Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend but are they ethical?
When we think of sustainable fashion, we often think of clothing over accessories, jewelry included. But our rings, earrings and necklaces aren’t necessarily without their sins.
Costume jewelry – the cheap, low quality kind which turns your skin a questionable tinge of green – is often doomed to landfill. Transparency is another industry-wide problem as little is known about the working conditions or the chemical processes custom jewelry is made in.
Fine jewelry, meanwhile, depends on the extraction of a finite amount of silver, diamonds and gold frequently mined in conflict areas. Made to last a lifetime, luxury jewelry comes with a heavy price tag and a heavy environmental and social cost too.
A new wave of ethical artisans are designing the future of sustainable jewelry, placing recycled materials, fair labor standards and waste reduction at the centre of their business model.
If you’re looking for ethical and affordable jewelry, these 12 independent brands and artisans offer stylish, sustainable pieces perfect for any jewelry box.
ABLE – prices from $15
ABLE is an ethical fashion brand that employs and empowers women as a solution to end poverty. Championing transparency and accountability, ABLE publishes its wages and ensures that all of its staff are payed a living wage.
The majority of ABLE’s pieces are made from recycled silver and gold vermeil – thick gold-plated jewelry that is designed to last longer. All scrap metal is melted down and repurposed, while every effort has been made to opt for natural manufacturing processes.
Akola – prices from $27
Ugandan for “she works”, Akola is a globally-inspired jewelry brand creating beautiful designs to lift up and champion women. In the city of Jinga, Akola employs nearly 200 Ugandan women who are paid a living wage and are offered training in leadership and financial literacy.
Each piece is handcrafted using local and sustainable materials such raffia sourced from palm leaves, and sisal that comes from the agave plant.
Ananda Soul – prices from $58
Ananda Soul is a jewelry brand dedicated to sourcing recycled, vegan and low-impact materials. Many pieces are made from certified green recycled silver or brass to help reduce their environmental footprint.
Ananda Soul employs mothers of street children in Bali to help interrupt the cycle of poverty by offering them fair pay and benefits for their skills and services. In addition, a portion of each order goes towards sponsoring the tuition of an underprivileged child in the North of Bali.
Automatic Gold – prices from $39
Automatic Gold is a radically fine jewelry brand made for everyone. As a queer-owned and size inclusive brand, representation is at the heart of their business.
Designed with sustainability in mind, each piece is made to last from SSC certified gold recycled from old electronics of jewelry. Automatic Gold also use natural diamonds and white opals ethically sourced from Australia.
Brilliant Earth – prices from $75
Brilliant Earth is an ethically sourced fine jewelry brand passionate about cultivating a more transparent, sustainable, and compassionate jewelry industry. As a certified member of the Responsible Jewelry Council, Brilliant Earth pride themselves on their use of conflict free diamonds, FSC certified packaging and recycled precious metals.
5% of net profits are given back to the African and South American mining communities in which they operate, including sponsoring educational programmes and scholarships, providing medical aid and offering youth vocational training to create long-term opportunities in artisanal diamond mining.
Fair Anita – prices from $8
Fair Anita is an ethical and affordable fashion brand on a mission to create a world where women feel safe, valued, and respected no matter their geography. Founded in 2015, Fair Anita has partnered with 8,000 women in 9 countries to foster economic self-sufficiency by offering female artisans 2-3x the local minimum wage, health insurance and educational scholarships.
Nearly all of their products are made from recycled materials sourced from the local communities who make them. Fair Anita also offset their carbon footprint by funding and supporting anti-climate change initiatives with their artisan partners around the world.
Kind Karma – prices from $32
Kind Karma employs at-risk and homeless youth as artisans to make custom handcrafted jewelry. Money made from each purchase goes towards funding education, housing and mentoring opportunities for disadvantaged youths. Each piece is hypoallergenic and resistant to tarnishing and fading.
Luna & Rose – prices from $34
Luna & Rose is an artisan made accessories line with sustainability at its core. Prioritising closed-loop production, recycled silver is recovered from the residues of copper, nickel and lead refining processes and other industrial scraps. Meanwhile, any overstock is melted and re-used for the next collection.
Luna & Rose partners with 1% For The Planet, a global movement connecting businesses, consumers & non-profits committed to addressing the most pressing issues facing our planet. 1% of all proceeds are donated to charity.
Starfish Project – prices from $19.99
Starfish Project is a social enterprise helping exploited women and girls experience freedom, establish independence and develop careers. In 2011, they opened the first local safe house and training facility which provides trafficked and vulnerable women in Asia employment, counselling and shelter.
The Starfish Product are proud members of the Fair Trade Federation and use ionic plating in their jewelry which is better for the environment and creates a product that will last.
SVNR – prices from $40
SVNR is a uniquely beautiful jewelry brand born from the union of ethics and aesthetics. The brand pairs a commitment to sustainable manufacturing practices and conscious consumption with a collector’s love of fashion. SVNR jewelry is made from found, re-used, upcycled and natural materials, making each handmade piece truly unique.
SOKO – prices from $48
SOKO is a women-led, certified B-Corp jewelry brand that connects artisans in Kenya with the global market. SOKO celebrates Kenya’s artisan economy, multigenerational ingenuity, deep cultural roots and impressive technical skill by helping local artisans to escape micro-economies and earn nearly 5x more than an average artisan workshop. Through their virtual factory, SOKO can trace their entirey supply chain and curate a network of independent artisan entrepreneurs.
SOKO prioritises natural and recycled materials, including recycled brass, wood and reclaimed horn and bone. They also opt for gold-plated jewelery to reduce tarnish rate and maximise wearability.
VRAI – prices from $45
Vrai is a jewelry brand at the forefront of sustainable innovation. Powered by the Columbia River, their diamonds are sustainably grown in America in a carbon neutral foundry. Lab-grown diamonds negate the environmental impacts of mining, saving vast amounts of water and carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process.