Jewelry has played a significant cultural and ethical role in people’s life since the beginning of civilization. Men and women, kings and queens, priests and seers; everyone had their own jewelry style.
For years, jewelry’s magnificent charm gives those wearing it an exotic appearance that sets them apart from the norm. Its style vary by culture, geography and historical time. It can be inexpensive or extraordinarily valuable when made of rare metals like gold or platinum.
Sadly, almost all jewelry production processes—from mining to refining, transportation, and polishing—have detrimental environmental effects and high carbon footprints. Additionally, it has more negative social impacts, such as unfair wages and child labor. Therefore, to combat the ecological costs of traditional jewelry, there’s a new eco-friendly category of jewelry out there. The so-called “sustainable jewelry” or “vegan-friendly jewelry”. Sustainable activists and industry agents are giving more and more attention to it recently. An in-depth examination of eco-friendly shiny and sparkling jewelry is provided in this article.
What is vegan-friendly jewelry?
Around 30 years ago, and until this day, sustainability topics emerged worldwide on various scales and became a controversial point. It’s a new lifestyle and an approach to facing global warming and environmental pollution. Simultaneously, sustainability-relevant terminology developed over time to introduce new concepts; one of them is “sustainable jewelry,” “vegan-friendly jewelry,” or “ethical jewelry.”
Basically, vegan-friendly jewelry is made with honesty and integrity by using transparent and responsible sourcing practices, sustainable materials, and adopting production and transportation that have the minimum possible damaging impact on the environment and the communities involved in the production.
While vegan-friendly jewelry is another term for sustainable jewelry but it’s popularly used to refer to jewelry crafted without using animal-based products. In Addition to being cruelty-free, vegan jewelry is ethical and eco-friendly due to its materials, such as plastic-free leather made from plants or artificial pearls made from glass.
Vegan-friendly Jewelry Certifications
Identifying sustainable jewelry can be difficult, and many companies claim to offer them. The global nature of the jewelry business and the wide complicated supply chain makes it hard to monitor and certify jewelry. However, there are some labeling efforts to verify sustainable jewelry in the U.S., and they can be helpful, such as:
Fair Trade Certified
It’s issued from Fairtrade International and aims to protect the workers by setting certain standards such as equitable pay and safe, legal working conditions.
The Kimberly Process (for diamonds)
The organization was established to stop the “blood diamond” or “conflict diamonds” and to protect the local communities from wars and destabilization caused by the mining processes of those diamonds.
Fairmined (for metals)
The Fairmined certifies metals (gold, silver, and platinum) mined in small communities using sustainable extraction practices.
Types of Vegan-Friendly Jewelry
Sustainable jewelry has many types, but in general, the basic types are:
Made of Recycled Materials and Stones
The first act of sustainable conduct is recycling, and there are no exceptions when it comes to jewelry. One of the basic approaches for recycling is buying vintage jewelry rather than purchasing a new one.
Another method is recycling the precious metals in old jewelry. Some examples of these are gold and silver. They have infinite recyclability without losing their value or quality but with negligible environmental impact. Recutting and resetting precious stones and metals results in sustainable jewelry, whether the original diamonds or stones were sustainably mined or not. The focal point here is the use of old jewelry to create a new one.
Also, jewelry and especially accessories manufacturers have found a way to benefit from the major environmental crisis of mother earth, “Plastic.” Ironically the most sustainable man-made material is the biggest cause of global warming and environmental pollution. So, utilizing plastic in jewelry and accessories is a great achievement, in which the disposed of plastic is used to produce quality products, such as stylish eyeglasses with eco-friendly frames.
Fair Trade Products
Workers’ exploitation is a hidden aspect of having that shiny stone on an engagement ring. Some diamond mining companies have taken advantage of labor in less privileged countries for many years. And for that, the Fair Trade movement was established to control the trade works and ensure decent work conditions and fair wages for workers in such industries.
Accordingly, fair trade jewelry can be defined as jewelry made of materials certified by the Fair Trade label, which holds certain sustainability and ethical standards. Purchasing fair trade jewelry affects workers and their communities directly and ensures they have an appropriate payment for their efforts; moreover, it means that fewer destructive environmental impacts are generated.
After extracting raw materials from mines, they must be processed before it’s used in jewelry. Although mining has its own devastating environmental impacts, the following crafting processes include environmentally harmful practices such as toxic chemicals, hazardous dust, etc.
Additionally, the energy footprint of those processes is very high as they consume a lot of energy to produce wearable jewelry. So, low-impact processing jewelry will be a good choice when purchasing something new. Checking companies that use renewable energy will encourage the adoption of those approaches to minimize the carbon footprint of jewelry processing.
The lab-grown jewelry is simply 100% guaranteed sustainable jewelry and is ethically sourced. Synthetic jewelry is produced by copying the natural processes that allow these jewels to form in nature. The made jewelry has no physical or chemical differences from the mined diamonds.
The process is conducted in a controlled environment, which means no rights violations or ecological disruption, making their carbon footprint negligible with almost no environmental impacts; for example, the pretty natural-like diamonds come in many shapes and are 30-40% more affordable than mined diamonds.
Negative Environmental Impact of Non-Sustainable Jewelry
Unarguably, jewelry mining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. The traditional way to get gemstones and precious metals are by excavating mega holes in the earth. The problematic activity involves transporting 250 tons of earth for every carat, negatively impacting the environment, soil, air, and water.
These environmental changes have catastrophic effects on the mine area’s biodiversity, leading to the genocide of some species. Below are some other negative ecological impacts of non-sustainable jewelry.
Mining is a massive water-consuming process, it needs about 126 gallons of fresh water to get one carat. This gigantic amount of water usage generates an equal massive wastewater discharge loaded with toxic materials such as sulphuric acid and heavy metals that contaminate the surface and groundwater drinking water resources as well as the soil of the local area.
The carbon footprint is enormous with 57kg of it going into the atmosphere per mined carat. Air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants loaded with fumes goes into the atmosphere. This combination of dangerous gases effectively contributes to global warming.
Ecosystem and Biodiversity
Clearing the land for mine opening will affect the surrounding ecosystem and destroy the natural habitat for local animals and plants, causing destructive effects on the biodiversity in the area.
Vegan-friendly Jewelry: Conclusion
Whenever buying a piece of shiny jewelry, remember that it wasn’t a pleasant experience for workers in the mining sites, especially in third-world and conflict countries. Add to that the catastrophic environmental impacts of the extracting and manufacturing processes.
With the rising threats of global warming, sustainability has been a suitable helper. People have started adopting it in all fields and that includes the jewelry industry.
Sustainable and vegan-friendly jewelry has fewer negative environmental impacts. It also preserves mining workers’ rights, saves the local habitat, and provides an ethical way to get glamour.
* Written by Isabelle Marinier, from eyebuydirect.com
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Fashinnovation’s columnists are their own, not those of Fashinnovation.