Jewelry is gorgeous; it’s sentimental, too. But did you know it can also be incredibly damaging to the environment? Jewel mining can hurt people and destroy nature. Here’s everything you need to know about why it’s important to choose sustainable and ethical jewelry whenever possible.
Mining’s environmental impact and forced labor in the jewelry industry
Jewelry mining is toxic and dangerous; according to the EPA, it’s a leading cause of waterway pollution in the U.S., and around the world. Mining poses human health risks, bringing harm to local communities as hazardous gas emissions pollute the air. Mining is also a leading cause of land erosion, impacting ecosystems and local biodiversity.
Another leading cause for concern in the jewelry industry is the use of forced and child labor. According to the International Labor Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most child labor in the world. Children account for 21 percent of all labor across the region. The US Dept. of Labor found that child labor is common in diamond mining regions such as the Republic of Sierra Leone. This work can involve heavy labor, such as carrying more than 100 pounds of gravel.
But not all jewelry comes from these conditions. In fact, there are a number of eco-conscious brands creating gorgeous options that are improving the jewelry industry on a number of levels. According to jewelry designer Melissa Joy Manning, the best way to change the industry is to demand better product.
“Consumers control the market- when they demand transparency in the supply chain by asking where and how things are made designers and corporations will have to provide it,” she told me in an interview a few years back. “If we pay more for a label why can’t we pay more for a belief?”
Ethical jewelry brands
Here are my favorite sustainable and ethical jewelry brands for elegant looks that you can feel good about.
This gorgeous jewelry maker uses “green gold,” which comes from conflict-free regions where no one is harmed during the mining and uses sustainable lab-grown diamonds. I like this earring for a little sparkle!
2. Elisa Solomon Jewelry
This line is made to order, ensuring there is no waste. All stones and diamonds are responsibly sourced and this maker keeps a small environmental footprint by making everything in her studio!
Linjer makes really nice, delicate pieces. They use recycled gold, and conflict-free diamonds. Their rings are perfect for stacking, and come at a great price point.
Mam makes really funky unique pieces. They use recycled metals, FSC wood, and sustainable shipping to offset their CO2 emissions. Everything they make is extremely thoughtful to the environment while still being super stylish and unique. This multi-finger ring and hand ring is pretty cool.
5. Faeber Studio
This is another great new find for the season! All items are handcrafted and made to order. All of the silver is 100% recycled, and the brass is 30% post-consumer recycled material. They work with local suppliers like family-owned businesses and artists/refineries. I swear I had a pair of earrings that looked just like this when I was 14!
And my easy go-to hoops.
6. Tumbleweed Bead Co.
This company makes all of its jewelry from recycled materials and natural stones. They have a lot of very pretty, simple styles, like this one.