You can’t ignore the huge conversation around ethical fashion (no, it’s not ‘just having a moment’), and the same goes for ethical jewellery.
But while you may know where to find trend-led pieces like shell jewellery or statement earrings, do you know how they’re made or where they’re sourced – especially when it comes to diamonds? Scroll down for some pointers and to shop the ethical jewellery brands we love.
What is ethical jewellery?
In a nutshell, it’s jewellery that has no negative impact on the people who make it, or the environment they’re produced in. That can mean:
- Using materials you can trace back to the source, to ensure they’ve been produced in an ethical way, eg, fair trade materials and conflict-free diamonds
- Using recycled materials such as gemstones
- Using synthetic diamonds
- Not using child labour and ensuring fair wages and working hours
- Not using practices that pollute or impact the environment in a negative way
What are ethical diamonds?
Like or not, Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2006 Blood Diamonds really shed light on the issue of conflict diamonds, also called blood diamonds, as they’re mined in areas controlled by rebels, who then use the money to buy weapons or finance war activities.
So to avoid buying any conflict diamonds, you want to be able to trace their origin. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy synthetically farmed diamonds (and the quality is equally good), or buy diamonds from a jeweller who adheres to the Kimberley Process, which ensures that exported diamonds are conflict-free.
You can also go down the antique route as you’re effectively recycling an older diamond.
Ethical jewellery brands
Alighieri is the new jewellery brand on every fashion editor’s lips. London-based designer Rosh Mahtani read French and Italian at Oxford University before establishing Alighieri, which was inspired by her studies of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ – each piece corresponds to one of the poet’s 100 poems. Everything is made by hand, in London, to promote the idea of ‘forever’ jewellery, that you keep building on, as opposed to throw-away high street jewellery. The pieces are made through the process of lost-wax casting, in recycled bronze, ethically sourced in Italy.
London-based Georgina Boyce creates hand-crafted, British-made contemporary jewellery ranging from bespoke engagement rings to delicate everyday pieces. She also refashions old jewellery into something new, adapting existing treasures and repairing old favourites – the ultimate sustainable approach.
Handmade in Italy, all pieces use ethically sourced and recycled gold. Guya Merkle, the creative director, is passionate about creating beautiful pieces that help to make a difference, which is one of the reasons she founded the Earthbeat Foundation. The Earthbeat Foundation donates 10% of overall profits, which goes towards creating a better future for goldmining communities.
Catherine Zoraida creates playful pieces handcrafted and made in England using fairtrade gold and silver. Her designs have been spotted on the Duchess of Cambridge, Gigi Hadid, Emma Watson, Alicia Vikander
All Tuza products are handmade in their workshop, based in my hometown of Mexico City, and Tuza’s founder focuses on creating fair jobs for her team and keeping the production as personalised as possible.
Jewellery is handmade in London (Old Street) from fairtrade recycled sterling silver and fair trade gold as well as sustainably sourced gemstones. For the gold plated Jewellery, you also get offered a replating service so you can literally wear it forever.
ADORE collections are beautifully embellished with 100% lead free Swarovski® crystals. All ADORE Jewelry is crafted following the highest quality standards and follows the requirements of the Responsible Jewellery Council.
All of the WALD collection is handmade by a collective of unemployed moms or grandmothers, often from small villages, where there are limited jobs, especially not for older women who have been moms their whole life. Each woman is responsible for one model of the collection. The WALD team teach them over Skype and phone and they can make their living out of their home. WALD says, ‘for us it is really important to be aware of where we spend our money. You can make such a difference when thinking twice and change the world each day a bit to be better. They are the heroes of our society and deserve jobs and appreciation.’
Despite being a new brand, UK-based Vashi is fast becoming the go-to destination for bespoke jewellery with ethically sourced and conflict-free diamonds, with options for every budget.
Roxanne First jewellery is a great destination if you’re looking for fine jewellery with conflict-free and ethical diamonds. They handpick suppliers who they visit personally, ensuring every piece is made from responsibly sourced materials. The prices are fair too, as they’ve cut the middle man and sell direct to the consumer, meaning you get affordable diamonds, without compromising on quality.
Tada & Toy
Tada & Toy are a London based independent jewellery studio founded 3 years ago to create an affordable, contemporary brand with sustainability and ethical practice always at the heart of the design process (each diamond is sourced using the Kimberley process). They support a wildlife charity by donating 5% of all profits and 25% from the charity collection sales.
