Ethical jewelry brands and sustainable jewelry do more than bring you high-quality and beautiful designs. They avoid destructive processes like traditional diamond mining and gold mining. Moreover, ethical jewelry brands create positive social impacts starting with their own work force.
Sadly, metal and gemstone mining regularly puts millions of workers in danger. For instance, it’s very common to work in chemical-heavy conditions without protective gear like respirators. This is true for both industrial mining and artisanal mining.
Let me clarify. Artisanal mining is when individuals (or small operations) illegally mine and sell minerals at a smaller scale than industrial mining. It may be relatively smaller in scale, but 100 million people around the world are involved in this activity–including children. So if it helps workers put food on the table and provide 12% of global gold production, then what’s so bad about it?
One of the greatest controversies associated with the jewelry business is its environmental impact. The artisanal miners I mentioned above and their industrial counterparts use toxic chemicals like cyanide and arsenic to mine more gold than ever. In a nutshell, miners use liquid cyanide to spray or soak large quantities of ore which contains gold. Their end goal is extracting this gold from the ore in the most efficient way possible and mixing cyanide with these ore deposits helps coax out the gold easily.
Regrettably, much of the resulting waste is dumped onto nearby bodies of water or stored in unprotected containers.
Additionally, mining destroys landscapes.
Think about it: miners dig monstrous holes in the ground in the name of precious minerals. This takes a toll on wildlife, human populations, and their physical environment.
Unfortunately, mineral mining is a complicated issue. Yes, millions of people depend on the meager income it provides. Yes, fine jewelry brings joy to all corners of the world, but this comes at a cost.
As eco-friendly consumers, what can we do? One lasting way you can make a positive impact is by staying informed. When you’re considering purchasing jewelry either from a boutique or a well-known brand, consider these criteria that might help you determine if it’s considered sustainable jewelry or not:
- Responsibly-sourced: These ethical jewelry brands came from suppliers that meet environmentally-friendly and socially-progressive standards.
- Secondhand jewelry/gems: Reusing gems like diamonds is becoming more popular because it avoids the negative environmental impacts of mining.
- Recycled metal: Recycling gold, in particular, is favorable for the same reasons why secondhand jewelry is catching on.
- Fair trade: Certified companies provide safe working conditions, fair pay, and overall sustainable practices for their partners and employees.
Let’s take a very close look at 9 ethical jewelry brands and why you should consider buying your next gemstone ring from them instead of mainstream jewelry companies. Trust me, you’ll wish you had discovered these ethical jewelry brands these sooner. From custom-made heirloom pieces to recycled metal rings–they’ve got it all.
9 Ethical Jewelry Brands
- Iconic Products: Long-lasting pieces
- Sustainable practices: Ethically sourced diamonds, Conflict-free diamond suppliers
Mejuri’s motto is quality over quantity. This philosophy is apparent throughout their sourcing, production, and distribution process. Mejuri works with expert jewelry makers throughout the globe from their headquarters in Canada to manufacturers in Thailand. For instance, their Italian manufacturer is certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council.
To address waste in the jewelry business, they source only the highest quality materials to ensure that their products will not succumb to the elements and therefore need replacing. Solid 14-karat gold, 925 Sterling Silver, gold vermeil, superior quality diamonds, legitimate gemstones, and farmed pearls complete their jewelry mineral lineup. Each material is made of exceptional quality to create a ring, bracelet, or necklace that lasts a lifeteime.
Another unique part about their business model is their fair pricing. While large companies drive prices up throughout the sales process, Mejuri has no middlemen that increase cost. The direct sale from Mejuri to clients means you get the same high quality ethical jewelry at a fair price.
Mejuri offers new products every Monday throughout the year. In addition, they offer standard categories like earrings, necklaces, and rings. More specialized categories include engagement rings and wedding bands.
One of their most popular products is this single colored mini hoop earring featuring a 14-karat gold ring with an option of a white sapphire, tsavorite, ruby, or blue sapphire gemstone. A great thing about their 14-karat gold is it resists wear and tear. While other gold products might change color, Mejuri guarantees a hardy, brilliant gold ring.
