus on the human element, ethical jewellery also encompasses reducing its negative environmental impact. One key way jewellers work to do this is by using recycled or up-cycled materials for their collections. This reduces dependence on natural, virgin resources and minerals, and therefore the overall environmental cost.
Positive Social Impact
Ethical Jewellery is not just about “decreasing the negatives” but also about increasing the positive impact of our jewellery. What feels better than buying a piece of gorgeous jewellery and knowing that someone else will benefit from your purchase?
For instance, Little by Little fund three days of food for a malnourished child with every purchase from their collection. SeeMe also creates positive impact by training and employing female survivors of domestic abuse. Knowing that your jewellery is helping a marginalised, at-risk woman gain financial independence is definitely a story we would be proud to wear.