What Exactly Is Ethical Jewellery? 5 Things You Should Know
When considering how to best define the term ‘ethical jewellery’, two things immediately came to mind. Traceability and ensuring no negative impact on the environment in which it is produced.
A huge part of what makes something ethical is how traceable it is. Ethical jewellery is jewellery that can be traced at each and every point throughout the production process. Without this, how do you know where and how your jewellery was made?
Ensuring that it leaves no negative impact on the people who are involved at each stage and the environment in which it is produced is also something you should look for when sourcing ethical jewellery.
To help you adjust the way you approach the world of jewellery and to give you a more informed and considered view, in this post I will cover five things you should know about what makes jewellery ethical, including:
- What does ethical jewellery actually mean?
- What is the difference between ethical and sustainable?
- Traceability and transparency of materials
- The importance of an ethical supply chain
- How to spot unethical jewellery brands
What Does Ethical Jewellery Actually Mean?
As mentioned above, ethical jewellery refers to jewellery that is fully traceable to its source, leaving no negative impact on the people or the environment in which it is produced.
This can cover a variety of aspects:
- Limiting environmental impact through the use of 100% recycled silver.
- Supporting mining for good and the communities they provide for by making with Fairmined gold.
- Manufacturing with registered Fairmined suppliers here in the UK.
- Hallmarking items to assure customers of its quality.
- Attention to detail when assembling and finishing the piece by hand, ensuring a quality forever piece.
- Safe workshop practices and limiting the use of toxic chemicals throughout the supply chain.
- Using 100% recycled packaging and marketing material.
You can find out all about our ethical process here.
What Is The Difference Between Ethical And Sustainable?
In order to understand exactly what ethical jewellery is, it helps if you can differentiate between the two - let’s call them buzzwords - when it comes to discussing the ethics of the jewellery industry.
The terms ‘ethical jewellery’ and ‘sustainable jewellery’ tend to be used interchangeably, but they actually encompass their very own distinct definitions.
Ethical = refers to the process and supply chain involved to make the jewellery (focusing on the people involved).
Sustainable = refers to the effects of the production of jewellery on the environment.
Traceability and Transparency of Materials
There are a lot of materials that can be used to make jewellery, so let’s break it down so that you can be conscious of how to recognise if the jewellery you are looking to purchase is ethical or not.
I think it’s important as a brand to have that balance between limiting environmental impact (at ANUKA, through the use of 100% recycled silver) and also supporting the livelihoods of those who are reliant on the mining sector (at ANUKA, by making with Fairmined gold).
I make a conscious effort not to turn my back completely on newly mined precious metal because without supporting small scale artisanal miners, you’re giving space to possible human right violations, bad practise and large scale mines, which solely recycled precious metal doesn’t support.
100% recycled silver refers to a metal that is 100% recycled and contains absolutely no newly mined material.
Instead, it simply comes from a range of sources that include the jewellery industry waste, industrial residues, used electronic scrap, automotive materials and fuel cells.
It could be said that 100% recycled silver is one of the better metals for the environment as it contains absolutely no newly mined material. and when it is processed and refined correctly and with care, limits its impact further. The location of its origin would be with the refining company or the maker themselves.
Mining will always continue to happen, so as a brand I want to support mining for good.
Fairmined ensures the metal has been extracted with care for the environment, often limiting damage and by small scale artisanal mines instead of large industry ones.
By supporting Fairmined, you are supporting mining communities and ensuring fair pay, gender equality, no child labour, safe working conditions and clean water supplies.
Let’s talk about natural versus lab grown diamonds.
Diamond mining has long been a topic of controversy, with the stones passing through the hands of many dealers before reaching the jeweller. It is so important to know the journey of your stone ensuring there has been no violation of human rights or environmental damage.
The Kimberley Process
Natural diamonds can be fully traceable and ethical. There are different certifications to watch out for, the first being the Kimberley Process. This ensures that blood diamonds do not enter the market, protecting the stones at the first stages - the mining. These stones are marked ‘conflict free’ but often there is not enough information to track and back this statement up.
I look to go that step further and source Canada Mark stones, who ensure full traceability of the diamonds used in our jewellery. Larger diamonds are even laser marked with a microscopic serial code, to prove origin and also that they were mined under the strict Canadian regulations.
Second hand natural diamonds are also seeing a rise in popularity for their recycled nature and limited environmental impact through already being above ground.
However the original origin of these gemstones is not likely to be known, which may not sit comfortably for some. The idea of giving an old beautiful stone a new lease of life is a worthy one and if limiting environmental impact is your priority these stones could be for you.
Lab-grown diamonds offer a unique and fully traceable stone. It’s easy to see the benefits of this process and be attracted to its proposal of clean sourced diamonds and fully traceable supply chain.
However, I suggest you tread carefully here and do your research as to exactly where and under what conditions these stones are produced, as some of the methods involved actually use natural diamonds to start the growing process. There are also questions around the environmentally friendly aspect, with the C02 emissions being high and therefore making their ethical and sustainable claims questionable.
If you are interested in finding out more about ethical diamonds, take a look at our blog.
The Importance Of An Ethical Supply Chain
From the raw materials to the finished product, if the jewellery is truly ethical it shouldn’t be hard to find details about every step of the process before it lands on your doorstep.
It is important to know exactly where the raw material originated from, whose hands were involved in the crafting of the product and where each step took place. Only then will you be able to determine whether the jewellery is sustainable.
You can find out about our supply chain here.
How To Spot Unethical Jewellery Brands
Unfortunately, the fast-fashion industry continues to churn out low-quality and poorly made, trend lead jewellery.
Thankfully, the eagerness to know more about the origin of fashion items is becoming more and more widespread and spoken about, and recognising if jewellery is ethical or not, is a lot more straightforward then you may think.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- A supply chain that cannot be fully verified or traced.
- Regularly updated products with trend lead pieces.
- Cheap, low-quality materials - for example, if the piece immediately tarnishes or loses quality.
- Little detail on manufacturing - for example, if a brand is not forthcoming in offering details of sourcing and production. Ask why?
I hope after reading this, you’ll no longer find yourself questioning ‘what is ethical jewellery?’. Instead, you can take this information and communicate to others how to recognise ethical jewellery brands and start shopping more consciously.
If you’re interested to learn more about certain steps of our process, and what makes ANUKA an ethical jewellery brand, we work with Provenance to show our story and submit evidence to back all our claims - from invoices to delivery notes and certificates.
You can find our proof points on each product page, under the transparency tab.