Wondering how to buy ethically sourced diamonds? Read this guide to find out.
It is easy to find a beautiful piece of jewelry. However, knowing whether it was sourced ethically is not that easy.
Any time you plan on buying jewelry, you may have some questions. For example, you may wonder: how was this diamond ring made?
Other questions you may have include, where the jewelry came from, whether it was sourced ethically, and the time spent making it.
The fashion industry is growing drastically and competition always increasing. This being the case, some jewelry manufactures sell items obtained from places with unfair mining practices. These practices include poor working conditions, low wages, hard labor, among others.
What is Ethically Sourced Jewelry?
Making jewelry is a long process that involves a lot of players. There are many people involved, right from locating the the gemstones to mining them, making jewelry to selling them.
Before the raw materials used to make jewelry are sourced, it is crucial to check the working environment surrounding the miners. If a company ethically sources the jewelry, this means that it observes good humanitarian practices, such as humane working conditions and good wages.
Watch the video below to learn how diamonds are ethically sourced:
Why Source Jewelry Ethically
Jewelry has always caused controversies when traded because of the size to value ratio. We are especially talking about diamonds.
A small piece of a diamond can cost several thousand dollars.
Diamonds are located deep in the ground. For this reason, very few companies can mine them. The companies using advanced technology and machinery to reach the diamonds. The work typically involves digging deep through several thick layers of hard rock.
Another option is to carry out what is known as alluvial mining, which involves scraping through the sand on the river banks. This mining technique also requires high technology.
RECOMMENDED: Actions Companies Are Taking to Become Eco-Friendly.
However, despite modern technology being more effective, some companies still use the artisan mining method. This is a traditional method that involves people mining using their hands. The method is popular in various African countries, and is one of the reasons for the call for ethical practices.
The traditional artisan mining method is unregulated. As a result, the miners work in very unbearable and dangerous conditions. For example, they don’t have specialized equipment or gear, they are not insured against disasters, and have to bear with the dirty water.
However, it is not only the workers that feel the impact of unregulated artisanal mining but also the environment.
As the miners extract, they leave behind several exposed pits. These pits later fill up with dirty water. As a result, the stagnant water forms a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Despite the poor working conditions, the diamonds that are mined are sold across various retail jewelry shops at astronomical prices, with the miners usually getting next to nothing for risking their lives getting the gemstones.
How to Determine Ethically Sourced Jewelry
Over time, the issues of dangerous working conditions and poor wages of the miners were raised. After a round of meetings, several jewelry bodies decided to come up with regulations to protect all laborers and miners. The first regulation was creating a fair trading policy that affects all jewelry.
Fairtrade makes sure that all miners are well compensated for their tough labor.
In any unfair mining or trading environment, the cost of exporting is very high. This usually means that all the money is spent on exporting, leaving the workers with nothing.
The most commonly implemented method of checking whether jewelry is ethically sourced is the Kimberly Process Certification. The certification was effected in 2003 and has played a major role in ensuring that nearly all the diamonds sold in the market are not associated with any human rights violations or environmental pollution.
However, despite the best efforts, the process cannot guarantee that all diamonds are conflict-free. Still, since its establishment, unethically sourced diamonds have continually been phased out.
How to Identify Ethically Sourced Diamonds (6 Steps)
When shopping for jewelry, knowing if it is conflict-free can be difficult. However, here are few steps that can make your work easy.
#1. Do Background Search
First, ask about the source of the jewelry. Find out where it came from.
If a seller declines to reveal this information, insist.
After knowing the origin, proceed to do your research before buying.
If the website does not have enough information about the source of its jewelry inventory, look for other sources. For example, you can ask some jewelry industry experts about the source of the jewelry.
Another option is to physically visit the jewelry store and ask the owners about the source of the jewelry.
Finding out the source of a piece of diamond will not only ensure that you get good quality jewelry but you will also rest assured that you are buying responsibly.
#2. Find Out the Source of the Jewelry
You can only be certain that your diamond was sourced ethically by knowing its exact origin. A good and responsible jeweler will let you know where the jewelry comes from. If you can not get this information from the company, look for a different jeweler.
