Sustainable Jewellery

Sustainability:

the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time

(Cambridge Dictionary)

 

I wanted to share some thoughts (long post alert) about environment and sustainability in the jewellery industry and ask you to let me know what you think too. We talk a lot these days, thankfully, about ethics in the jewellery industry, but the fact that something is ethical, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s environmentally friendly or sustainable.

In my industry, ethics usually refers to fair pay and conditions, transparency of supply chain, lack of child labour, no exploitation etc. The mining of gold and gemstones is not sustainable (these are finite resources and commercial mining aims to extract as much as possible, as quickly and cost effectively as possible) and not environmentally friendly. Some mines operate to high environmental standards e.g. the Canadian diamond mines or the Jwaneng mine in Botswana, however both cause huge damage to the environment because of their size and setting, use huge amounts of energy and pump out the resulting emissions. Some types of mining e.g. small scale and artisanal mining do less damage to the environment and are more sustainable due to their methods of extraction/collection and small size e.g. Fairmined and Fairtrade or the gemstones I use from Sri Lanka. Lab diamonds and gemstones are sustainable (in that they can be created indefinitely) but are an industrial process that uses large amounts of energy. Recycled precious metals are sustainable and gold has been recycled forever, since it’s too prized a commodity to be wasted. Hard stones such as diamonds, sapphires and rubies can also be re-polished and reused to some extent.

It’s a complex industry and I don’t feel sustainability and environmental issues are being given the attention they deserve. The mining industries (whether it’s metal for your smartphone, car or glasses) have a vested interest in having mining continue. Let’s face it, many people have become extremely rich from mining precious metal, minerals, gemstones and diamonds and often they’ve done so at the expense of others and the environment. ¬†Where sustainability is discussed in the jewellery industry it often relates to sustainability of supply chain – something completely different.

I look at the issues around sustainability, environment and ethics in more detail on my website and I always encourage my customers to do some research and decide for themselves. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and my advice if you want to be sustainable, is 1) reuse what you already have, have your jewellery remodelled. 2) if you’ve nothing to remodel, choose recycled metal and artisanaly mined gemstones or antique diamonds.

http://www.debswana.com/Operations/Pages/Jwaneng-Mine.aspx

https://www.riotinto.com/en/operations/canada/diavik