Ethical Engagement Rings
Diamonds might be forever, but they also have a history of damaging the environment and fueling conflict (hence the term “blood diamonds”). Luckily an increasing number of designers are creating rings that are both beautiful and ethical.
“We define ‘ethical’ gemstones and metals as being procured without harming people, their communities, or the environment. We believe miners, gemstone polishers and everyone along the supply chain should be paid fairly and have safe work conditions,” says Anna Bario, principal and lead designer at Bario Neal.
Although once considered alternative or non-traditional, ethical engagement rings have become fairly standard among modern couples, according to Teya Vasileva, outreach manager at Taylor & Hart.
“Because the ring is a symbol of something so important and intangibly wonderful, it makes sense that you want to have it made from the most precious materials, and certainly you wouldn’t want those materials to have funded conflict,” she says. “Couples now know that by buying an ethical engagement ring, they help improve the transparency of an industry that is by nature opaque. It might seem like a small step, but it actually contributes to fairer working conditions and better futures for many people.”
If you’re in the market for an engagement ring you and your partner can feel good about investing in, here are a few things to be on the lookout for:
The first thing you should look for is transparency. A responsible and ethical jeweler should be straightforward and direct about their sourcing and manufacturing practices.
“We always tell people looking to propose to skip the sea of overwhelming information available all over the internet and find a reliable jeweler and ask questions instead,” advises Vasileva. “A trustworthy source will always take the time to explain everything to you, which means answering the tricky questions, too.”
When talking to a potential jeweler, be sure to ask about their supply chains. Can they trace exactly how gemstones and precious metals came from the mines to be in the final product?
“Traceability is one big factor to be aware of when it comes to shopping for ethical engagement rings. If you’re unsure where the metal or stones used to make your ring came from, that means you’re unable to know how the materials were obtained,” says Page Neal, principal and lead designer at Bario Neal.
Another mark of a reliable jeweler is their certifications. Vasileva suggests looking for CanadaMark certified diamonds because “They show the exact history of your diamond and support local communities by investing in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and training for their employees.”
Another good certification to look for is Fairmined gold, which is utilized by Bario Neal. Fairmined certified gold is extracted from small-scale and artisanal miners who are audited by a third party to ensure they meet the high environmental and societal standards.
Couples are also encouraged to choose jewelers who are Kimberley Process compliant. While not perfect, this process works to prevent the diamond trade from financing or supporting a conflict.
4. Recycled Materials
In addition to fair trade materials, another great way to minimize your ring’s environmental impact is to choose a jeweler that uses recycled metals and gemstones. This reduces the need for mining of new materials and requires no industrial processes.
While all of this research may seem like a lot of extra effort for a single ring, your purchase can actually make a big difference in continuing to better the fine jewelry industry.
“People need to be aware of the fact that it’s up to our joint efforts to disrupt an industry with an imperfect reputation. They need to know that their choice matters. You help improve the transparency and ethics in the entire industry simply through your wallet,” says Vasileva.