- Iconic Products: Made-to-order rings, bands, necklaces, and earrings
- Sustainable practices: Responsibly-sourced materials, Durable handmade products, Recycled gold, Conflict-free diamonds, American-mined stones
Young In The Mountains (YITM) is an American-based jewelry company founded by Mariele Ivy. Her creations reflect her upbringing which was heavily influenced by nature exploration in the mountains of Montana. So it’s no surprise that her brand YITM explores the relationship between man and nature. More importantly, the brand aims to explore how we can create timeless, sustainable jewelry from materials that are as unprocessed as possible.
At YITM, craftsmanship and handmade creations are the guiding principles of their business ethics. Hand selected stones from responsible American miners are incorporated into recycled gold bases to create jewelry that feels organic. Ivy is not a typical founder–she’s hands-on. She carefully picks each stone and lays it into a bracelet, ring, or band to showcase the potential of human craftsmanship.
Besides extreme attention to detail, YITM demonstrates professional skills as smiths. Each product is made by hand using traditional torch methods, which you can see for yourself here.
To give you an idea of how committed they are to making sustainable jewelry, get this: They’re part of Ethical Metalsmiths, which is an organization dedicated to educating, promoting, and practicing sustainable jewelry-making ethics. This group includes eco-conscious clients, jewelry brands, suppliers, and designers. One of their key initiatives has been the Radical Jewelry Makeover, which helps develop recycled metals and stones. This is extremely valuable in reducing waste in the jewelry business.
The YITM site offers a wide range of products, but this wild turquoise ring caught my eye. The oval turquoise ring is cased in recycled 14-karat gold with a crown of white diamond and sterling silver. At first glance, it almost looks like our precious Blue Marble.
3. Luna & Rose
- Iconic Products: Patron Saint of Animals & The Environment and Patron Saint of Miracles necklaces, Recycled silver products
- Sustainable practices: Business transparency, Zero waste production, Charitable giving
Luna & Rose is unique–it’s a zero waste jewelry company that somehow still produces stunning and affordable products. Founder and designer Rosie highlights the importance of transparency from businesses especially when it comes to disclosing production processes. Well, it’s not a difficult decision for Luna & Rose. The company follows various ethical practices that also make it a zero waste company.
For starters, they create their designs from 99% recycled silver. So their products are not only made from old jewelry, they’re helping reduce excess waste by reusing metal scraps from old electronics. They’re also planning to implement a buy-back program soon so customers can donate pieces to be recycled.
What else in their production process helps them stay zero waste? Biodegradable packaging. Online jewelry orders are shipped in a biodegradable package while clothing items are shipped in compostable poly bags. Both containers decompose within several weeks to months.
Lastly, Luna & Rose gives back to the community by donating to TAKE 3 FOR THE SEA, a nonprofit that helps keep coastlines clean. They’re also partnered with Sustainable Coastlines through 1% For The Planet, which means they donate 1% of their annual income to these two charities.
Their collections are targeted for daily wear, and I thought this adorable Eco Warrior & Sustainable Soul gift bundle was a great way to treat someone (or yourself!) to something shiny but sustainable. One bundle comes with your choice of necklace from a provided list, an organic dyed tote bag, and an organic cotton tee from their partner charity TAKE 3 FOR THE SEA.
4. Moon Magic
- Iconic Products: Moonstone jewelry, 14-karat rose gold
- Sustainable practices: Fair pricing, Natural unprocessed stones, Charitable giving
Moon Magic is a fitting name for this company committed to highlighting the natural aesthetic and spiritual properties of moonstones. In addition to utilizing handpicked stones, Moon Magic only deals with conflict-free diamonds. The founders are dedicated to making fine jewelry accessible to all and not just a select few, which is why fair pricing is at the top of their priority list.
Besides sustainable jewelry, they’re concerned with contributing to the environment in other positive ways. Their partnership with Trees for The Future has led to more than 200,000 trees planted in the ground. And this partnership includes customers who unknowingly donate one tree with every product bought.
Note that although their diamonds are conflict-free, I could not find any information about other materials in their products like gold, silver, or copper.