If you are looking to buy diamonds, avoid those coming from countries known for violating ethical standards.
The most known diamond mining conflict zones are Zimbabwe, DRC, Liberia, and Angola. Avoid diamonds from these countries and, instead, buy those originating from Canada, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Botswana. The latter countries have very strict mining standards. The diamonds from these countries are conflict-free.
#3. Demand For a Certificate
It is common for jewelry retailers to overhype the pieces they sell. However, to be sure that you are getting the real deal, ask for the jewelry’s certification. The certification will confirm the jewelry’s quality, source, and even value. You can also know the process followed when making that specific jewelry.
Using a certificate to authenticate the jewelry you want to buy is a simple way to clear your doubt. The certificate will help you know whether the piece was sourced ethically.
RECOMMENDED: Diamond Grading Reports to Avoid
#4. Ask The Correct Questions
It is always good to ask hard questions. Questions that will help you get all the information you need.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- What is the exact place where the jewelry was mined?
- Can I track where the jewelry originated?
- What are your policies regarding jewelry sourcing?
- How can I know if you follow the standards of ethical jewelry sourcing?
#5. Look Out For Unclear Answers
If you’re shopping for jewelry at a physical jewelry store, ensure that you are accompanied by the salesperson as you look around. Ask the salesperson different questions and not the answers given.
There are a number of things you should watch out from a salesperson’s explanations. The most common is the jargon used to convince potential customers to buy.
Also, take note of the questions that go unanswered or dodged. Most likely, that question has all the truth you need. If you notice the salesperson giving elusive answers, just keep asking till it is well answered.
You can ask about issues to do with the safety of the environment, labor, history, and more.
#6. Deliberate Lab-Grown Diamonds
If you find it difficult to get conflict-free jewelry, go for lab-grown ones. These synthetic jewelry are conflict-free as they are purely made in the lab. However, not all jewelry have their alternative lab grown options. Therefore, your choices will be limited.
RECOMMENDED: Best Place to Buy Lab-Grown Diamonds
Where to Buy Conflict-Free Diamonds & Jewelry
Below are a few brands that are popular for their ethical sourcing. You should only use this guide as a pointer since their certification is not 100% assured. Still, you are not likely to go wrong with the following options:
Fair Trade Jewelry Co.
Topping the list is Fair Trade. This company based in Canada has several quality assessment processes. The processes are similar to those followed by Fair Trade Coffee. Moreover, it was the first jewelry company in North America that initiated these processes.
James Allen is well known for its high-quality jewelry. The company has taken steps further than the Kimberly Process to make sure that not even a single piece of their diamond comes from conflict zones.
James Allen is the first online retailer to have the famous Canadamark Diamonds. These diamonds are of the highest diamond quality and come from Canada mines.
If you are looking for a company that has specialized in growing lab diamonds, check out Clean Origin. This means that if you are looking to get 100% ethically sourced diamonds, Clean Origin is the place to shop.
At the online jewelry store, you can get better prices by making a bulk purchase of diamonds. This is one of advantages that Clean Origin has over other online jewelry retailers.
Unlike ordinary jewelers, Etsy works in a different way. First, the company incorporates several private dealers. These sellers make a variety of jewelry from anything available to them, including platinum, wood, diamonds, and even gold
The jewelry from these stores is ethically sourced since they make them themselves. The online store offers competitive prices as well.
Another popular retailer is Blue Nile. You may have read about the store in our Blue Nile reviews article.
Blue Nile is well-known for its conflict-free pieces. There is even a whole section on their website that addresses issues to do with ethical sourcing. The store does not accept any diamonds sourced from conflict zones.
Brilliant Earth is unique in the jewelry industry, mostly because of its beginning. The founders of the company only wanted to handle diamonds obtained from conflict-free zones. They however did not find one. As a result, they started a brand new company that entirely deals with conflict-free diamonds.
Brilliant Earth gets its diamonds from from Diavik and Ekati mines in Canada.
Knowing how to recognize conflict-free jewelry is important when going to shop. An online jewelry store should be able to answer all the questions you have concerning their sourcing process. The store should also share its policies on sourcing.
By buying ethically-sourced diamonds, you will be building responsible industry practices.