A Simple Guide To An Ethical Engagement Ring
Right now, there are millions of engagement rings for sale from hundreds of vendors across the world. But only a very small fraction of them is what you might call “ethical.” And that’s a problem, both for sellers, and the planet as a whole.
Practically everyone is now aware of the problems associated with engagement ring production. Diamond sales often fuel conflict in source countries. And physically getting the stones out of the ground can also lead to ecological destruction, sometimes on a massive scale. In light of this, more than 9 per cent of couples say they want rings that do good in the world.
Despite this, the concept of an ethical engagement ring is still gaining traction. Even at the time of writing in early 2021, the vast majority of rings on sale are still the conventional variety.
What Is An Ethical Engagement Ring?
So, what do we mean by an ethical engagement ring, exactly?
Traditionally, sellers defined an ethical engagement ring as one in which the materials used to make it (particularly the diamonds) came from conflict-free sources. However, thanks to recent changes in culture, the definition is expanding.
For instance, nowadays, couples want diamonds sourced from mines that also offer their workers good pay and conditions. They also want material extraction to inflict minimal environmental damage. Just digging up the landscape with no thought to the natural world is no longer acceptable. Brands need to be responsible.
For this reason, some engagement ring providers are turning to recycled metal. The idea here is to take an existing lump of gold or platinum from some other source and then reforge it into a brand-new product to reduce the environmental impact.
Recycling gold and platinum is possible because of these metals’ chemical properties. Labels can melt them down and reforge them as many times as they like, without damaging the material. So, recycling old metal doesn’t affect the quality of any new jewellery it makes.
Sometimes, recycled metal comes from antique or old jewellery. However, industrial metals, bullion and even electronic equipment are all potential sources.
Why is recycling metal preferable to mining it? Simple: recycling avoids all of the environmental and human costs associated with traditional extraction.
The total energy requirement to reforge a metal ring is small and can be done in a simple workshop. But getting platinum or gold out of the ground is notoriously carbon-intensive, can harm miners’ health and can sometimes damage local ecosystems if not done correctly.
Given the inherent conflict and environmental issues associated with mined diamonds, many labels are now growing them in labs. Making diamonds this way, as you might imagine, is a challenge. The idea is to use cutting-edge technology to recreate the processes nature uses to forge diamonds deep inside the Earth’s crust. Manufacturers take a lump of regular carbon (which looks like black soot) and then apply extreme heat and pressure to force it into a crystalline structure. The result is a stone that looks very similar to natural diamonds.
Interestingly, despite all the effort involved, lab-grown diamonds are incredibly cheap – perhaps up to 40 per cent less than their natural counterparts. So not only are they ethical, but they’re a great money-saver for budget-conscious shoppers as well.
Conflict Free Diamonds
Not all natural diamonds are bad. In fact, most are good, so long as they come through the right channels.
More than 82 countries now agree to the Kimberley Process (KP) – an institution set up to control the flow of conflict diamond across international borders. The concept here is simple. Under the terms of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, all participants must commit to transparent mining practices, establish “minimum standards” working conditions, and certify their shipments as conflict-free. What’s more, they can only trade with fellow KP members and not countries outside of the agreement. The result of this international effort is a supply of new, safe diamonds which meet minimum ethical standards. Major diamond exporters, such as Russia and Canada, are both members of this scheme. So diamonds source from either of those countries should tick all your ethical boxes.
Old Mined Diamonds/ Recycled Diamonds
While the KP process is a step in the right direction, it’s hard for eco-conscious customers to monitor conditions and extraction methods directly. Using recycled diamonds, however, changes the dynamic fundamentally. These diamonds have been mined, cut, and polished, were previously purchased, and are now being made available again. Most old-mined diamonds come from second-hand or vintage jewellery. So inserting an existing diamond into a new ring is a simple task that doesn’t require mines or labourers in developing countries. There’s no ambiguity surrounding the diamond’s provenance.
Buying from The Right Vendor
When shopping for ethical engagement rings, it’s also important to buy from the right vendor.
Why? Because responsible vendors implement practices that help to cut down on wastage. They also ensure that everyone who shops with them can benefit from the ethical engagement ring revolution.
What does Flawless Fine Jewellery do to be more Sustainable
Well firstly, we hold a small stock with more bespoke items to save on wastage. This way, we ensure that every diamond mined gets into the hands of an end consumer, reducing unnecessary natural resource wastage. But we also offer a range of rings that attain many of the ethical standards outlined in the above discussion. For instance, we sell lab-grown diamond en masse, produced using methods that guarantee their flawlessness, in a variety of sizes. We also offer graded recycled diamonds that make it easy to avoid non-eco-friendly production methods.
Summing up, it should be clear that there are plenty of routes you can take to acquiring an ethical engagement ring. Freshly extracted ethical diamonds are still available thanks to the KP process, but buyers also have a choice of recycled options and lab-grown varieties as well. In short, it has never been easier to make the right choices when selecting ethical and sustainable engagement rings.