Are you a big fan of jewelry, mes dumplings? In high school and college, I used to get my jewelry fix with big, flashy, and definitely fake pieces from H&M. I wasn’t yet aware of the huge environmental impact of fast fashion, and I just wanted to look glittery on a $ budget. I cringe when I think about the $12 necklaces I wore until they rusted and had to be thrown out. These days, I’m proud to collect and wear beautiful and far-longer-lasting clothes by ethical and sustainable designers–which is why I’m so fascinated lately by ethical fine jewelry!
There is no consensus on what defines fine jewelry v. fashion jewelry, but a good baseline indicator is that it has at least 14K gold (or silver or platinum) and is made of real gemstones. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why it’s so important to go for ethical gold.
Gold in any shape or form is immediately attractive, but what’s not so beautiful is the fact that gold mining creates 20 tons of waste for every 1 oz of usable gold produced. Just like with any other mineral, gold is extracted by processing huge amounts of earth/rock etc through mechanical and chemical processes. The undesirable material is called “tailing” and there are thousands of these tailing dams around the world, which are often toxic to the environment when exposed to oxygen and other elements. While new gold and metals generate billions of tons of untreated pools and swamps, plus carbon emissions, recycled gold (also known as reclaimed gold) can be virtually waste-free.
Fine jewelry (or haute joaillerie, hehe) has been slow to catch up to consumer demand for sustainable luxury, but thankfully that is changing. Here are some of our favorite eco-friendly luxury jewelry houses.
John Hardy is one of my favorite brands both aesthetically and ethically. JH uses 100% reclaimed gold and silver, plus diamonds sourced following UN resolution and the Kimberley process. Plus, it employs Balinese artisans and plants bamboos for each purchase from its Bamboo Collection. Over 1 million bamboo seedlings have been planted already!
Bamboo Ring in Sterling Silver & 18K Bonded Yellow Gold, $795
Ring with Black Sapphire, $595
Ugh my heart…Also can you tell I’m a ring person?
While John Hardy is a relatively new maison established only in 1975, Swiss-based Chopard is a very old house stretching back to the 19th century when the founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard supplied his watches to the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. But the storied brand has taken steps to modernize its ethos. From July 2018, all Chopard gold will be responsibly sourced from either artisanal new gold from small-scale mines participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association, fairmined and fairtrade, OR RJC Chain of Custody reclaimed gold through RJC-certified refineries. The brand is so committed to the environment that their HQ is even an eco-friendly, low-resource consumption building and they encourage video-conferencing over business travel. And even their packaging is made with Forestry Stewardship Council certified materials.
Chopard is also a partner in Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge and frequently worn by vegan goddess/philanthropist/supermodel Petra Nemcova. Like seriously, #goals in every sense.
Chopardissimo Pendant in 18K rose gold and diamonds, $3,600
Happy Hearts Bracelet in 18K rose gold, diamond, and natural malachite, $4,710
Kirsten Dunst wearing 10.37 carat pear-shaped pink diamond earrings by Chopard. Just casual
Whether you’re a red carpet regular or just looking for an investment piece to give oomph to *all* your outfits, choose ethical jewelry that has been made consciously and will last you a lifetime. Be timeless!
Do you have a favorite piece of ethical jewelry? Are there any ethical fine jewelry brands you would add to this list?
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Photos: John Hardy, Chopard, Chopard via Tumblr