The concept of eco-friendly jewelry is not a novel idea. However, currently, the jewelry market is more vocal than ever regarding this matter.
If you are familiar with the 2006 film “Blood Diamonds,” you may have an idea of what I am referring to. As the notion of ethical sourcing gains momentum, companies in the jewelry industry are facing a new challenge- ensuring that all of their products are environmentally friendly.
In this article, I will attempt to clarify the current status of the ethical and eco-friendly jewelry market while highlighting the initiatives that are either underway or already established.
Therefore, if you are interested in discovering more about this emerging trend in the jewelry industry, continue reading!
The Impact of Jewelry Sourcing on the Environment
The process of mining or sourcing raw materials for jewelry has long been known to have severe consequences on the environment. The impact of these effects widely depends on how the minerals are mined and how easily they can be separated from other materials. Once the mining process is complete, the land is usually left barren, pockmarked with pits.
Mining activities often occur in developing countries where there is a lack of oversight, allowing for the exploitation of both workers and the land. Even gems like pearls have environmental risk factors, even though they are not mined. Cleaning off multiple organisms that grow on oysters can be problematic since they are thrown back into the ocean as organic waste.
When excessive organic waste is deposited into the ocean, it leads to an inability of fish and other sea animals to break down the nutrients fully. This situation can cause algae blooms and deoxygenation, which can be detrimental to the environment.
This scenario is far from desirable, and steps need to be taken to reduce the impact of jewelry sourcing on the environment.
What are the Challenges in Creating Eco-Friendly Jewelry?
Creating eco-friendly jewelry is a challenging task due to various reasons. One of the primary challenges is the raw materials used in jewelry making. Most of the raw materials come from the ground, which is mainly found in under-developed or developing countries. Thus, tracing the supply chain and ensuring sustainable mining is a challenging process.
Moreover, the mining materials often pass through multiple hands before reaching the manufacturer or retailer, making it difficult to trace the origin of a finished product. However, completely stopping mining from the ground is not the solution. Instead, it is necessary to find ways to improve the living standards of workers involved in mining and make their lives better.
Apart from mining, other factors that make it difficult to create eco-friendly jewelry include the manufacturing process, transportation, and distribution of finished products. All these processes have a significant impact on the environment, and ensuring sustainable practices can be challenging.
Creating eco-friendly jewelry requires a conscious effort to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure ethical sourcing of raw materials. While it may be a challenging task, it is necessary to find ways to make the jewelry industry more sustainable for the future.
What Does the Jewelry Industry Do to Promote Environmentalism?
The millennial generation of the twenty-first century is notable for being particularly “woke” or information-hungry. There is no room for complacency in the jewelry sector as a result. The jewelry business started to make changes and take particular actions as it became aware of the trend toward buying eco-friendly jewelry.
To boost supply chain transparency, companies like DeBeers have partnered with IBM to deploy block chain technology. Although the concept is intriguing, it is still too early to celebrate, just like with the entire block chain industry.
What Regulations Exist for Eco-Friendly Jewelry?
There are several regulations in place to promote proper sourcing practices among jewelers, producers, and manufacturers. Here are the three main initiatives:
Fair trade Gold and Fairmined Gold – These initiatives aim to improve working conditions and environmental outcomes for small-scale mining of gold, which accounts for almost 10% of the total gold mined globally. Fairmined Gold currently certifies 7 mines and licenses 12 gold traders in over 15 countries, while Fair trade Gold has 3 certified producers and 41 certified traders.
Responsible Jewelry Council – This council has developed a jewelry-specific code of practice to address human rights and labor rights issues, particularly in the high-end jewelry market. The RJC has close to 11 trade associations and hosts almost 918 commercial members, representing almost a third of all sales of luxury jewelry.
Kimberley Process Diamonds – This certification scheme was established in 2002 to monitor the trade of rough diamonds and prevent the sale of “blood diamonds” that fund war, civil conflict, and other unethical activities. The process has filtered close to 99% of conflict diamonds, but some organizations have withdrawn, claiming that it still doesn’t provide enough assurance that diamonds entering the market are conflict-free. The Canadian Diamond Code of Conduct is a similar initiative promoting eco-friendly and conflict-free diamonds in Canada.
The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)
The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) aims to safeguard the well-being of workers and communities impacted by mining. It offers an incentive system to encourage companies to adhere to their standards, which are independently verified by IRMA. Retailers who source from these mines can benefit from the increased financial value of these responsible practices.
The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)
The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is a global initiative established in 2004 to transform small-scale mining into an environmentally sustainable activity that improves the lives of miners and the surrounding ecosystems.
What does the future hold for eco-friendly jewelry?
With environmental concerns at the forefront of the jewelry industry, major players must adapt to meet consumer demands. This requires a shift towards more ethical and sustainable practices in sourcing and production.
One promising trend is the rise of recycled jewelry, which is gaining popularity as companies like KBH Jewels introduce new lines of recycled gold, such as the “New Gold Standard.” Recycling is a key strategy for promoting eco-friendliness, especially given that metal mining is the leading toxic polluter, according to a survey by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Lab Grown Diamonds
Another potential solution is the use of lab-grown diamonds, which are often marketed as an eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds. However, there is debate over the environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds, as they require significant amounts of energy produced by fossil fuels. Also, there is no real evidence that lab created diamonds are better for the environment. The Federal Trade Commission warns against making claims of eco-friendliness without proper evidence.
RECOMMENDED: What is a Lab Grown Diamond?
Ultimately, the future of eco-friendly jewelry hinges on a continued commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. As consumers become more aware of environmental issues, demand for eco-friendly options will only continue to grow, putting pressure on the industry to prioritize sustainability.
Lab-grown jewelry is an excellent alternative to natural jewelry and can easily fool the average person into thinking it is genuine. Choosing synthetic jewelry also ensures that the environment is not negatively impacted as the entire process happens in a lab.
As ethical and eco-friendly practices become more important to consumers, the need for transparency in the supply chain is critical. Blockchain technology is the ideal solution to this issue.
Blockchain’s transparency and immutability make it possible for jewelers to track an item from its point of origin to the retailer. By using blockchain technology, DeBeers has already created Tracr, a system for tracing diamonds from the mines to the display shelves.
All transactions recorded on the blockchain are transparent and unchangeable, allowing consumers to know exactly where an item came from and who handled it throughout the process. As a result, blockchain technology is poised to play an essential role in the future of the jewelry industry.