With the rise and imminent fall of fast fashion, ethical jewellery (and ethical fashion) is a topic that has come up recently but not without some debate. Sustainable jewellery, ethical jewellery, and more 'buzz words' have been thrown around than ever, and I wanted to do a deep dive into what each means, and why you should switch to ethical jewellery (and ethical fashion).
Ethical vs. Sustainable
Ethical jewellery primarily focuses on the entire supply chain, with the focus on fair treatment to all people along the way. This means fair wages, safe working environments, development & culture policies, and generally treating workers as human beings in a modern society workplace.
Sustainable jewellery's main focus is on the environmental impact of each piece of jewellery. Recycled jewellery fall under this umbrella, as well as companies that focuses on things such reduction in waste and sourcing low-impact materials and gemstones.
While there is no right or wrong, and while one is not better than the other, it's important that the above environmental and human-related factors are considered in a brand's supply chain.
For example, our factory employs 100% women artisans who gets paid fair wages, paid holidays, and work in a safe environment. We deploy development and training programs, as well as programs to employ older women to work from home. Our jewellery is ethically made, and is packed and shipped in 100% recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
Nonetheless, we acknowledge our shortcomings and continue to work on them. We want to aim to have all our jewellery made from recycled sources. At the moment we are recycling our samples for at least 4 production runs or more - however pieces are not made from recycled metals for 2 reasons: (1) recycled metals require large runs to be cost effective (which, as a small business we are unable to meet the required minimum at this stage), and (2) recycled metals are less readily available. We are working on (2), with policies in place to collect and buy old and used jewellery and smelting them to create recycled metals. Over time, as our brand grows, so will our ability to switch slowly and surely to 100% recycled metals.
Ethical & sustainability issues encompasses every part of the jewellery production supply chain
Sourcing stones from an ethical source is also an integral part to ethical jewellery production. The mined stones industry (i.e. natural gemstones) have multiple ethical issues including responsibility, traceability, verifiability, and sustainability. These issues span across the globe, ranging from forced and child labor, environmental damage, and health and safety concerns. More consumers are asking questions about where their gemstones are from, how they are procured and processed. The use of conflict-free gemstones, man-made gemstones, vs. natural gemstones have always been a large debate. However you choose to buy your gemstone jewellery, make sure to ask questions on how ethically and/or sustainably they have been procured and if there are any certifications that come with your precious stones to ensure verifiability.
Why should you purchase ethical jewelry?
Well, the main reasons why you should buy ethical jewellery is apparent - you can wear your jewellery knowing the people making it have been paid fairly, the materials and gemstones selected are low-impact and conflict-free. In many cases, your jewellery are handled with more care, as the workers are happier, and the jewellery are of higher quality.
By switching away from mass-produced (& 'conflict' jewellery) and supporting ethical jewellery brands, you are contributing to better livelihoods and allowing for the continuing of jobs in otherwise poor & unethical working environment.
By supporting ethical & sustainable brands, you are contributing to causes that have a large consequence on the jewellery industry, such as harmful & toxic materials, as your purchase is an indication of approval of what they stand for.
All in all, it's good karma, and good conscience.
Ethical jewelry focuses on the entire supply chain and the fair treatment of all parties in the supply chain.
Sustainable jewelry focuses on reducing the environmental impact of each piece of jewellery.
As a consumer, you are encouraged to ask questions on how your jewellery is made - including human-related and environmental-related factors in the brand's supply chain.
The jewellery supply chain encompasses stone sourcing, material selection, sampling, production, transportation, packaging, and more. Knowing what ethical and sustainability factors to look out for is important for a smart consumer.
Supporting and buying from ethical & sustainable brands is the best way to influence the decision making in the jewellery industry
By purchasing ethical jewellery, you are supporting better jewellery procurement methods, better working environments, and better livelihoods for all those in the supply chain.
And wherever you can, choose to buy better - choose ethical & sustainable jewellery.