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The Pathway to Ethical and Sustainable Jewellery

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As our world becomes more self-aware of ethical issues and rights, alongside the state of our planet and how to preserve it, jewellers in turn become more conscious of where they are sourcing their materials and how their designs are produced. We find more and more everyday jewellery pieces proudly labelling themselves as sustainable, with a greater number of consumers searching for these kinds of pieces. However, is it truly possible to maintain ethical and sustainable sourcing of these items in our current climate?

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(Image courtesy of Hatton Jewellers)

Shockingly not too long ago, gemstones that were sourced for jewellers came from child labour, blood diamonds and inhumane working conditions. As the realities of these conditions come to light alongside their detrimental consequences, consumers become much more ethically conscious and want transparency between them and their regular jewellers. In turn, this results in both designer and consumer taking more time to research their purchases and land on those which are the fairest priced and most ethically friendly, resulting in a positive long-term change.

One way jewellers can be more ethical in their sourcing is by using verified fairtrade gold in their designs – which essentially means sourcing gold that supports small scale miners and gives workers a fair price. Arabel Lebrusan, a Brighton-based jeweller, utilises fairtrade gold in her design, and in an interview with Keeley Bolger of Euronews discusses the possibilities of ethical jewellery:

“It is difficult but it is possible to buy ethical jewellery,” she says. “It’s difficult because precious jewellery uses precious metal and gemstones and these materials need to be mined from the ground. So this poses the question: can a material that comes from the extraction industry be eco-friendly?

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(Arabel Lebrusan rings, image courtesy of Professional Jeweller)

“Although this sounds a bit like a contradiction, I want to believe that if we carry out this process as eco-friendly as possible, it should be possible. This would mean mining in a small scale, reforesting areas when the mining is finished, using minimal and controlled chemicals and respecting the flora and fauna of the area.”

In general, if you’re looking to buy from a retailer which is ethically viable, make sure you ask the right questions to ensure their jewellery is fairtrade certified and traceable from mine to market. Discover exactly what each jewellery piece is made from and where abouts it was made. If a business is using local goldsmiths and suppliers, this means a greater community support and lower company carbon footprint. Furthermore, members of certification programs will further clarify the state of their ethical stance in the industry, as well as hallmarks on their jewellery.

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(Recycled jewellery, image courtesy of Ethical Superstore)

A great way to ensure sustainable jewellery is purchasing from those designers which create and use recycled metals and jewels in their pieces, for instance from metals which have potentially been disregarded in the industry. This is a positive step to reduce excessive consumption of metals and jewels which extractions may deteriorate the environment as well as being limited in their overall reserves.

Our population still has a long way to go with overconsumption of jewellery which is unsustainable. In the United Kingdom, the average woman owned more than £5,400 worth of jewellery, with the majority of that being one-wear costume jewellery from high street retailers. Due to its single wear, most of this goes into landfill and contributes to global climate change with their artificial plastic gemstones releasing toxins into the air and water. On the other hand, in 2014 a study showed that more than 80% of women wanted ethical jewellery and were willing to pay more money for this. As our global situation comes to light and more designers are choosing a positive ethical pathway to their pieces, slowly jewellery will become more sustainable. Choosing slow fashion over high street fast fashion will make a brilliant difference, in conjunction with picking those items which are recycled or have a greater lifespan within your inventory. Together these will contribute towards the ethical movement of the jewellery trade.