As pretty and magnetic as jewelry looks, some of the world’s biggest jewelry brands are unfortunately guilty of participating in practices that are anything but sustainable and ethical.
Sustainable, ethical jewelry is surprisingly hard to find. Major retailers rely on brands that don’t prioritize ethics. That’s the sad secret about a lot of how jewelry is sourced, created, and the lack of transparency on the business side of things.
What Is Sustainable And Ethical Jewelry?
Sustainable, ethical jewelry is jewelry that’s produced with minimal impact on the environment, employing fair work conditions for the workers, and that uses sustainable materials.
For a lot of brands, it is incredibly difficult to verify whether their jewelry is ethical or not. A close examination of a lot of supply chains will reveal lots of complex issues that don’t put jewelry in a favorable light.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t ethical jewelry brands. There are …and they’re growing. And interest in them is growing. Even so, there is still a lack of ethics with a lot of the big corporate brands most of us are aware of.
The problems with jewelry can be separated into five categories – overconsumption, lack of transparency, monopolization, environmentally-damaging procurement, and sometimes-permanent damage to the communities where jewelry materials are mined.
Some homes in North America spend as much as $1,600/year on jewelry. A lot of the jewelry is worn once and then is left to gather dust. In time, the plate fades and it gets tossed into the garbage. From there, this jewelry is taken to the landfill where the metal and plastics start polluting the environment.
This is the best example of overconsumption with jewelry and fortunately, there are more consumers than not looking to buy ethical jewelry.
Lack Of Transparency
When buying jewelry, it’s not always easy to know whether it’s ethically sourced or not. Raw materials mined from one country get processed in another and then is formatted into jewelry somewhere else.
To make jewelry, it goes through 7 stages before getting to the customer – exploration, mining, sorting, cutting, polishing, creation, and inspection or certification. It’s impossible to verify how ethical a piece is or isn’t for most jewelry brands.
When you buy jewelry online, you can find lots of brands. When you shop in-store, it’s only a handful. The jewelry industry is monopolized by about a half-dozen brands and those multi-national corporations are willing to do whatever they can to maintain market share, sell more jewelry, and maximize their profits.
That’s why the ‘perfect jewelry’ as described by them is oftentimes taken from materials derived from corrupt sources.
To mine a single carat of diamond, some 250 tons of earth has to be moved. That’s a lot. That happens more than 148 million times a year. Big diamond mines. Big destruction. You get ecosystem damage, greenhouse gas emissions, and more.
The jewelry industry, sadly, is one of the most destructive in the world when it comes to the lack of protections around how materials get procured.
There are lots of social issues around creating jewelry. Large-scale mines can displace entire communities. Local biodiversity is affected, harming food sources. Child labor is used in some smaller operations. Cyanide and other chemicals are used in jewelry-making. There are questionable conditions on certain job sites.
As evidenced, there is a lot of corruption and a lot that go wrong around jewelry options.
What Can We Do To Stop Unethical Jewelry?
There are a few things you can do to combat unethical jewelry practices.
Don’t buy unethical jewelry. Buy second-hand jewelry instead. Alternatively, search for sustainable ethical jewelry online. Do your research. A lot of fast-growing smaller brands specialize in handcrafted and sustainably sourced jewelry.
Corail Blanc is one of Canada’s fast-growing ethical jewelry brands. We are focused on sustainable, eco-friendly jewelry, often handcrafted, and providing these high-quality products to customers in need. Corail Blanc remains a figure in the jewelry movement, paving a way for ethical, more sustainable jewelry practices everywhere.