Choosing the right jewelry has the power to transform our outfit and it helps us get the look we want. Since ancient times, humans have been decorating their bodies for different purposes: to make a statement, show their social status, and emphasize their beauty. To read more about the development of jewelry through time, check this article.
Today, we buy rings and necklaces for prices as low as several euros, however, we rarely question their origin, the material it is made from, and the way it was manufactured. Every week, fashion chains as Inditex release new collections of cheap, but attractive jewelry, tempting us to further grow our accessorize compilation. The poorly made, and short-lasting jewelry is a low investment, and we tend to replace it regularly.
As with clothes, we put jewelry directly on our bodies, without considering the toxins and harm it could cause to our skin and body. Unfortunately, the manufacture of jewelry causes harm to our environment and it is badly regulated in developing countries, where manufacturers often work in non-ethical conditions. Although there is a long list of jewelry brands which use high levels of lead, a toxic harmful element in their jewels, this topic is still not getting enough attention.
How does jewelry harm the environment?
To become more conscious and buy sustainable jewels, it is first necessary to know in what way its production is harming the environment. Jewels are extracted through mining, which is a process of obtaining coal or minerals from a mine. As a lot of harmful chemicals are released in the process, this often results in soil contamination, water pollution, the loss of biodiversity, as well as increased carbon emission. Arsenic and other chemicals are used in mining, and these are extremely toxic, poisonous, and create a lot of waste. Much of the mining happens in developing countries, where there is a lack of oversight and the workers are not properly protected.
What do ethical brands do differently?
Ethical jewelry is often locally handcrafted using recycled, ethically sourced materials. Sustainable brands often collaborate with local designers and avoid transportation costs. They focus on providing fair trade and a good wage for the manufacturers, as well as access to a safe job, sustainable income and healthcare.
How can you help?
There are several ways you can help support more sustainable production of jewelry and cut its harmful impacts. You can:
1.Support locally made jewelry, and eco-friendly jewelers. In this way, there are also fewer transportation costs.
3. Make your own jewelry! For inspiration, check these cool DIY sustainable projects!
4. Avoid mass-produced jewelry as it is often created in bad circumstances and shipped in large quantities over long distances. Find out more here.
Best fine jewelry brands
There are several jewelry brands you can trust, as they are working hard to develop more sustainable accessories. I have chosen the following brands as they have very impactful stories and are helping to build communities worldwide!
Raven+ Lily is an LA-based fair-trade fashion brand specialized in jewelry and leather bags production. Their mission is to empower women worldwide, and they do so by collaborating with over 15,000 female artisans around the world. They offer fair trade and livable wage, access to a safe job, sustainable income, and healthcare. The brand was founded in 2008 through the volunteer effort of several designers, and it is a significant player in the ethical fashion environment. These are my favorite accessories from the brand:
Made in: Kibera Slum, Nairobi
The earrings were handcrafted with upcycled horn by women artisans living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. Purchasing these earrings, you help improve the lives of women artisans in the Kibera Slum through fair trade employment, access to healthcare and education
Care Guide: To maintain the quality and the shine of these earrings, limit the exposure to water and perfumes, lotions, and hair products.
Wear Guide: These earrings are perfect to combine with a simple necklace. They give a mysterious touch to your look, and a messy bun will make them stand out perfectly.
Best Occasion: Romantic Date Night Out
Made in: Cape Town, South Africa
This bold beautiful necklace made of black rope portrays strength, beauty, and love. It gives your look a touch of the boldness of South African culture.
Care Guide: To preserve the quality, avoid water and use carefully.
Wear Guide: With such a rich necklace, you don’t need any other jewelry. Combine it with a long summer dress, and you will look absolutely stunning!
Best Occasion: Saturday city stroll with girlfriends!
Article 22 is a jewelry brand which celebrates stories of positive transformations working with Laotian artisans from Vietnam War debris. A percentage of the profit helps the Mines Advisory Group clear unexploded artillery, improving the safety of the area. The brand uses recycled materials from plane parts, aluminum scraps, and military hardware. Read their full story here.
Made in Laos, Vietnam
The bangle is part of the Peace Begins in Me Collection, and it emphasizes that peace first starts within every individual. Each necklace includes a donation to Mines Advisory Group to clear 4 square meters of the 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos.
Wear Guide: This simple bangle matches the best with elegant sweaters of pastel colors or a white blouse.
Best Occasion: With a powerful message and simple design, the bangle can perfectly enrich your daily outfit.
Made in Laos, Vietnam
‘Love is the bomb’ is the mantra of Article 22, and it stands for a positive transformation.
The ring is a blend of their special metal with a diamond, the most traditional symbol of love. Purchasing the White Diamond Ring clears 10m2 of Laotian landscape.
Wear Guide: For the best effect, you can combine this beautiful ring with other silver, minimalistic jewelry.
Best occasion: As for the bangle, the ring can also be worn on a daily basis, however, since it has a diamond, I would be more careful with it.
Eden Diodati is a prêt-á-porter jewelry brand made by the cooperative efforts of 5000 orphaned and widowed women who survived the genocide in Rwanda. Eden Diodati’s 4 principles are Art and Collaboration, Ethical Manufacture, Wearable Philanthropy, and Beauty through Compassion. Furthermore, the brand donates 10% of its profit to Médecins sans Frontières.
Made in Rwanda
African Toga Earrings are made in Italy and hand beaded in Rwanda, and they are decorated with gold, Swarovski crystal, and pearls.
Wear Guide: You can combine them with a pearl or gold necklace. As the chains are gold, do not combine it with silver jewelry. It looks the best combined with light and soft colors, including beige, light brown, and white.
Best Occasion: The earrings are ideal for a special occasion, such as a birthday, anniversary, or a wedding. They look sophisticated but youthful, and they would look great with wavy hair.
SOKO is pioneering in the Ethical Fast Fashion, aligning handmade talent from emerging markets with the international fashion consumer. The brand uses a mobile phone app to connect independent artisan entrepreneurs to consumers worldwide, expanding their business horizons and entrepreneurial opportunities. Read more about them here.
Made in Kenya
The Ripple Open Sabi Stud Earrings feature the brand’s signature Sabi shape with organic, hammered detail that creates an elegant effect. The earrings were handcrafted by artisans in Kenya using traditional techniques.
Wear Guide: You can combine the earrings with a full-jeans outfit, and a simple shirt. They have a modern look and you can wear them both with elegant and casual outfits.
Best Occasion: You can wear earrings on a daily basis, and they are ideal for a coffee date with your friends or brunch with your boyfriend.
Made in Kenya
The Umoja Delicate Cuff Bracelet is an amazing gift as you can personalize the cuff by adding a letter you would like to engrave. You can order two pairs, and gift one to your best friend, sibling, or partner.
Wear Guide: You can combine the bracelet with other gold jewelry easily, and you can wear it with wider sleeves, to achieve a romantic look.
Best Occasion: The bracelet is ideal for a date, birthday party or any classy event you are attending.
How to take care of your jewelry?
Finally, to prolong the life of these jewelry pieces and maintain their quality, it is necessary to properly take care of the jewels within them. Depending on the material and the way it is assembled, every accessorize requires a different treatment. Check these articles for help:
Next time you want to buy a new necklace, ring, or any jewel, ask yourself: what material is it made from? Did its production harm the environment? Was it made in an ethical way?