To kick off our series on greenwashing, I thought I would touch on the first thing that you usually think about when it comes to having a wedding. In fact, you’re thinking about this before you even get engaged- the highly sought engagement ring. This is the one thing that you will have forever, wear every single day, and hopefully even pass on to future generations. Unfortunately two thirds of the world’s diamonds come from war torn areas in Africa, where their sale goes to fund insurgency efforts. I will not get into the social implications behind purchasing gems from these areas, but if you would like to read about it you are welcome to google “blood diamond”, “hot diamond”, or “conflict diamond”. Of course diamonds are not the only natural resource that’s trade is controlled by a rebel regime, but it is the one that we are discussing today.
Many couples are seeking out more ethically procured gemstones for their wedding bands and engagement rings, but just because a diamond is conflict free doesn’t necessarily equate it to being sustainably sourced. I’m often asked by couples what is more “green” a vintage diamond, conflict free, or cultured diamonds? Here I have compared the different types of diamonds that are generally referred to as “eco-friendly”. I will point out that none of these are BAD stones, but some are just more sustainable than others.
- Conflict free- Mined diamonds still require a lot of energy, travel, and putting a big hole in the ground, but they do (theoretically) detract from the blood diamond issue . Brilliant Earth has this awesome guide to educate consumers about purchasing conflict free diamonds.
- Cultured diamonds– One option that is not quite so widely known about is cultured gems. They are created in a lab environment and are real diamonds (as opposed to cubic zirconia or moissanite) that are superior in quality to mined diamonds (because they are created in a perfect environment), they cost less than mined diamonds, and come in an array of colors. Unfortunately the process does require the use of energy (but not nearly the amount as the mining process) so we can’t call it 100% sustainable. However, with better technology in alternative energy I’m positive that it’s not far off. www.gemesis.com is an online company that creates beautiful wedding jewelry from lab cultured diamonds and is a great place to start your search for a lab created piece.
- Vintage- The energy that is required to find the perfect vintage diamond is more personal energy as you will be required to scour the ends of the earth to find the perfect setting. But at the end of the day, no new energy is being used to create a vintage ring since it already exists, making this the most sustainable way to source your engagement ring. Sourcing specialty items such as this is a specialty of Vera Green Productions, but if you would rather scour the land on your own my suggestions are to stick with nicely organized antique stores that have large locked jewelry cases. And once you arrive, ask for assistance. It’s always amazing to me how many shop curators have a mental catalog of the items in their stores. And ask for verification that what you are purchasing is what they claim to be selling. It would be a shame to pay diamond prices for a CZ!
- Recycled metals and stones are definitely making a comeback. It’s not uncommon for a couple to source the materials from pieces that they already own and work with a jewlery designer to transform them into custom pieces. Our go to resource is Sofia Jewelry (of course!) formerly Priolo and Co. There are local designers in Fort Worth, TX and Mill Valley, CA and they are available for consultations via Skype nationwide. (They also deal conflict free stones and recycled metals)
Will you be sporting socially conscious jewelry on your big day? What route will you be taking?