Their product catalogue highlights the moonstone which is a mineral admired for its cat’s eye glimmer. The enchanting rainbow glow on a moonstone’s white, cloudy surface also reflects its spiritual value in various civilizations like Rome and China. It’s also revered for its healing properties, status as a symbol of love, perceived talisman properties, and enlightening ability.
If you know a mystic or spiritual soul in your life, one of Magic Moon’s spirit bundles is a perfect gift. This bundle includes a moonstone ring flanked by white topaz, and a crown-shaped white-topaz inlaid ring. Both are set in lovely 14-karat rose gold vermeil.
- Iconic Products: Sustainably-sourced Japanese pearls, Bold NYC-inspired jewelry
- Sustainable practices: Business transparency, Recycled gold, Responsibly-sourced gems, Fairtrade, Charitable giving
Aurate was founded by Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui with high-quality, fair-priced jewelry in mind. Designer Kahn seeks inspiration from daily life in New York, where the company is headquartered.
Using only recycled 14-karat and 18-karat gold, Aurate cuts down on gold mining waste. They also coat their vermeil (a silver item plated with gold) with thicker gold than average to ensure durability. While larger companies cannot (or do not) source diamonds responsibly from mining to sale, Aurate keeps track of their stones along every step of the process.
Moreover, they ensure respectable working conditions and pay employees fair wages. Just as important, they only engage in businesses that do not disturb local communities who are often victims of environmental atrocities like chemical dumping. In addition to sustainable metal and stones, they source their pearls from small-scale oyster farms.
At the heart of Aurate’s production process are families who have been in the jewelry business for generations in New York. And guess what? This impeccable craftsmanship is evident in their products. Just take a look at this intricate Infinity Heart Ring available in yellow, rose, or white vermeil. It makes for a sweet just-because-I-love-you gift.
On the other hand (I couldn’t resist), try this Deco Fan Pearl Ring. This unique ring features a golden plume sprouting from a dazzlingly white pearl.
- Iconic Products: Locally-sourced recycled brass, Reclaimed horn and bone, wood, and silver
- Sustainable practices: Certified B Corp, Locally-sourced materials, Social and economic justice
Soko may be as close as it gets to a truly sustainable jewelry brand. Their business model connects international customers with Kenyan-based designers and creators. Inspired by traditional techniques, Soko’s products are made with local and environmentally-friendly materials. This includes brass, upcycled cow horn and bone, and unused wood. This exchange helps give the power back to the makers, and not the distributors. More importantly, this business model allows local communities to thrive in the long-term.
Soko is a certified B corp which means their mission is not just focused on business but a combination of purpose and profit. Companies under this certification must work closely with the environment. This large community includes big businesses like Danone to smaller independent companies like Soko.
Thus, their products emphasize the importance of repurposing, recycling, and reclaiming. Soko relies on brass because it is one of the most recyclable metals. Furthermore, Soko’s brass is sourced from local suppliers.
A rarely-used material in the mainstream jewelry world is cow horn and bone. Soko’s jewelry features Ankole Longhorn cattle horn and bone, which can be found in East Africa. The horns and bones would otherwise go to waste as a result of the meat industry from African tribes.
When Soko uses wood, they repurpose off-cuts that would also be thrown away otherwise. They also partner with an organization that ensures sustainable tree harvests. Lastly, their chrome-plated brass successfully imitates silver in a glossy finish.
Soko’s Capped Pia earrings perfectly demonstrate the balance between traditional techniques and modern designs. It’s available in three different cow horn two-tone options: brass and black, brass and white, and silver and black.
7. Bario Neal
- Iconic Products: Custom and heirloom jewelry, Personalized designs
- Sustainable practices: Fairmined gold, Reclaimed metal, Responsibly-sourced stones, Fair working conditions, LGBTQ rights activism
Bario Neal does not disappoint when it claims to be an ethical jewelry company. Founders Anna Bario and Page Neal sought to tell unique stories through jewelry without causing negative environmental impacts. This story is centered around the right to marry whoever you want in whatever manner you choose to. Consequently, they founded a brand that dedicates itself to ethically-sourced gemstones and products that last.
