Fine jewellery is admittedly and undeniably beautiful. And when that fine piece of gold chain or metal includes gemstones that have been precisely cut and have little to no inclusions, you can be sure that this particular piece of luminous earth mineral will fetch quite a price.
But while most of us are aware of the monetary value that most jewellery is associated with, very few of us are aware of the hidden costs of bringing about these eye-catching accessories. The jewellery industry has long been hounded by news of ethically dubious business practices. These reports range from underpaid (and sometimes underage) laborers who look for the precious metals and stones that we wear with such pride on our bodies, to the destruction of animal habitats for the sake of mining these minerals.
Blood diamonds, for example, are diamonds that have been mined in war zones or sold to fund a warlord’s or group’s participation in a conflict. Sometimes called conflict diamonds, these kinds of diamonds show how the mining and marketing of these precious stones have a negative effect on the areas that these diamonds are sourced from.
The jewellery industry remains largely unchecked when it comes to ethical sourcing and producing its goods for the consumption of consumers. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, for example, was set up just within the last decade to prevent the proliferation of conflict diamonds in the mainstream diamond market and reduce the funding of militant groups seeking to usurp legitimate governments. This lack of policing and vigilance has left gaping holes in the ethics of the jewellery industry.
Luckily, a lot of consumers are starting to take notice. The existence of conflict diamonds was introduced to mainstream consumers when Leonardo DiCaprio starred in a movie titled Blood Diamond. Consumers became significantly more aware about the consequences of their purchasing choices when it came to necklaces, bracelets, and even engagement rings.
Conscious shoppers have created waves of change in many industries, most notably in the fashion industry. The increase in fast fashion and the incredible consequences it has on the environment have prompted many consumers to reexamine their shopping habits. By patronising brands that promote sustainable fashion, companies are forced to change their ingrained habits to follow consumer demand.
The same concept applies to jewellery nowadays. Because mining is such a polluting process, ripping apart layers of the earth to gain access to precious stones and metals, a lot of jewelers are opting to work with smaller, fair-trade, artisanal mines. These mines have a smaller impact on the earth since they rarely work on such a large scale.
A lot of jewelry in Chicago is ethically and responsibly sourced, and most of the jewelers work with these mines or source their metals and stones from vintage jewellery. Sourcing these materials from pre-existing resources reduces the impact on the earth since no new metals or stones need to be unearthed from the ground, and increases the lifespan of a particular mined piece through repurposing or retreating.
Choosing to buy ethical jewellery isn’t a difficult choice to make. There are a lot of options available out there that do proper documentation regarding the sourcing and labor involved in the lifespan of a gemstone or precious metal. And while the fight for a truly sustainable practice is yet to arrive, buying from sustainable and fair trade brands really does make a difference.