Arabel’s first approach to sustainable metals was to use of 100% recycled gold, silver and platinum back in 2008. Unlike other jewellers, however, their metals come directly from a 100% certified and single recycled source. When you order a ring made with recycled gold, you are avoiding the need to mine more gold from the ground. They use 100% recycled silver in 80% of the silver jewels and are working towards using it in 100% of the jewels.They use 100% recycled gold in all recycled gold jewels.
As well as sustainable metals, they’re also committed to sourcing responsibly mined diamonds and gemstones.
Lilian von Trapp
Berlin jeweller Lilian von Trapp only uses recycled gold and vintage diamonds. She also works with the Earthbeat Foundation in Uganda to work with a local community who have been directly affected by the terrible tolls of goldmining. She went there to educate miners to an alternative form of income to mining, which is all they currently know. They have worked to decontaminate their land, using permaculture principles, planting bamboo to suck the toxins out of the land; which in turn will build a sustainable and profitable ecosystem to farm and sell high yield crop such as fair-trade coffee. Lilian has launched a limited edition unisex style chain necklace (only 20 and each numbered), with 100% of the profits going towards this project.
Shop now: The Bar for £440 from Lilian von Trapp
Jewel Tree London
The recently launched Notting Hill-based Jewel Tree London is all about bold, sculptural pieces. They also abide to a strict code of conduct to ensure social and environmental responsibility, from the responsible sourcing of raw materials to ethical mining practices and zero tolerance of child labour.
US brand 64Facets has recently launched in the UK, and specialise in understated diamond jewellery. The company sources the finest diamonds in the rough, from responsible trade partners who follow the Kimberly process. A team of seasoned diamantaires then hand cuts and polishes these rough diamonds, which then go to experienced craftsmen at an atelier in Surat, India.
London-based SORU serves up bohemian designs handmade by artisans so therefore not mass produced in factories. The gems are from fair trade mines, with fair trade authentication and the workers who hand make the jewellery are paid fairly and with fair working conditions.
Shop now: Sun ring for £110 from SORU jewellery
Pippa Small is an ethical jewellery designer who originally started her career as a social anthropologist. She turned to jewellery design as a way of helping the communities she encountered worldwide and has projects in Afghanistan, Bolivia and Myanmar which are aimed at keeping traditional skills alive and also boosting the local economy. In Afghanistan, she works with young men and women to train them in the art of jewellery making as part of HRH Prince Charles’ charity Turquoise Mountain. Jewellery making was banned during the Taliban regime, so when the regime ended there was a dearth of skilled artisans as the master craftsmen had either fled the country or been killed.
PANDORA operates a vertically integrated business model, which means it owns every aspect of the production process – including the factories so the work isn’t outsource, so has full control over how the jewellery is produced and how employees are treated.
It’s also a member of the RJC (Responsible Jewellery Council), an organisation which audits and controls the jewellery supply chain, all the way from mine to retail. In addition to this, it has the PANDORA Ethics Programme, which teaches smaller jewellery businesses and suppliers how they too can ensure they are operating ethically.
Asher Hoffman is committed to preserving all the finest traditions of his craft. All diamonds are conflict free and ethically sourced. Plus his new timeless Ballet bracelets (which are made of diamonds and come in rose gold, gold or white gold) are made to last a lifetime thanks to a strong, lightweight stainless steel core.
Little by Little
This delicate gold jewellery is not only affordable, but each piece bought buys food for a malnourished child for three days through Action Against Hunger. Plus, all gold used is ethically mined and the packaging is sustainable.
Lark & Berry
Lark & Berry are using innovative technology to culture diamonds, meaning everything is grown in a laboratory. Re-creating the exact climate and atmosphere diamonds usually grow in the cultured diamonds sit within the purest category of diamonds. The cultured process leads to less waste, less water loss and less impact on the environment – as well as ensuring all stones are conflict free with their origin entirely trackable.
You can buy the jewellery online now, though a flagship store is set to open in London on 5th September.
Natalie Perry Jewellery
New designer Natalie Perry believes jewellery should be stylish without compromise. Each piece is handcrafted in London using ethically sourced Fairtrade Gold from Fairtrade accredited mines in Peru which means miners receive a fair price for their gold and work in safe conditions without child labour. They also receive extra money from a premium paid for the gold which goes towards funding education, healthcare and environmental projects to develop the community they live in. The jewellery is also packaged in eco-friendly boxes.
All ethically sourced and made, Kastur Jewels even runs a humanitarian initiative programme which is at the heart of the brand. Founder, Rajvi Vora has worked directly with International humanitarian development programmes for over 8 years across the globe from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan, meaning Rajvi personally manages the humanitarian initiatives so that she can research and oversee it’s direct impact.