It is easy to find a beautiful piece of jewelry however, knowing if it was sourced ethically is a different task.
Any time you plan on buying yourself jewelry, some questions always arise. The most common being How was it made?
Other frequently asked questions include, where it came from if it was sourced ethically and the time spent making it.
Since the fashion industry is growing drastically and completion to always sell increasing, some manufactures sell items obtained from places whose mining practices are very unfair. These practices include poor working conditions and wages, a lot of hard labor among others.
What is Ethically Sourced Jewelry?
Making jewelry is a very long process that involves a lot of players. There are many people involved right from locating them and even mining them to selling them.
Anytime raw materials used to make the jewelry are sourced, it is mandatory to check the working environment surrounding the miners. If a company ethically sources the jewelry then this company observes good humanitarian practices. This includes anything to deal with wages.
Why Ethical Sourcing?
Jewelry has always caused some controversy when traded. Especially diamonds. This is because of the size to value ratio. A small piece of a diamond can cost several thousand.
Diamonds are located deep down in the ground. For this reason, very few companies mine for them using high technology. Digging deep through the several thick layers of thick hard rock is one method requiring high technology. Alluvial mining is the other method that still requires high technology. This involves scraping through the sand on the river banks.
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Even with modern technology, some companies use the artisan mining method. This is a traditional method that involves people mining using their hands. It is very popular in certain countries from Africa and is one of the reasons for ethical practices.
This traditional method is unregulated. This means that the conditions of this workplace are very unbearable. Here people have lacked the required equipment, there is no insurance against disasters and people have to bear with the dirty eater.
It is not only the workers that feel this impact but also the environment. As the miners extract, they leave behind several exposed pits, this pits later fill with dirty water. As a result, the stagnant water forms a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Even with these poor working conditions, the diamonds that are mined are happily sold across various retail jewelry shops.
Does Your Jewelry Meet Ethical Practices?
Eventually, such issues surrounding the miners were raised and several brands decided to come up with regulations. These regulations were meant to protect all the laborers and miners. The first one was to create a fair trading policy that affects all the jewelry.
Fairtrade makes sure that all miners are well compensated for the tough labor. For any unfair mining and trading environment, the cost of exporting is very high, this means that all the money is spent on exporting leaving the workers with nothing.
The most commonly implemented method is the Kimberly Process Certification. It was formulated in 2003 and has played a major role ever since. It has made sure that nearly all the diamonds being sold in the market are not associated with violations of any human right. Or the pollution of the environment.
Even so, the process cannot guarantee that all diamonds are conflict-free. However, since its establishment unethically sourced diamonds have been phased out.
Identifying Ethically Sourced Jewelry (6-Step Guide)
Whenever you shop for jewelry, knowing if the jewelry is conflict-free is difficult. Here are few steps to follow to make your work easy.
#1. Do Background Search
The first step is to ask the source of the desired jewelry. Find out where it comes from. If a seller declines to reveal this information, insist. After knowing this proceed to do your research. Do thorough research before making the purchase.
If the website is not good enough, then look for other offline sources. The best option is to ask some known experts in the jewelry industry. The other option is to physically visit the jewelry store. Not only does this move ensure you get good quality jewelry but it also allows you to buy responsibly
#2. Know the Source of Your Jewelry
You can only be certain that your diamond was sourced ethically by knowing its exact origin. Any good and responsible jeweler will let you know where the jewelry comes from. If you can not get this information from the company, they avoid that seller.
If your focus is on diamonds, filter out countries that a notoriously known for violating ethical standards.
The most known conflict zones include Zimbabwe, DRC, Liberia, and Angola. Consider buying those that originate from Canada, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Botswana. These countries are known for having very strict standards for mining. Here you will get conflict-free diamonds.
#3. Demand For a Certificate
It is common for jewelry retailers to overhype the pieces they sell. You can the jewelry’s certification to ascertain that specific piece. You can check for its quality, its 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. You will know how ethically the piece was sourced.
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Make sure to use reliable certificates like those from AGS and those from GIA. These two give a more comprehensive history and explanations about the jewelry. Recently, certificates from GIA have an origin report in it.
#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 that you can try out.
- What is the exact place where the mining of the jewelry took place?
- Is it possible to track where the jewelry originated?
- Do you have any policies regarding the sourcing of jewelry
- 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, ensure that you are accompanied by the salesperson in the store as you look around. There are a few things you should pick from their explanations. The most common is the jargon used to convince you to make a purchase.
Also, look out for those 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 many more.
#6. Deliberate Lab-Grown Diamonds
If it becomes difficult to get jewelry that is conflict-free you can opt for lab-grown ones. These synthetic jewelry are conflict-free as they are purely made in the lab. Not all jewelry have their alternative lab grown so your choice will be limited.
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What Brands Offer Ethically Sourced Jewelry?
Here are few brands that are popular for their ethical sourcing. Only use this lead as a pointer since their certification is not at 100%. There are reasons why these brands should be your top picks indicted.
Fair Trade Jewelry Co.
Topping the list is Fair Trade. This company is based in Canada and has several quality assessment processes. They are similar to the processes followed by Fair Trade Coffee. Additionally, it was the first jewelry company in North America that initiated these processes.
James Allen is well known for its high-quality jewelry. Here the company has taken steps further than the Kimberly process to make sure that not even a single piece of their diamond comes from conflicted zones.
This retailer is the first online retailer of the famous CananadMark Diamonds. This diamond is one of the highest diamond quality from Canada concerning conflict-free zones.
If there is a company that has specialized in growing lab diamonds is Clean Origin. So if you are looking to get 100% ethically sourced diamonds Clean Origin is the place to shop.
Here you can get better prices by making a bulk purchase of diamonds. This makes Clean origin better than other retailers.
Unlike ordinary jewelers, Etsy has various unique features. First, this company incorporates several private dealers. These sellers make a variety of jewelry from anything available to them. They make them from platinum, wood, diamonds, and even gold
The jewelry from these stores is ethically found since they make them themselves. The online store offers better and competitive prices as well.
The other popular retailer is Blue Nile. You may have read about it in other pieces. They are well known for their conflict-free pieces. There is even a whole section on their website that addresses issues to do with ethical sourcing. They declined any purchases made from diamond conflicted zones.
Brilliant Earth is also very unique in the jewelry industry mostly because of its beginning. The founders of this company wanted to deal with only diamonds obtained from conflict-free zones. They however did not find one. They went ahead to start up a brand new company that entirely deals with conflict-free diamonds. They normally get them from Diavik and Ekati mines in Canada.
Knowing how to recognize conflict-free jewelry should always be the foremost step. Any seller must answer all the questions you have concerning their sourcing process. They should also share their policies and reassure you of their ethical sourcing. By buying diamonds that are ethically sourced you will be building responsible and reliable industry practices.