We live in an era when society is hypersensitive to sustainability and fair labor practices. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about what they spend their hard-earned money. This trend has extended beyond everyday consumer goods and foods into the fashion and beauty industry. Consumers are now demanding stylish yet sustainable fashion especially now that it has evolved past ill-fitting pieces in moss green and granola beige.
The fashion and beauty industry has been under scrutiny for years with many questions raised on the ethicality of manufacturing processes and materials. The jewelry industry especially has caused uproars on many occasions due to its impact on the environment and on local populations. In recent years alone, millions of people have been killed in civil wars fueled by “blood diamonds”. The manufacture of jewelry in factories with controversial labor practices and the use of harmful and pollutant substances in the manufacturing processes has also come under heavy fire.
Forward-thinking diamond engagement stores and socially conscious, eco-friendly millennials concerned about the environmental pollution and social conflict caused by traditional mining practices have completely reformed the meaning of luxury. The hidden cost of being stylish is no longer acceptable. As more brands jump on the sustainability bandwagon and commit to inspiring change in the industry, it is clear that the move towards responsible sourcing of jewelry is taking seed.
Unlike beauty products, environmentally and socially conscious jewelry is not easy to come by. The jewelry industry encompasses the mining, distribution, and manufacturing of jewels, gems, and precious metals. It is split into an assortment of a few large companies and many family-owned firms that conduct business all over the world. Challenges in the industry are as a result of this fragmentation and diversity in the supply of precious materials and production of finished jewels.
Efforts to provide a responsible sourcing solution has resulted in international initiatives like the Kimberly Process and institutions like the Responsible Jewelry Council. The goal of the Kimberly process is to stem the trade in conflict diamonds that rebel groups and their allies use to fund bloody wars against legitimate governments. The council sets standards and issues jewelry trade certifications that are transparent and accessible to customers. Despite these efforts, scrutiny and pressures even from activist communities, goodwill from all players is necessary if significant steps are to be made towards accountability, sustainability and transparency.
Positive trends are not irreversible shifts. Therefore, the industry has to remain continually proactive in making sure that these objects of immense beauty are made in ways that are not only environmentally friendly but also respect human dignity. Customers will then develop faith in the integrity of the industry and will be able to buy jewelry in good conscious.
How to choose justly made jewelry
As a jewelry customer, you have a very critical role to play in ridding the world of conflict diamonds. You have to purchase eco-friendly and ethical jewelry only. Here are a few tips to help you:
- If you must by new, demand responsibly sourced jewelry or opt for lab-created precious metals
- Look for recycled gems, reused antiques, and handmade pieces
- Enquire with jewelers where they source their metals and their policy on conflict diamond.