Image credit: Pamela Love
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If you consider yourself a conscious consumer, a minimalist, or simply care about the impact your purchasing decisions have on the world around you, then you know that less is more. And this could not be more true than when it comes to jewelry.
Most of the fine jewelry you purchase will probably still be in your possession for many years to come, so you want those pieces to be special, beautiful gems that you love and feel represent you. And of course, that means prioritizing ethics, sustainability, and transparency in the production process, too.
Here’s what to look for from ethical, sustainable fine jewelry brands
Lab-grown diamonds. Unfortunately, if you’re buying diamonds, you have to use your discretion. We recently wrote about how it’s practically impossible to 100% ensure ethical sourcing of mined diamonds, even with things like the Kimberley Process and “beyond conflict-free” claims. That’s why it’s understandable that lab-grown diamonds, which don’t have the traceability problem and are also less taxing on the environment, are growing in popularity. And yes—they are real diamonds, with an identical chemical structure to one gouged out of the earth.
Recycled and/or ethically sourced gems. Some of the brands below use recycled diamonds and other types of gemstones, taken from old pieces or “scraps” from larger stones and then redesigned. This is an excellent low-impact option as well. After recycled, go for ethically-sourced gems. Brands who source from transparent and ethical mines are still a much better option than traditionally-mined companies (where you can be almost certain that human and environmental degradation is happening in order to get that gem to you). Don’t be afraid to ask the brand questions about their pieces and request verification!
Recycled metals or ecological gold: We need to recycle as much as possible and toward a truly circular economy that doesn’t just dig up resources and then throw them away. But recycled gold does come with its own troubles, so you could also choose ecological gold when possible (though there are very few brands creating with ecological gold as of right now).
Vintage / Secondhand pieces: Unlike clothing, which continues to slowly degrade over time, well cared for fine jewelry can actually become even more beautiful and valuable as it ages. And of course, since there aren’t additional resources needed to create a new piece, this is one of the most sustainable options available!
Excellent customer service and return policies. Before you drop a chunk of change, make sure the brand you’re buying from has a readily-accessible customer service department, and a clear return/exchange policy that will work with your situation should you need to use it. Some of the brands below also have at-home ‘try before you buy’ programs you can take advantage of.
Here are our favorite brands creating beautiful, ethical, and sustainable fine jewelry:
This New York-based, third-generation jeweler works with lab-grown diamonds as well as fair-mined, recycled, and re-refined metals to create statement fine jewelry. With more than 40 years of experience in the world of fine jewelry, Navi is especially focused on bespoke wedding rings, but also offers fine pendants, earrings and bracelets in classic, timeless designs that will become your favorite lifetime pieces.
Leismo Jewelry carries a curated selection of minimalistic, artisan-made, and recycled jewelry. You can find out exactly where your piece came from, how it was made, and the unique story behind it. Each brand it carries ensures ethical working conditions for its employees through fair trade practices. Plus, Leismo Jewelry donates 5% of your purchase to a non-profit organization of your choice, at no extra cost to you.
After growing up in the diamond world with family members in the industry, the founders of Kimai realized there was a more ethical way to do things. Therefore, Kimai started creating beautiful, lab-grown diamonds using solar energy and recycled 18k gold. Every Kimai design is made to order in Antwerp, Belgium, by skilled artisans.
Sourced exclusively from Diamond Foundry, the only certified carbon-neutral producer of diamonds, Vrai’s diamonds are made using solar technology and 100% traceable. Currently, over 90% of its gold is recycled, with the goal of reaching 100%. The 10% that’s not recycled is responsibly sourced through the RJC.
KBH Jewels is an NYC-based luxury jewelry brand using only environmentally and socially conscious diamonds that are grown and not mined. These unique diamonds are paired with reclaimed and recycled precious metals to create elevated essentials and modern classics. KBH Jewels chooses organic fabric for its pouches, and its packaging is responsibly made or comes from post-consumer waste.
Vestaire Collective carries a huge selection of jewelry from the most popular designer and luxury brands, with over 3,000 items added to its site daily. Before they’re shipped to you, items and their descriptions are authenticated by its team of experts, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Created in Los Angeles, Washed Ashore’s pieces are inspired by powerful natural forces, such as the wind and the waves. Its rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces are made entirely of recycled precious metals and post-consumer gemstones. Its packaging is fully recyclable and they have partnered with Carbon Fund to support clean energy efforts.
