It’s easy to be green these days, however when it comes to buying ‘green’ wedding and engagement rings, it can be a little more difficult. Finding a jeweller who can work with recycled metal or can supply you with ethical and traceable diamonds is not as easy as walking down the high street and popping into your local jewellery store.
However, jewellery is a precious, unique and often sentimental token – how much more rewarding is it to know that the piece of jewellery you own has gone some way to encouraging change and supporting the use of ecologically sensitive practices?
The main choices for ‘green’ jewellery are recycled or ethical gold and platinum. But what is the difference and what does recycled or ethical really mean?
Recycled precious metal can come from two sources – from you or from your jeweller. You may have a vintage ring of your grandmother’s that you would like to make your rings from, or some old jewellery of your own that you could recycle. Not all jewellers will be able to melt down your vintage rings and re-form the metal into a new ring – it involves particular machinery and a fair bit of heat! However more and more people are choosing this option – it’s true recycling and it’s often a beautiful sentiment to re-use an inherited ring to make your own wedding ring.
The other option is to find a jeweller that offers recycled gold or platinum. When consulting with a jeweller it is important to ask if the metal is ‘post-consumer’ recycled. This means it is gold that has been melted down and refined from old jewellery or industrial processes. Not simply re-used from metal that was bought new, made into a ring that sat in a shop window but didn’t sell!
Your next option is ‘ethical’ gold or platinum. Ethical metal is a new phenomenon in the jewellery world and as such many jewellers will give you a blank stare if you ask for it! Ethical gold and platinum is sourced from a few select mines around the world that adhere to strict environmental and social policies. Any jeweller who has a supply of this gold will be able to tell you about the mine and the processes used to extract the metal. Much of it is done by artisianal mining process, skills passed through generations, often done by hand and with minimal effect on the environment – no cyanide or mercury, no huge pits in the earth, and a profit sharing scheme with the miners themselves.
Conflict-free diamonds are now common parlance and as such the industry has responded by offering a more transparent supply chain for these, incredibly beautiful, gems. However you can go one step further and get an ethical diamond or a recycled diamond. As with the recycled gold many people choose to use a diamond from a vintage ring, inherited maybe from a family member, which adds an extra layer of meaning and continuity to their wedding or engagement ring.
However, if you don’t have a vintage diamond of your own, it is possible to source a ‘post-consumer’ recycled diamond. Approximately 4.5 billion carats of diamonds have been extracted from the ground since large scale mining efforts began. This means millions of diamonds are part of the world’s existing above ground, supply of diamonds. In order to reduce the industry’s reliance on environmentally damaging mining practices some diamond dealers participate in the acquisition and reintroduction of these millions of diamonds back into the jewellery supply chain.
There are also a few, small scale, diamond mining co-operatives around the world that support local mining communities and negotiate fair pay and decent working conditions for miners. A higher percentage of the profits made on such diamonds go back to the mining community (and even the individual miner) than the equivalent diamond bought from large-scale mining operations.
So, how to bring all this together and have a beautiful, ethical, responsible engagement or wedding ring all of your own? There are a few jewellers in Australia who can supply you with such a ring (listed below), or you can rejuvenate your own vintage ring into something beautiful and truly recycled.
This article was written by Zoe Pook from Zoe Pook Jewellery.
Zoe makes beautiful ethical wedding and engagement rings. All of Zoe’s creations are available in ‘Green’ metal. She proudly sources gold, silver and platinum from ecologically and ethically sound mines from around the world and offers clients the choice of ethical or recycled diamonds and gems. With a beautiful ring from Zoe Pook Jewellery you can be safe in the knowledge that the piece of jewellery you own has gone some way to encouraging change and supporting the use of ecologically sensitive practices.