A term you may have heard more often recently is ‘ethical jewellery’. More people are taking an interest in how their jewellery is made and rejecting fast fashion, but what is ethical jewellery? We look at the different factors that make a piece of jewellery ethical and why this is important.
A large part of what makes jewellery ethical is traceability. Traceability refers to the ability to identify and determine the history of all the materials and composite parts of a piece of jewellery. Traceability and transparency go hand in hand and only jewellery that is fully traceable can be ethical.
Through traceability, we can be sure not only that all materials are genuine, but that they have been sourced, harvested and processed in a way that is free from exploitation and violation of human rights, practices which have long marred the mineral sourcing industry.
Responsible sourcing and use of materials
Responsible sourcing and use of materials is a practice that applies to both ethical and sustainable jewellery. Responsible sourcing means considering social and environmental factors when choosing suppliers or sourcing materials.
This means avoiding materials that are obtained through practices that cause overconsumption, such as air, water and waste pollution. Materials used in jewellery may also be sustainable in other ways, such as if they are recycled.
Leaving no negative impact on the people and environment that produce it
Ethical jewellery is about more than just the materials used, it also concerns the fair treatment of all people and environments involved in the process of acquiring those raw materials and turning them into finished jewellery.
This means avoiding practices such as using up all the natural resources in an area and limiting future sources of trade, using gathering methods that damage the local environment such as deforestation or soil contamination, or exploiting workers.
Providing a fair wage and good working conditions for those involved
Ethical jewellery does not exploit the people who help to make it, which means ethical jewellery provides a fair wage and good working conditions in a conflict-free environment for everyone involved and no child labour.
There are many potential hazards involved in mining and gem cutting, including the use of toxic chemicals. Choosing ethical jewellery means rejecting these dangerous practices and supporting safer environments for workers and a fair wage rather than a wage that takes advantage of cheaper labour.
Artisan jewellery passes down traditional techniques that might otherwise be lost
Artisan jewellery is made by highly skilled craftspeople across different regions and the jewellery celebrates their talents and creativity. It is often far more unique than those designs found on the high street.
Artisan jewellery can be thought of as a type of ethical jewellery because it allows makers to teach their trade to the next generation, which includes traditional jewellery-making methods that might otherwise be lost in favour of large-scale industrial production.
This ensures employment opportunities for future generations of makers in these communities and that artisans can continue doing what they love. Here at Milina London, we work with individual local artisans in the UK, Mexico and India, and sometimes small, cooperative workshops for these very reasons.
Mass-produced jewellery is rarely the environmentally or socially-conscious choice, but choosing ethical jewellery supports all of these sustainable practices, and can help to force real change within the jewellery industry.