Launched in 2021, Generation Collection is a fine jewelry brand built on a circular economy premise. Its pieces are made in the U.S. using 24K recycled gold and metals. Generation Collection reimagines discarded batteries and electronic waste and creates classic hoop earrings, simple bands, and woven chains.
Senia’s modular, versatile pieces are made of recycled precious metals and conflict-free gems. Its sustainable approach is apparent at every step of the design process, from the responsibly sourced raw materials to the packaging, which doubles as a travel case. Senia also donates 10% of its proceeds to the Wond’ry Innovation Center at Vanderbilt to help support young entrepreneurs.
AUrate focuses on durable materials, transparent pricing, sustainable production, and tangible giving. They track every single diamond from mine to workshop to ensure they come from the most verifiably ethical and environmentally sound sources. Its pearls are the highest quality AAA-grade, sourced from the South Sea and Japan. Every piece is handcrafted right in New York, and they use a direct-to-consumer model to create keep prices fair and simple. They have a free try-on program which gives you 7 days to try on 5 pieces and return whichever ones you don’t want. Plus, in partnership with Mastery Charter, they have given thousands of books to students and schools across NYC.
Based in Downtown Los Angeles, all J.Hannah jewelry is hand-made to order. Pieces are made from recycled solid 14k gold or sterling silver, and stones that are recycled and/or ethically sourced. You can also check out its sister company’s wedding and engagement collection, Ceremony.
Pamela Love has been making jewelry in New York since 2006 when she created everything in her apartment. Citing astronomy and astrology among her inspirations, she features moon phases, stars, and other celestial symbols in her fine jewelry collection. All of Pamela Love’s designs are made with recycled metal and ethically sourced, conflict-free precious stones in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. All stones used are also one-of-a-kind pieces that are upcycled from antique and estate jewelry or post-consumer sources.
Futura Jewelry crafts its jewelry locally in New York with Fairmined Certified Ecological 18kt gold. The brand is ethical and traceable, empowering miners with healthy and safe living and working conditions, gender equality, no child labor, along with supporting worker’s rights. Futura Jewelry provides physical traceability of the source of gold through the entire supply chain and production journey from the mine to the customer. Its packaging comes from New Zealand and is handcrafted and designed from sustainable rimu wood.
WWAKE is a 100% women-run jewelry brand. Each WWAKE item is hand-made and designed in its New York City studio in small, made-to-order batches using quality materials and conflict-free diamonds. All of its pieces are cast from recycled gold and silver whenever possible and made with the finest opals and certified conflict-free diamonds. WWAKE proudly works with local and family-owned businesses in New York.
Zoë Chicco designs delicate, modern, and versatile jewelry with 100% recycled 14kt gold. Its diamonds are conflict-free and compliant with the Kimberley Process, and its gemstones are ethically sourced from reputable partners.
Designed and handcrafted by local artisans in Vancouver, Poppy Finch uses primarily recycled solid gold, which 75% of it is SCS certified recycled gold. The brand also ethically sources its precious gemstones, and its diamonds come from suppliers that adhere to the Kimberley Process, which ensures the diamonds are conflict-free.
With roots that trace back to its ancestral homeland in the northwestern deserts of India, each ILA piece is carved with skilled hands and tells stories of the mythology of the designers’ ancestral homeland. It uses ethically-sourced gems and recycled metals.
Everything is made by Andrea herself in her private studio out of recycled metals sourced from the US and ethically sourced gems. She also donates to Toolbox Initiative, which empowers BIPOC jewelers in West Africa to be self-sustaining and funds microloans through Kiva.
Founded in 2014, Linjer designs sustainable fine jewelry without the luxury markup. It recently launched a 14k solid gold, Eco-Luxe collection made with 100% recycled gold and guaranteed conflict-free diamonds. Its packaging boxes are made with recycled grey board, and the inserts and paper in its boxes are from FSC-certified sources.
Valerie Madison founded her namesake fine jewelry brand in 2014. The Seattle-based designer creates timeless, elegant styles honoring her Environmental Science degree by responsibly sourcing her materials. Her collections are made with recycled gold, diamond alternatives like Moissanite and when possible Canadian-mined or recycled diamonds.
We’re big fans of Melissa Joy Manning here at EcoCult—she actually created Alden’s engagement ring! Everything is handmade in Melissa’s 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. The brand also carbon offsets all its shipping.
Omi Woods is a Canadian, ethically handmade jewelry brand founded by Ashley Alexis McFarlane that celebrates her connection to Africa. The pieces are made out of globally sourced conflict-free fine metals, helping the living conditions in the continent.