29: Put a conflict-free ring on it

Ladies – We are one of the main perpetuators of the trade in conflict minerals such as gold and diamonds. It is time we said no to bling with untraceable sources and invest in jewellery with a supply chain that is good to people and to the environment.

conflict-free gold; conflict metals; diamonds; gold; fairtrade;

Whether you’re looking for an engagement ring, buying yourself a fancy trinket, or simply dropping hints to a loved one about what you might want for Valentine’s Day, feeling good about what a ring represents is just as important as the cut, the setting, and the size. But as good as it may make you feel, how about the people who have helped it in its way to your finger?

Emerald Moissanite Twig Engagement Ring: Carved Floral Setting, 1ct, KristinCoffin

Emerald Moissanite Twig Engagement Ring: Carved Floral Setting, 1 carat. This ring avoids all harmful mining of gold or gemstones. The gold used has been recycled. (KristinCoffin on Etsy)

What’s the problem?

An estimated 3.7 million people die each year as the result of conflicts fuelled by diamonds alone. That’s not to mention the number of people that die from conflicts about other conflict materials. Add to that the effects the mining industry has on people (spending days in dark, narrow tunnels, hours per day bent over in a river and being exposed to toxic substances such as mercury causing defects to unborn babies and serious health issues to the miners) as well as the environment (the amount of water used, poisonous substances entering rivers as well as the degradation and erosion of vast areas of land).

How do we make it stop? There are a few things we can do to make a difference. Today, we’re focusing on ways the consumer (us!) can put pressure on jewellery businesses to pay attention to the supply chain and ensure ethical dealings from mine to shop.

Interested to read more about the issues around minerals and supply chains? Check out our section on minerals on Resolution:Possible.

Economic justice

As we previously mentioned in our chocolate and coffee blogs, finding out where exactly commodities come from and what exactly is happening along the chain of production is complicated, time consuming and frankly not many companies’ priority. Therefore we need organisations such as Fairtrade to use its leverage to push for companies to start making it a priority. Fairtrade has its flaws, yes. However, it is the only system in the world at the moment that has the ability to push for ethical standards, has independent auditors and has numerous stakeholders with an interest in its success.

“Buying an engagement or wedding ring in the UK should by default be fair trade. Money isn’t the problem, there is plenty of money in the world. The problem is the distribution. By buying fair trade you are demanding economic justice for the poor.”

Greg Valentino, founder of CRED Jewellery

How to source an ethical ring:

Ethically-sourced 18ct  twisted vine diamond ring.

Ethically-sourced 18ct twisted vine diamond ring. (Brilliant Earth)

  • Ask your jeweller – If they cannot explain where the stones are from, then it’s time to take your leave!
  • Avoid new materials altogether – Buying a vintage piece is reusing and recycling in its simplest form. No new resources are expended and no new chemicals are added to our environment.
  • Diamonds are not a girl’s best friend – The most popular conflict-free and eco-friendly alternative to diamond is a stone called Moissanite. One look at its brilliant, sparkly façade makes it easy to see why.
  • Go for the coloured stone – Amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and citrine are just a few of the coloured stones that can be sourced according to fair trade principles.
  • Know the source – There are no fair trade African diamonds yet so perhaps you can look into buying Canadian diamonds (though they tend to be 5-10 per cent more expensive than African diamonds).
  • Recycle – Buy a ring that is made out of recycled (ask your jeweller) gold.

WHERE TO SOURCE AN ETHICAL RING

fair trade; goldFairtrade’s ‘I do’ incentive lists shops and brands using Fairtrade Gold. Other options are:

Other useful guides to buying conflict-free jewellery: Brilliant Earth, Vashi, The Knot and Diamond Facts.

Research and writing – Harriet Doughty

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