It was quite difficult though. When I started out, I couldn't find an eco conscious jewelry maker let alone ethical diamonds. Eco friendly is a difficult term to translate into jewelry, no matter what anyone says. There is no guide to what makes jewelry eco conscious or healthy. Even the terms recycled gold and ethical diamonds are a mask, as the damage done to the earth through even ethical mining can be brutal, and the process itself of creating jewelry creates highly toxic waste. Then there is the question of the other materials used in the jewelry. Just because the gold is recycled does not mean it is eco friendly. The process of recycling gold commonly uses extremely harsh petrochemicals, heavy metals and acids such as aqua regia (a mix of nitric and hydrochloric acids) cyanide and mercury.
This doesn't necessarily mean there is no hope. After creating the ring for my wife, we founded an eco conscious jewelry studio that is exploring completely toxin free and toxic waste free jewelry. We have eliminated almost every toxic compound in the jewelry production process, though we are by no means 100% there yet! I am very proud of wha we have been able to accomplish.
If you're interested in learning more, check out: abbeyjewelrystudio.blogspot.com
and you can see some finished work at abbeyjewelrystudio.com/gallery.html
Btw, congratulations on finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with!
Wow, it's so nice to see someone really tyrying to find the most ethical engagement ring possible! I aplaud you, Justin and fiancee!
I actually work for an eco-friendly fine jewelry company and we too use the usual recycled metals and ethically-sourced diamonds. I definitely know what you mean when you say using those descriptions are just a "mask." It's truly difficult to obtain a diamond that is completely conflict-free from Africa, and yes, chemicals are used and toxins are released in order to melt down gold and silver for reuse.
One of the things that one of the mining companies my company, Ruff&Cut, works with does with the excess earth and gravel that is dug up from the ground during the mining process is reincorporate it back into the land and/or use it to create roads in the mining communities in Sierra Leone. It may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference compared to doing nothing and just leaving big gaping holes on the planet. Also, the mines supply jobs for the locals in the area, which may not be eco-friendly, but more people-friendly and socially responsible.
There is a lot of exploring happening in the diamond and jewelry industry now to create jewelry that is eco-friendly as possible, and it's always good to know that there are consumers who care that makes efforts worth it. I never heard of Abbey Jewelry Studio, but I will definitely check them out!
Check out Brilliant Earth. It's a company based in SF and from what I've read, I think they are sound. Luckily, my mother passed her ring down to my fiance to propose to me, but we plan on purchasing our wedding rings from them.
I second the recommendation to Brilliant Earth (although I am posting many months after this chain ended I realize) - my engagement/wedding ring is from Brilliant Earth and the metal is recycled as are some of the diamonds and the main diamond is certified conflict free - so while it could be better if it was all recycled/re-used materials, its a step up. The company was also fantastic to work with.
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