I’m not perfect. I’ve been known to fudge or compromise my values a bit when it comes to things like sunglasses. But for my engagement ring?
It’s a symbol of your love, something that you will wear and look at for the rest of your life. Your wedding and engagement rings, then, have to embody your values, not just aesthetically, but the kind of spouse and person you want to be. Obviously, mine was going to be made in a way that carried with it the energy of love and compassion, not just for my husband and family and friends, but, well, everyone!
It was really important to me that I felt confident that no people, animals, or ecosystems were harmed in the making of my engagement ring or wedding band.
I knew from the beginning what I wanted. But luckily for you, there are so many brands making ethical and sustainable wedding bands, that you have hundreds of styles to choose from, from traditional and sparkly, to organic and earthy, and creative and modern.
Here’s what to look for on your quest:
Metals: Look for recycled metal as a first choice, or at least Fairmined, a label that certifies gold from responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations that supports social development and environmental protection. Extra points if the metal is from certified sustainable metal refineries in the U.S. Don’t buy any jewelry without any certifications or recycling – typical mining is a dirty, destructive business that tears apart ecosystems and communities.
Stones: Look for diamonds that are lab-grown, recycled, or – at a bare minimum – Kimberley Process-certified along with some extra language from the jeweler around sourcing ethically. (The Kimberley process is definitely not full-proof, but we don’t have any other options right now beyond taking the word of the jeweler.) For other stones, look for recycled or certified ethically-sourced.
Labor: Seek out jewelry that is made in the U.S., where environmental and labor protections are high, or by documented fairly paid artisans in safe working conditions.
Or, just choose from one of these thoughtful companies!
Who it’s for: The minimalist
Rebecca Mir Grady is a painter and visual artist who launched her jewelry line in 2013. Her rings are made by her own hands in her studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico out of reclaimed precious metals (primarily Sterling Silver and 14k Gold) and ethically-sourced gems (such as diamonds, opals, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds). Inspired by the scenes she experiences through travel and nature like the mountain peaks of Wyoming and the rough coastlines of Nova Scotia, her pieces are modern yet timeless heirlooms for men and women that can be passed down to future generations. Rebecca Mir Grady is an advocate of marriage equality and environmental sustainability. She can also make you a custom band if you’d like!
Who it’s for: The earthy chick
There was just no question we would go to Melissa Joy Manning for our wedding jewelry. Melissa herself is a warm, kind, down-to-earth jeweler, and that warmth extends to her staff as well, who will guide you through the process of choosing just the right rings without pressuring you or talking down to you.
And Melissa is arguably the most sustainable jeweler in America. Everything is handmade in her studios in New York City or California. The Berkeley studio is green-certified, and the NYC studio, though not certified, employs the same methods. The jewelry is made using recycled precious metals from a Green-Certified refiner, and packaged in recycled packaging. They also carbon offset all their shipping.
Melissa uses a broad interpretation of “precious” materials: Leland Slag, a stony material created during the ore refining process in Michigan auto plants; raspberry nickel, leftover from shuttered US zipper factories; upcycled stones; antique tribal and reclaimed charms; fossils; and other beautiful, interesting materials. All the diamonds she sources are certified by the Kimberley Process as conflict-free. Melissa usually buys from reputable domestic companies, but when she buys from abroad, she likes to buy from the mine owners themselves. Choose from one of MJM’s many new and unique designs, a vintage ring, or build your own rings, like we did!
UPDATE: I originally listed Brilliant Earth in this post, but have since discovered that they engage in deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices, and even overcharge for mislabeled stones. I do not recommend them. Read the full story here.
Who it’s for: The pretty girl
Launched with the goal of being a leading ethical fine jewelry company, Bario Neal designs each piece in-house and works local craftspeople in Philadelphia’s Jeweler’s Row, the oldest jewelry district in the U.S. The Philadelphia flagship doubles as both a production workshop and retail space, where a diverse group of skilled jewelers work next to the collection displays. You can buy a ready-made ring, or have one custom made for you and your honey, with reclaimed precious metals, Fairmined gold, and ethically-sourced stones.
Who it’s for: The creative type
Alexis Russell handmakes her pieces in the U.S. using fine recycled metals and conflict-free gemstones and diamonds. She even sells a handmade walnut box, which is a lovely alternative to a typical ring box.
Who it’s for: The strong and independent woman
Working with environmentally responsible vendors and minimizing material waste, Blanca Monros Gomez uses recycled gold exclusively, with recycled or conflict-free diamonds that come from sources that are full participants in the Kimberley Process certification system. All jewelry pieces are made by hand – one at a time – in New York City, with most finishing touches done at our the Brooklyn studio.
Who it’s for: The vintage lover
Here’s where you go if you want something with impeccable vintage style. Pick out something from Erica Weiner’s extensive antique and vintage collection, or pick up a contemporary, handmade piece made with recycled stones and metals.
Who it’s for: The modest and thoughtful
Vanessa Lianne makes all her jewelry in her Brooklyn studio, using the most sustainable and ethical practices and materials possible. Metals are 100% recycled, all natural stones are ethically sourced, and diamonds are reclaimed or sourced through vendors that adhere to the Kimberley process.
Who it’s for: The pretty princess
Made with only lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals, MiaDonna’s rings include all the classic, sparkly styles. At minimum, 5% of annual profits are used to rebuild and repair the land and lives damaged by the conflict-mining industry, and most recently, ebola; and one tree is planted through the Nature Conservancy for each order to offset the carbon associated with shipping.
Who it’s for: The international jetsetter
Mociun uses recycled metals for its fine jewelry, which is made in New York City.
Who it’s for: The uptown woman
Monique uses conflict-free and devastation-free diamonds and recycled metals for her sharp and simple designs.
As for the rest of your wedding day jewelry, why buy something extravagant that you’re most likely only going to wear once? Borrowed Gems allows you to rent gorgeous pieces for 3 to 8 days for a fraction of what you’d usually spend, giving you a much more affordable and sustainable option.