They’re based in Philadelphia, working with genuine craftsmen in the famed Jeweler’s Row. For materials, they use fairmined metal from small-scale miners and recycled metals sourced from around the U.S. The fairmined certification requires strict standards like demonstrated protection of water supplies and promotion of community wellbeing.
Bario Neal also leads the way in traceable diamonds, being the first to fully provide traceable pave diamonds and colored gems. You’ll be glad to know that the many of their gemstones are actually recycled from their own previous jewelry collections.
Perhaps Bario Neal’s most noteworthy impact is their overall influence in the sustainable jewelry industry. Both Bario and Neal are founding members of the Ethical Metalsmiths Jewelers Directory and the Ethical Sourcing Consortium.
One product that stood out to me was their Keepsake Baby Bangle, which you can engrave. It’s available in sterling silver and 14-karat gold. It’s completely adorable and would be a great accessory for a baby’s first photo shoot.
- Iconic Products:
- Sustainable practices: Recycled metals, Charitable giving
Melissa Joy Manning believes in crafting products that avoid machine-generated waste and consumer waste. They address fast fashion or rather fast jewelry by making unique pieces that caters to each client’s “individuality and spirit.” The company is based in California where they handcraft each product in a green-certified studio.
Much of the company’s success is, unsurprisingly, due to founder Melissa Joy Manning. She is the founding co-chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) Sustainability Committee, which educates fashion designers about fashion ethics. Moreover, all the metals used in their production are 100% recycled. This avoids production of new materials and repurposes existing metal. As for their stones, these are either sourced from vetted suppliers or reclaimed.
Their packaging is made of recycled packaging materials to lower the company’s carbon footprint generated by deliveries. What’s more, their studio is ever-evolving and updating with the newest green standards. One way they’re paving a greener way forward is opting for completely renewable energy in their studio and switching to a low-drip irrigation system to cut water use.
Other than eco-friendly jewelry, Melissa Joy Manning supports numerous nonprofits and organizations including the ACLU, Feeding America, and Emily’s List. One of their many contributions is being able to donate more than 12,562 meals throughout the United States in 2019 alone.
Their heirloom products list features one-of-a-kind pieces that are intended to be heirlooms. If you want to invest in a high-quality and rare piece, this page is worth checking out.
9. Holly Ryan
- Iconic Products: Made-to-order pieces, Bespoke designs, Art-inspired jewelry
- Sustainable practices: Supporting local economies, Low to zero-waste production
Last but not the least, Holly Ryan is also a noteworthy eco-friendly jewelry brand. Based in Australia, the designer of the same name focuses on protecting the physical environment and preserving traditional techniques. Holly Ryan’s bespoke pieces are inspired by the designer’s sculpting background, focusing on feminine forms and wabi sabi, or the practice of appreciating imperfect forms.
The influence of art in Holly Ryan’s pieces is displayed in their timeless designs that are meant to endure trends and prevent consumer waste. They further avoid environmental damage by using all-recycled metals in their designs from both outside sources and within their collections.
Similarly, their stones are obtained through fair trade suppliers from India or within their community. Sourcing from Australian suppliers is one way Holly Ryan is helping spur and sustain local economies.
Holly Ryan also advocates for closed loop life cycles and does so through their Recycling Initiative. They simply ask customers to bring in secondhand pieces and in return, customers receive store credit or a jewelry makeover from Holly herself.
Holly Ryan’s creations are an interesting mix of modern and traditional, like this Amber choker held together by sterling silver and featuring a keshi pearl. The imperfect keshi pearl lends itself to the Japanese wabi sabi philosophy of celebrating imperfections.
Alternatively, check out these Silver Elongated Squiggle earrings for a more modern feel. The unusual shape and size are sure to spark a conversation whereby you can advocate for sustainable jewelry.
I know that sustainable jewelry might seem like a pipe dream, but it’s here! It isn’t perfect yet and perhaps calling it sustainable jewelry is, in some instances, overly generous but we are making progress.
These ethical jewelry brands are living proof of that progress.
As consumers, we need to push the industry to change, so today I challenge you to contact your local jewelry store and determine the truth about their production process; the future of sustainability depends on our continued collective push for ethical practices.