Jewellery is so much more than the display of wealth, beauty, and influence, it is a form of expression that transcends language. Rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other items bear cultural and anthropological significance and have done so for over 25,000 years.
Since the palaeolithic days, a lot has changed regarding jewellery and its production. The popularity that jewellery enjoys across the globe translates to a $230 billion market that is estimated to grow to over $300 billion by 2026. Unfortunately, much of conventional jewellery production has negative impacts on the environment.
Inefficiencies and unethical practices plague the jewellery industry, and a move toward an eco-friendlier market is underway. This article will walk you through what eco-friendly jewellery is, the environmental impacts of jewellery, and how you can go about creating a sustainable jewellery collection.
Eco-friendly jewellery refers to jewellery products that leave minimal or no negative impacts on the environment. Jewellery can come with many negative effects on the environment, from extracting materials from the ground to shipping the product to the store or consumer. Eco-friendly jewellery strives to avoid disturbing environmental harmony and comes hand in hand with ensuring the ethical treatment of workers.
Gold and silver mining is an environmentally damaging process. First, the process of extracting gold uses cyanide, a poisonous chemical that is deadly to humans in the slightest quantities. Cyanide contaminates bodies of water, becoming hazardous to wildlife and causing the death of fish and other aquatic organisms.
The excavation and transport of precious metals also add to the process’ carbon footprint. It is estimated that a pair of gold earrings can generate 31 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This amount is equivalent to driving a small car for about 124 miles.
Finally, digging for gold and silver produces sulfuric acid, which can penetrate the aquifer, an underground body of rock through which water can pass. Sulfuric acid is a chemical capable of corroding paper, metals, and even stone. This means the toxic chemical can penetrate the bedrock and become toxic to microorganisms that are important to the ecosystem. While its toxicity is characterized as moderate-acute, meaning dangerous in the short term, sulfuric acid can badly burn plants, birds, and land animals that are exposed to it before it becomes diluted.
Ethical Jewellery – Diamonds
Sourcing diamonds presents many of the same environmental drawbacks as precious metals. Besides the effects on the environment, diamond mining is also frequently responsible for violence, worker exploitation, and even civil wars in developing countries. Finding ethical diamonds hinges on the consumers’ will to demand retailer transparency and guide the market toward ethical, sustainable diamonds.
How to Find Eco-Friendly Jewelry
One way to reduce your impact on the environment and buy eco-friendly jewellery is to look for brands that use repurposed diamonds. However, this alone can only account for a small portion of jewellery production. To promote eco-friendly jewellery on a larger scale, consumers can start by finding brands that have a sustainable, ethical vision and put their values into practice.
Sustainability certification is one way of ensuring that a jewellery manufacturer commits to optimal environmental, social, and ethical practices. When seeking to buy diamonds, for example, there is now a sustainable diamond certification you can look for. This new certification offers proof of origin and guarantees that your jewellery is free of an environmentally damaging, unethical past. You can also look for sustainability certifications that vouch for the manufacturing of ethical, environmentally viable gold and silver.
Beyond the material jewellery is made of, you need to look for as much detail as possible regarding the mining practices, labour conditions, and other production activities. Check to see that the jewellery manufacturers you are interested in employ a quality management team to provide transparency on production practices and regulatory compliance. Companies that value their role in creating an environmentally sustainable world are eager to provide consumers with visibility.
If you’re considering purchasing a new piece of jewellery, take the time to find a retailer that works exclusively with manufacturers that adhere to the highest standards. Support artists that create handmade jewellery and accessories from metals, wood, gemstones, and beads.
These sustainable artists tend to find stones through surface mining, a practice that is far less damaging to the environment than underground methods. Furthermore, most metal is recyclable and available to be reused by many generations to come in other products. Wood absorbs carbon dioxide while growing, is adaptable for use in a wide range of products, is flexible for its recyclability, and makes for an efficient biofuel.
When looking for diamonds, check for certifications such as the Kimberley Process. The Institute for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) will help you find companies that follow sustainable mining practices.
Changing the world with your wallet is the most effective way to bring change. Engaging with jewellery manufacturers and retailers and showing your preference for responsible creators and organizations will put jewellery production on the path to sustainability.
This post was written by guest author Lena Milton, a freelance writer covering sustainability, health and environmental science. She writes to help consumers understand the environmental and ethical challenges in everyday life so we can find viable solutions for both.