Many have slightly negative preconceptions about eco-friendly jewellery, but we’re here to paint a clear picture of the modern sustainable jewellery scene. If you’re worried that an ethical jewellery choice will compromise on quality and appearance, fear not. From recycled precious metals to lab-grown and ethically sourced diamonds and gems, fine eco-jewellery differs only in the provenance of its materials and the ethos behind its conception and production.
The jewellery industry has faced criticism regarding its practices in recent decades. From the diamond scandals that rocked the high-end jewellery producers to the negative environmental impact of fast-fashion jewellery – the industry rightly faced criticism. In response to demand, eco-friendly jewellery is on the rise, with brands of all sizes showcasing their sustainable jewellery ideas. To learn all about eco-credentials in the industry and why your decision to make an ethical purchase makes a difference, read through our handy guide. Here you’ll find our favourite eco-jewellery trends and meet the companies leading the way.
The environmental impact of the jewellery industry
When you consider a delicate, sparkling piece of fine jewellery, it’s hard to think of it as a major contributor to the ongoing environmental issues causing ripples of unrest across the globe. But when you learn that 57kg of carbon is released for every carat of gold mined, you start to see the problem.
Mining precious metals such as gold is responsible for significant deforestation, including destroying our biodiverse rainforest habitats. 9% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost due to the mining of minerals alone.
Waterways and soils can become polluted by mining practices, including the release of cyanide during silver production and the mercury contamination of the local soils during metal mining. Open-pit mining causes terrible soil erosion, which strips the local land of its all-important fertile topsoil. This soil erosion not only limits the prosperity of farmland but also reduces the diversity and health of habitats where local wildlife live.
A mining mission impossible?
One of the leading ecological issues for the jewellery industry has been the mining of gems. Industries across the board are being asked to cut their carbon emissions, and there is no escaping the fact that gem mining machines are heavy producers of carbon dioxide.
Unfortunately, gem miners face some hefty hurdles when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Many of the mines of the industry’s most popular gems are located in developing countries where it is more challenging to source the machinery that allows for reduced carbon production.
Furthermore, many of these mines continue to carry out dubious working practices with their employees, implementing long work hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. It, therefore, becomes the jewellery producer’s responsibility to shun such mines and opt instead for those following responsible and ethical procedures.
Those mines that are committed to meeting the expectations of the industry have implemented changes such as low-impact mining techniques, including in-situ leaching. Rather than digging a pit and mining underground, leaching involves drilling boreholes to extract minerals and metals. They are also shifting to the use of battery-powered and electrical machinery and are using the waste products of the mining process to help relandscape the mines, reducing soil erosion.
Embracing eco-friendly jewellery
Understanding that putting pressure on jewellers to offer sustainable jewellery will ultimately lead to safer working environments for miners, the protection of precious ecosystems and a reduction in polluting carbon emissions – few would argue that choosing eco-jewellery is a simple but effective lifestyle choice.
As you’ll happily discover as you explore some of our favourite eco-brands and sustainable pieces in trending styles, whatever your taste and budget, there are now ethical options ready to add to your jewellery collection.
What are the credentials?
You have plenty of options when it comes to improving the sustainability of your jewellery collection. If you’re looking for a special piece for a one-off event such as a wedding, why not consider borrowing an item of jewellery rather than making a purchase?
With vintage jewellery continuing to rise in popularity, there’s never been a better time to embrace the pre-loved movement. Whatever the age of the jewellery, buying second-hand not only offers you potential savings but also ticks the sustainability box.
Recycled materials are a popular feature in eco-friendly jewellery, with many leading brands offering recycled gold and silver within their collections. This is an excellent option if you’re looking for luxury pieces, but other recycled materials appear in beautiful, sustainable pieces. For example, sea glass and plastic cleared from the ocean and beaches are now being used in pendants, rings and earrings. Seashells, sea glass, ethically sourced pearls and preserved flowers all offer you an environmentally friendly alternative to mined gems.
Many eco-jewellers have forged strong relationships with ethical mines if you’re searching for a sustainable bejewelled item. You can check to see if their metals have Fairtrade or Fairmined credentials. For a sparkling diamond piece, lab-grown diamonds offer exceptional quality and value for money, with a far smaller environmental impact than the mined alternative.
