When it comes to fine jewellery, two of the most popular materials used, gold and diamonds, are mined. The process gives way to smog and CO2 emissions, contributing to air pollution. But it doesn’t stop here. Gold and diamond mining also emits toxins such as cyanide, which ends up polluting the water supply and the soil, two ways for toxins to enter the human food chain. What is also introduced into water resources are acids that get washed out of mines, disrupting aquatic life. The mining industry as a whole affects human lives directly as well, with numerous workers going through harmful and unethical working conditions, not to mention the number of workers that are killed during mining mishaps. Just recently, in January 2021, nine workers were killed in a Chinese gold mine explosion, as reported by The Hindu. All this, and more, paves the way for the need for ethical and conscious alternatives to traditionally made jewellery.
How Can Jewellery Be Made Sustainable?
According to the World Gold Council, as per best estimates available, around 197,576 tonnes of gold has been mined throughout history, of which only around two-thirds has been mined since 1950. This simply means that more gold is being mined, even today, than what is required. This is not to mention the possibility of recycling existing gold available, as another option to control emissions and negative environmental impact.
When it comes to diamonds, a more recent and eco-conscious alternative is the lab-grown diamond. While a carat of mined diamonds requires 480 litres of water to produce, its lab-grown version required only 70 litres.
So Who Is Implementing This?
One of the most popular ethical jewellery labels is New York-based Catbird. The woman-owned brand operates entirely in-house, with more than 40 fairly paid artisans, using only recycled gold and responsibly sourced gemstones. The jewellery brand is best known for its everyday fine jewellery designs as well as engagement pieces. Along with operating responsibly, Catbird also donates one per cent of all sales to the Food Bank of New York City as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.
Image Source: Instagram/catbirdnyc
Another fine jewellery brand pioneering the responsible way to create jewellery is Azlee. The brand has been a constant supporter of the ocean protection cause and has been supporting organisations like The Marine Mammal Center, Surfrider Foundation, Oceana and Sea Legacy with donations. Azlee also creates 95 per cent of their collection pieces using 100 per cent recycled metals, and 100 per cent of their custom pieces from 100 per cent recycled metals, eliminating the need for mined metals to a large extent. The brand’s recent collection featured ocean diamonds. These diamonds are responsibly sourced from ocean beds of Namibia and South Africa, created naturally by the earth, naturally flowing from mountains through rivers. The diamonds are responsibly sourced by local divers who handpick them from the ocean’s floor, leaving no lasting impact on the environment, and eliminating the use of mined diamonds.
Image Source: Instagram/azlee_
The Indian Jewellery Front
In a country like India, where jewellery crafts are found and practised in abundance, many homegrown brands are changing up the jewellery space, one responsible move at a time. Case in point are Dhora, Krithaa, and Studio Love Letter, which use recycled metals and materials for their jewellery made by local artisans. Designer Anu Merton also creates jewellery which is made by local karigars with traditional crafts. She also holds the occasional “Traveling Dukaan”, where she sells pieces made by Indian craftsmen in towns that she travels to. The online marketplace of sorts also includes vintage pieces that are handpicked by her. Using lab-grown diamonds are brands Anantaa Diamonds and DiAi Designs, that create aesthetic, long-lasting and everyday pieced with the eco-conscious gemstones and hallmarked gold.
Image Source: Instagram/anumerton