Life in the Time of COVID
By: Maria Casey
This article first appeared on Fable Eden.
It’s no secret that the creation of jewelry can have a negative impact on the planet, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. For centuries, mining has destroyed land and communities all over the world. But today, there are jewelry companies that are flipping the traditional model on its head to create fair-trade, sustainably-made pieces that will last a lifetime.
Precious stones and metal mining is known for its negative effects on the environment, the health of miners, the communities surrounding the mines, and those affected by the supply chain. Toxic waste that is a byproduct of gold mining is full of cyanide and toxic heavy metals and is often dumped into our natural bodies of water.Mining companies dump more than 180 million tons of hazardous waste into rivers, lakes, and oceans worldwide. According to Slate, this is “probably the biggest environmental concern associated with gold mining.”
“Mining of precious metals can be environmentally destructive, and many mines operate with a disregard for the indigenous peoples and humane practices.” – Do Amore
Today, however, some companies and the creators behind them are working to produce jewelry with zero negative environmental impact, actually bringing positive impact to the communities they work with. While many argue that there are a slew of challenges to create responsible jewelry, we found the following companies who are elevating the standard of what should be our expectations from this industry.
All of the following utilize fair-trade practices and materials, do not pollute or negatively impact the environment, and adhere to strict supply chain standards. They ensure fair wages and working hours, no child labor, and have a positive social impact in some capacity. A few of the companies are certified B-Corps, which means they must meet strict standards of verified social and environmental performance.
Aurate creates beautiful, simple jewelry with a bit of an edge. Their pieces are sustainably handmade in New York City by seventh-generation craftsmen. All of their gold is 100% recycled and their conflict-free diamonds adhere to the Kimberly Process. Aurate says they “scour the globe to source our pearls and precious gems from family-run establishments supporting local communities.”
Every design goes through a five-step testing process by their in-house team and each piece is made to last for generations. They even come with a lifetime guarantee. Although their pieces are a little bit more on the “investment” end of the price scale, they keep overall prices down by operating locally (no import taxes), recycling excess materials, and producing pieces on a made-to-order basis so they don’t have to pass on the extra inventory costs.
Raven + Lily is a certified B-Corp and a Fair Trade Federation member that produces beautiful statement jewelry and handbags, as well as everyday accessories, made from upcycled and ethically-sourced materials. They are a carbon-neutral company that uses eco-friendly materials and works with women to create handmade products. They also contribute to the micro-loan program supporting female entrepreneurs in East Africa.
“We believe design can bridge any gap — traditional and modern, near and far, people and planet. We look to the women in our lives for inspiration and design for the way we live. Each piece is responsibly made with high-quality, sustainable materials and expert craftsmanship to create everyday luxury. For over 10 years, we’ve been committed to responsible production.”
Raven + Lily works in Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Cambodia, Mexico, Peru, Morocco, and Malaysia, seeking out design partnerships with artisan groups of impoverished women to provide them with sustainable employment.
Soko Jewelry is a certified B-Corp that strives to balance profit with purpose. They empower local communities by paying their artisans wages that are 5X more than at the average workshop. “Your purchase promotes artisan innovation + entrepreneurship,” according to their website. They also use technology to empower their artisans. Soko created a “virtual factory” and a scalable product solution.
Soko creates minimalist designs that are an ode to the natural, modern, and historical landscape of Kenya. Their jewelry is handcrafted with eco-friendly, locally-sourced, and recycled materials using heritage techniques. You’ll see their pieces made from brass, reclaimed cow horn and bone, and off-cuts of wood. Soko creates everyday basics, including small hoop earrings and cuff bracelets, simple necklaces, and delicate bow earrings. They also have trendy collar necklaces, statement earrings, and more.
ABLE produces ethically-made minimalist jewelry, fashion-forward clothing and accessories, and home goods. They are “challenging the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women.” At ABLE, they employ and empower women as a solution to end poverty, and aim to provide a high quality of life to their employees. Unlike most companies in the U.S., ABLE publishes their wages.
“We’ve found that partnering with local community leaders results in a more powerful economic transformation rather than trying to command change from the U.S.”
Their jewelry is made in-house in Nashville, TN, and their leather goods, clothes, and shoes are made by manufacturing partners in Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, and India.
Nisolo’s vision is to “To push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction–where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price–a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.” Their jewelry is intentionally designed for long-term use and ethically made. All producers are paid “beyond” fair wages, healthcare, and provided with a healthy working environment. Nisolo is also a certified B-Corp. You can read more on their extensive impact report here.
Their simple designs can be worn daily. The jewelry and footwear are well-made, but they don’t have a vast selection, which is a (positive) sign that fast-fashion is not their forte.
Do Amore is an incredible engagement and wedding ring company–and I’m not just saying that because it’s where Will purchased my engagement ring. Founder Krish Himmatramka is determined to help end the world’s water crisis while creating sustainably-made jewelry. They have built 25 wells in five nations, which has provided clean water to nearly nine thousand people.
Do Amore is creating a “sustainable solution to save lives” by providing clean water and training communities on good sanitation and hygiene practices. Nine thousand people now have access to clean water that didn’t before. Women and children spend less time being sick and collecting unsafe water, and more time in their jobs or in school.
“Every part of each ring is crafted with the highest standard of ethics in mind. From ethically sourced diamonds and gems, to recycled precious metals. Even the box you receive your ring in is handmade from one of the world’s most sustainable woods.”
The stones they offer include conflict-free diamonds, lab-made moissanite which requires no mining at all, and ethically-sourced or lab-created sapphires. All rings are made from recycled precious metals that come from suppliers who do not deal with the international mining community.
Each Do Amore ring is handmade in the U.S., which means safer working conditions for employees and more environmentally-friendly processes overall. Their packaging is made from Jarrah wood, one of the world’s most sustainable woods, with zero plastic content. The Jarrah wood is sourced from forests in New Zealand and Australia that perpetually grow and harvest the trees while preserving biodiversity, soil, water, and air quality.
Brilliant Earth was founded in 2005 by Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg. Beth was unable to find an engagement ring that represented her values and Eric was passionate about the idea that responsibly-sourced jewelry could be a tool for social change, so they worked together to create Brilliant Earth.
“Our mission is to make jewelry as beautiful as it can be. We are passionate about cultivating a more transparent, sustainable, and compassionate jewelry industry.”
As a part of their commitment to environmental responsibility, their jewelry is crafted from recycled precious metals and arrives in FSC certified packaging. They offer Beyond Conflict Free Diamonds™, a standard that ensures the mining does not finance rebel movements, protects against human rights abuses, minimizes environmental degradation, maintain safe and responsible labor practices, and supports community development. They also donate five percent of net profits to help build a brighter future in mining communities, in the communities they operate, and beyond.
Their commitment to sustainable supply chains and ethical practices are the reasons I chose Brilliant Earth for my wedding bands! Another cool thing about the company? They are the first jeweler to offer blockchain-enabled diamonds at scale. They work with Everledger, a Blockchain technology company, to define “next-generation standards in the jewelry industry and continuing our leadership in promoting transparency and responsibility.”
“The cutting-edge blockchain-based technology has been integrated with our supply chain to seamlessly and securely track gemstone origin and provide greater consumer assurance for responsible practices for a collection of blockchain-enabled diamonds.”