For most people, purchasing a new piece of jewellery tends to be driven by the heart rather than the head. But while that gorgeous ring or necklace might instantly catch your eye, have you ever stopped to think about how the item was made or the ethics behind your purchase?
Exposing unethical jewellery production
Most people are completely unaware of the numerous unethical practices that have been prevalent in the sourcing of diamonds for many years. A prime example is items made from so-called ‘conflict diamonds,’ a term used for diamonds that are illicitly mined in war zones and then sold to finance brutal conflicts. In many cases, almost none of the money generated by these sales is returned to the communities who mined the precious gems in the first place, with workers exposed to widespread exploitation and human rights abuse. It is a problem that has affected many diamond-rich nations including Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast.
Another example is the destruction of local environments across Africa. For instance, disruption of the kimberlite bedrock at the Finsch Diamond Mine in South Africa has had a major negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem and has caused many unnatural pollutants and toxic elements to enter rivers and streams, resulting in widespread diseases that have affected both humans and animals.
What is ethical jewellery – and why is it important?
In short, ethical jewellery refers to jewellery items that have been made without exploiting human labour or impacting on the environment.
Over recent years, various practices have been adopted across the industry to help create more ethical and sustainable jewellery production. This includes increased supply chain transparency, a commitment to improving worker’s rights, recycling diamonds, and giving more money and resources back to the local community. All these things can have a big impact on mining communities and help to minimise the environmental impact of diamond production as much as possible.
Buying ethical jewellery
Whether it’s food, clothing or furniture, more and more people are consciously striving to make more ethical purchases. In the case of jewellery, making the commitment to only buy ethical jewellery items can really help make a big difference to the world around you and help ensure that the jewellery manufacturing process really does benefit everyone.
1. Do your research before you buy
Before buying jewellery, always speak with the jeweller and ask about the origins of the items they are selling. Most ethical jewellers who are selling responsibly sourced items will have absolutely no issue with this and will be happy to answer any questions you have. If they don’t want to discuss this, it’s probably a sign that the items are not ethically sourced or have an unclear supply chain. Many ethical jewellers also support community projects and initiatives like the Fair Diamond Mining scheme, which champion fair production practices.
2. Avoid diamonds sourced from areas of conflict
As we mentioned earlier, certain countries and regions of the world are notorious for being involved with the sales of conflict diamonds. If you want to ensure you only purchase ethical diamond jewellery, you would be wise to avoid gems that have been sourced from places including Zimbabwe, Angola, DR Congo, the Ivory Coast and Liberia. Instead, you should look for jewels from nations with a proven track of record of ethical responsibility like Australia, Canada and Namibia. Despite the past, Sierra Leone is also now considered a responsible source.
3. Look for items that have the Kimberley Process (KP) stamp of approval
If you are looking to buy diamonds, make sure they have the KP stamp of approval. As this guide explains, the scheme claims to have stopped 99.8% of global production of conflict diamonds.
As you can see, being careful to only buy ethically sourced jewellery is extremely important. By doing some simple research before you buy, you can help put a stop to unethical jewellery production and ensure a more positive impact on the wider world.