Gifting family, friends, and significant others with precious stones is a gesture of love and generosity, so it is imperative that those very same sentiments are reflected in the acquirement methods of such coveted gems. The exploitation of diamond miners in impoverished countries has become common knowledge and is likely a contributing factor to the steep decline of worldwide diamond sales in recent years. Major jewelry companies are guilty of either partaking in such egregious human rights violations or remaining complicit in them, and these avaricious fashion empires have been long overdue for facing proper accountability for their abuses. Now, the righteous fury of the jewelry industry's critics seems to have finally changed the minds of these diamond tycoons, with change being affected in the form of more ethical means of providing consumers with their beloved treasures.
The innovation that is making sustainability possible in the jewelry industry is the state-of-the-art process of growing diamonds in laboratories. In lieu of the mined diamonds that the public has deemed immoral, lab-grown diamonds have won the favor of even those who perceive them as less authentic than the ones harvested organically. This scientific breakthrough has also benefited diamond companies, as they compensated for the drastically diminished production of mined diamonds—and consequently, a loss of millions of karats—with a spike in the production of chemically-grown diamonds. With COVID-related restrictions gradually being pulled back, the popularity of lab-grown diamonds can only climb even higher.
Marking the greatest shift towards sustainability is Pandora, which has announced that it has ceased its practice of mining diamonds. The world’s largest and most illustrious jeweler is poised to release its first collection of lab-grown diamonds in the United Kingdom, then the rest of the world in 2022. The new collection, titled Pandora Brilliance, is not only environmentally friendly by being carbon-neutral and comprised of recycled metals, but it will also be more affordable and available to a wider audience. Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik’s commitment to positive change appears genuine, as he vows that the prized jewelry will maintain their stellar quality while bringing his goal of a more sustainable environment for future generations.
Tiffany & Co. is another prominent jewelry label that has made progress towards more just diamond distribution methods, as it has adopted the process of artificially creating cubic zirconia diamonds as well. Additionally, since 2019, the distinguished brand has publicly divulged the means through which they obtain diamonds, detailing the extraction of the gems from the mines and their subsequent journey to its stores.
Jewelers of varying stature boast a multitude of sustainable engagement rings, primarily through recycling materials and providing vintage products. Cartier has been purging all human rights violations from its gold sourcing, so owners of such gold-plated rings as the Etincelle de Cartier can guiltlessly flaunt them. Gray & Davis’s Sweet Old European Cut Engagement Ring draws upon the Art Deco style, and Erica Weiner and Erstwhile offer rings modeled after those of the 1940s and the Edwardian era, respectively. The Pierrette Ring of Brilliant Earth is an impeccable blend of retro and environmentally conscious, as it is a verdant, classical garnet ring from a company that prides itself on being “Conflict Free.”
Despite these commendable strides, the jewelry industry has not completely rid itself of its maltreatment of laborers. The brands Kalyan, Mikimoto, Rolex, and TBZ are still the worst offenders, and the most brutal abuses occur in underprivileged countries, which include Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mali, and Venezuela. Pandora and Tiffany & Co. have been applauded by the Human Rights Watch for embracing more principled measures, but currently no jewelry label qualifies as sufficiently sustainable.
Nonetheless, these shortcomings will continue to inspire change within the business of fashion rings and jewelry, perhaps even creating a future in which sustainability is the norm. Octavia Zamagias, the eponymous founder of the label Octavia Elizabeth, has voiced skepticism about companies who frivolously misuse terms like “ethically sourced” and “sustainable” while scarcely implementing those concepts. In contrast, Zamagias has been handcrafting her own products since establishing her business in 2016, and her supplies are provided to her by fair-trade, United Nations-approved members of Responsible Jewelry Council. Having learned from the high-fashion labels before them, the next generation of jewelers appears to be making meticulous efforts to create masterpieces that are as environmentally sensitive as they are glamorous.