One of the best things that happened in 2019 was how social and environmental awareness went mainstream in a big way. People are now more open to having conversations on how to make better choices to benefit both other humans and the planet as a whole.
This includes many modern couples on the hunt for an engagement ring, who are now more discerning about how the materials in the rings are mined and sourced and putting their money towards one that reflects their values. The language used to describe ethical products might be confusing, but don’t worry; we can help decode the terms for you. Read on for our guide on eco-conscious engagement rings:
What is ethical jewellery?
In plain terms, ethical jewellery is jewellery that has not negatively impacted the people who make it, or the environment it’s made in. It’s no secret that diamonds, gemstones, and other precious materials have been used for nefarious purposes in less-developed nations to the detriment of those who live there: diamonds have been connected to dictators using them to fund private militias, further oppression and human rights abuses, and even commit genocide.
The Kimberley Process Certification System, known as the Kimberley Process or the KPCS, was established in 2003 to prevent so-called conflict or blood diamonds from entering the open market. However, while the diamond industry has managed to lower the number of dirty gems from 15% in the 90s to 1% in the present, the Process is far from an airtight solution. Certain companies who participated in the illicit trade of diamonds and other precious materials are still thriving to this day. Though retailers have gotten better at tracing the origins of a diamond or precious metal and certifying its provenance, the system is not quite perfect.
How does diamond and gold mining affect the environment?
Conflict diamonds are only a small part of the problem. The process of mining diamonds and other precious materials from the earth can have devastating social and environmental impacts as well. Labourers are exposed to poor working conditions with low pay, and desperation drives families to enlist their children into working in the mines. Irresponsible diamond mining has also ravaged the environment, causing large-scale deforestation, soil erosion, and land degradation. Meanwhile, the process of mining gold requires the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury that can pollute bodies of water, rendering them useless to humans.
How can I help?
Short of not buying an engagement ring at all, couples can turn to sustainable alternatives if they wish to make a truly ethical, eco-friendly purchase. The easiest way to do this is by inquiring after sourcing and patronising establishments that can provide the necessary certifications that prove their products are made ethically, using environmentally sound practices and conflict-free materials.
Couples can also look at recycled gold and alternative gemstones such as sapphires, rubies, amethysts and emeralds. If you don’t know where to buy sapphire rings in New Zealand, an online search or an inquiry with a reputable jeweller should yield meaningful results.
For those who still feel uneasy about mined gemstones, lab-grown stones can be a viable option. These are chemically, physically, and visually identical to mined stones and are indistinguishable from each other to the naked eye.
Finally, it could be worth considering using materials that aren’t considered precious at all such as wood, titanium, pewter, or stainless steel.
While most reputable jewellers have adopted higher standards, it’s still nice to know for sure that the ring you’ve chosen to mark your engagement with hasn’t been marred by anything negative. Don’t be afraid to move on if you aren’t certain about a ring’s sourcing and provenance. Trust us; you’ll feel better and more confident about your purchase when you know where it’s from and how it was made.