Make sure your chosen brand isn’t falling at the final hurdle. Ask about their packaging and shipping practices, ensuring these are also environmentally minded. Look for recyclable and biodegradable packaging and check out the brand’s preferred courier to see how their company manages its carbon footprint.
To summarise, to check the eco-credentials of your next jewellery purchase, if it isn’t second-hand, look for the use of recycled materials for ethically mined and sourced stones, and consider lab-grown diamonds.
Exciting eco-friendly jewellery brands to try
If you’re feeling inspired to make your next jewellery purchase an eco-friendly one, we’ve compiled a list of dynamic eco-friendly jewellery brands that are putting their heart and soul into creating ethical pieces that don’t compromise on style.
Top trending styles and our favourite eco-friendly jewellery examples
We’ve got plenty of sustainable jewellery ideas for you to peruse. Although you can find an eco alternative to almost any jewellery style, we’re here to show you some trending styles within this niche.
According to the Vegetarian Society, 4.5% of the UK population is meat-free, with 17% eating less meat now than a decade ago. For both health and environmental reasons, there have been growing numbers of people assessing their meat consumption and use of animal products.
Vegan jewellery could fall under the category of greenwashing since many types of jewellery are made without animal products. However, if you’re looking for items where leather may traditionally be used, vegan jewellery offers an inclusive alternative.
If you love the youthful, laid-back look of leather band bracelets, David Deyong offers a vegan leather alternative with its classic braided Stainless Steel Rose Gold Plaited Leather Bead Bracelet.
Longing to go leather free on your next watch? Ted Baker has embraced the leather alternative option with its delightfully rosy Magnolia Watch With Vegan Leather Strap. If you’re looking for something more formal, the minimalist-inspired Classic Brown Vegan Leather Watch by Mondaine will work a treat alongside both smart and casual attire.
Eco-friendly jewellers have been taking note of the soaring popularity of sapphires. Though the mining and sourcing of diamonds are undoubtedly improving, consumers were ready to embrace a more environmentally friendly alternative, and sapphires were waiting to step up! Because of the geographical location of sapphire mines, they are considered lower-conflict stones and are more ecologically and socially responsible. Moreover, because sapphires come in various hues, including blue, green, purple, pink, yellow, white and orange, they offer a versatile and ethical route to finding a gemstone piece to your taste.
Alice Gwyneth showcases a sustainably sourced yellow or orange sapphire and eco-sterling silver in their quirky Silver Sunset Sapphire Ring. Boasting a collection of colourful sapphires set in various jewellery types, Brilliant Earth is the place to go for azure sapphire engagement rings and ornate pendants for the most formal events.
Lab-grown diamonds are one of the hottest trends in the eco-friendly jewellery industry among designers creating high-end pieces. The tightly controlled conditions of these manmade stones mean high-clarity diamonds can be created ethically.
Who can resist a dazzling pair of diamond earrings? Kimai works with lab-grown diamonds in their jewellery range, including these timeless Pear Stud Earrings. Rachel Jackson London offers a fresh take on diamond jewellery, allowing younger generations to experience the pleasure of wearing this stone. The Solid Gold and Diamond Love Necklace is an ideal purchase for the trendy fashionista.
Pearls are considered one of 2023’s leading jewellery trends, tapping into the consumer’s enthusiasm for classic pieces that will stand the test of time.
Although pearls seem like an excellent alternative to mined stones, it’s still important to source sustainable pearls whose production or collection minimises the jewellery industry’s environmental impact. Look for jewellers who work closely with suppliers to ensure that natural pearls are mindfully collected or use cultured pearls in their creations.
Eco brand Edge of Ember showcases carefully sourced freshwater pearls in the sophisticated Victoria Gili Pearl Bracelet. Brilliant Earth pairs ethical, cultured pearls alongside recycled white gold in their effortlessly chic Akoya Cultured Pearl and Diamond Pendant. Budget-friendly and brimming with the dreamy soft aesthetic of pearls, Lily & Roo’s Silver Pearl Drop Earrings are created using ethically sourced freshwater pearls and precious metals.
Find sustainable jewellery that fills you with joy and helps you play your part in protecting the planet. By making this jewellery choice, you’ll benefit by: