In today’s world, being environmentally conscious is more important than ever, and incorporating eco-friendly elements into your wedding can demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.
One way to significantly impact your big day is by choosing eco-conscious jewelry for yourself and your bridal party. But knowing where or how to start doing that can be challenging.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with essential knowledge on the environmental impact of traditional jewelry production and worker exploitation in the mining industry. We’ll also look at some tremendous eco-friendly jewelry options you can include, depending on your budget.
The Environmental Impacts of Jewelry Production
Understanding the environmental impact of conventional jewelry production is imperative if you want to make a difference. Here are some ways jewelry production often affects the planet.
Loss of Habitat and Deforestation
Deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss are some primary consequences of mining precious metals like gold, silver, and gemstones. For instance, approximately 20 tons of mine waste is generated when extracting enough gold to produce a single ring.
This massive waste pile has devastating repercussions on the surrounding habitats. If such runoff isn’t cleaned correctly, it could destroy the population’s ability to grow on that land. This has long-standing consequences for the rest of the planet, not just the local inhabitants.
Water Pollution at a Large Scale
In addition to deforestation and habitat loss comes water pollution. A 2018 study revealed that gold mining operations from ASGM led to an alarming release of nearly 1000 tons of mercury into local rivers yearly. Cleaning up mercury is often a long and expensive process.
Mercury contamination poses severe health risks to aquatic life and humans who rely on these water sources. Too often, local inhabitants will use that water to grow their crops, meaning they still consume contaminated water when making meals.
Massive Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Furthermore, greenhouse gas emissions pose a significant threat as they directly contribute to climate change. The mining industry alone generates around 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (or CO2e) of GHG emissions annually, a definite cause of concern for our planet.
On top of that, the jewelry industry is the largest customer of gold, making up about 50% of the world’s gold. The energy-intensive mining industry significantly accelerates global warming, but environmental impacts aren’t the only reason to switch to stylish lab-grown diamond jewelry.
Worker Exploitation in the Mining Industry
The jewelry industry has also come under scrutiny due to the exploitation of workers in mining communities. This problem prevails throughout the supply chain and raises numerous ethical concerns surrounding labour practices, wages, and working conditions.
Child labour is prevalent in many artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations. According to a 2020 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), there were approximately 1 million child labourers within the gold mines of Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ghana, and other countries.
Health risks are another issue faced by miners daily. Exposure to hazardous chemicals like mercury or cyanide increases their risk of chronic health problems such as respiratory or neurological damage. In addition, adequate safety protocols are often lacking, and so is the equipment needed for safety, thereby amplifying these risks even further.
Unfair wages and forced labour contribute to worsening living conditions for employees within the mining industry. As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s extensive research in 2020, many workers across various countries endure long working hours with little pay.
These disturbing realities illustrate why addressing worker exploitation is essential when considering ethical jewelry production. As a conscious consumer gifting a bride before their special day, being aware of these issues can enable you to make informed decisions about wedding day accessories while advocating for greater transparency and fairness in this sector.
What Classifies as Eco-Conscious Jewelry?
Eco-conscious jewelry prioritizes sustainability and ethical standards at every step of the production process. Here are some key aspects to consider when purchasing jewelry.
Recycled or Vintage Metals
Using recycled or vintage metals helps reduce the demand for newly-mined resources, subsequently decreasing the environmental and social impact of mining. In addition, eco-friendly jewellers often utilize metals and gems responsibly reclaimed from previous products.
Prioritize Ethical Production
Ethical production involves:
- Fair labour practices.
- Living wages.
- Safe working conditions.
- Humane treatment of workers in the mining/creation.
You support responsible businesses by choosing brands that commit to ethical supply chains and transparent sourcing practices.
Non-Toxic Washes and Polish
Some chemical processes used in manufacturing jewelry involve harsh substances that can harm the environment once disposed of. Therefore, sustainable brands opt for non-toxic alternatives using environmentally friendly washes and polishes during production.
Clean (Non-Polluting) Production
Clean production emphasizes energy-efficient methods and low-impact technologies that minimize resource consumption, waste generation, and pollution. By choosing companies committed to pure production values, you’re helping the planet.
Packaging is another crucial aspect to consider when opting for eco-conscious jewelry brands. Brands focusing on sustainability use recycled cardboard or paper derived from sustainable forests for packaging their products instead of plastic or harmful materials.
What Are the Most Eco-Conscious Options for Bridal Jewelry?
Now that you know what constitutes eco-conscious jewelry options, you can look at the best options for eco-conscious bridal jewelry. Here’s what we think is best.
The Most Eco-Conscious Option For New: Lab-Grown Diamonds
While many of the above options can make your jewelry significantly more eco-conscious, removing all the harm from the mining process is challenging. Therefore, the best way to eliminate the inherent cruelty is by removing mining from the jewelry-making process as much as possible.
This can be done by opting for lab-grown diamonds and jewelry. Here’s why:
- Lower Environmental Impact: Lab-grown diamonds require less space and resources and don’t make as significant of an impact on the environment or ecosystem.
- Energy Efficiency: Lab-grown diamonds require energy input, but it’s significantly less than the mining process. It’s five and a half times less than mined diamonds.
- Ethical Sourcing: Lab-grown diamonds typically eliminate concerns related to unethical labour practices often linked to traditional diamond mining operations.
- Reduced Chemical Waste: Creating synthetic diamonds involves minimal chemical waste compared to extracting natural stones from the Earth’s crust.
- Water Conservation: Lab-grown diamond production requires significantly less water usage. Lab-grown diamonds can save up to 109 gallons of water per gemstone.
While lab-grown diamonds are criticized for not being “real” diamonds, they’re just as accurate as mined diamonds because they’re made of the same materials. They’re also just as durable and long-lasting. The cherry on top of the cake? They’re much cheaper than mined diamonds.
The Most Eco-Conscious Option For Used: Most Used Jewelry
Buying used or refurbished is technically the cheapest and most eco-friendly way to gift jewelry. Since another buyer already purchased the jewelry, you aren’t contributing to any unethical practices. That said, some companies will “greenwash” their eco-friendliness.
To avoid this problem, research the seller before buying. While this practice is necessary for new jewelry, it’s also essential for used gifts. Just about anyone can claim to be eco-conscious
If you’re going this route, we recommend getting a jewelry piece that has a timeless design. You should also check the quality of the jewelry. For example, used silver may be cheap, but it tarnishes quickly. Consider replacing old jewelry if it looks worn, scratched, or damaged.
Eco-Conscious Jewelry Bridesmaid Gifts for Every Budget
Thanking your bridesmaids with thoughtful, eco-conscious jewelry gifts is a fantastic way to share your sustainable values. Here are some eco-friendly gift ideas suitable for any budget.
Under $50: Handmade or Upcycled Accessories
You can find unique handcrafted pieces made from recycled materials, such as glass beads or reclaimed wood, in this budget range. These one-of-a-kind items not only support artisans but also contribute to reducing waste. Stick to earrings or bracelets to cut down on costs.
$50-$100: Recycled Gold Earrings
Earrings made from recycled gold are a chic and elegant option that won’t break the bank. You can often find dainty designs featuring ethically-sourced gems, adding a touch of sparkle to your bridesmaids’ look. Recycled titanium is also really cheap, but it’s harder to work with.
$100-$200: Fair-Trade Gemstone Necklaces
Necklaces adorned with fair-trade gemstones allow you to make an ethical statement while staying within a moderate budget. Choose stones like peridot, garnet, amethyst, or others that reflect your wedding theme or hold special significance for you and your bridesmaids.
$200-$300: Lab-Grown Diamond Bracelets
Lab-grown diamond bracelets offer an exquisite token of appreciation within this price range—combining the appeal of diamonds with sustainability and affordability. Surprisingly, lab-grown diamond earrings are inexpensive, especially if they’re lower carat.
Above $300: Custom-Made Ethical Jewelry Sets
If you want to splurge on something special for your bridesmaids, consider getting a few custom-designed jewelry sets made from recycled metals and responsibly-sourced stones. These sets can include earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, and something fun, like a belt buckle.