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. 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 really 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!
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: Recycled materials are almost always better than virgin. 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. Buying fine jewelry online means you’re probably spending a lot of money on something that you might not even be able to see, hold, or try on in real life before you buy it. What happens if you get it and it doesn’t look like what you thought it would? 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.
Buy what you love! Lastly, when it comes to purchasing ethical and sustainable jewelry, buy pieces you really love. Pieces that you feel represent your personal vibe and could see yourself wearing for a really long time or even passing down to a younger loved one.
Here are our favorite brands creating beautiful, ethical, and sustainable fine jewelry:
Started by a third generation jeweler who was quite familiar with the unethical woes of the diamond industry, Clean Origin creates gorgeous jewelry from lab grown diamonds. Their diamonds are independently certified for quality, everyone on Clean Origin’s customer service team has at least five years of experience in the jewelry trade, and they offer a Lifetime Manufacturing Warranty. Plus, they offer free shipping, free resizing, and have a 100 day return policy if you’re not satisfied. Learn more about Clean Origin and lab grown diamonds here.
MiaDonna was founded with a single objective: to offer consumers a beautiful, ethical, and affordable diamond alternative that would help free the children oppressed by the active conflict diamond mining industry. Their gems are also lab-grown and 100% conflict-free, their metals are recycled, and everything is made ethically in the USA. A minimum of 10% of their net profits are given to The Greener Diamond foundation, which works to rebuild and repair the land and lives damaged by the conflict-mining industry. With every purchase, they plant a tree to offset the carbon generated during shipping. Plus, they offer customers a 7-day home try-on, free 30-day returns in the US, and lots of customer services like maintenance and ring sizing.
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. So, they are creating beautiful, lab-grown diamonds using solar energy. Everything is made 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 their gold is recycled, with the goal of reaching 100%. The 10% that’s not recycled is responsibly sourced through the RJC.
Vintage and Secondhand:
If you’re specifically looking for secondhand and vintage diamonds, I Do Now I Don’t is definitely the place to go (although they also have a gigantic selection of other kinds of fine and vintage jewelry too). IDNID’s motto is that “every diamond resold means one less diamond mined.” Your piece will be authenticated before you get it and your shipment is fully insured. Plus, whether you’re a buyer or a shopper, they offer VIP services to make sure you find exactly what you’re looking for.
TheRealReal is an authenticated online consignment shop that carries the biggest luxury brands out there. Their 100+ in-house expert team includes gemologists, horologists, and luxury brand authenticators who inspect thousands of items every day, ensuring everything they sell is 100% authenticity guaranteed. They also teamed up with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, Stella McCartney, and the World Resources Institute to create a one-of-a-kind circularity calculator to keep track of how much water and CO2 have been saved through their job, just by consumers shopping secondhand.
Vestaire Collective carries a huge selection of jewelry from the most popular designer and luxury brands, with over 3,000 items added to their site daily. Before they’re shipped to you, though, items and their descriptions are authenticated by their team of experts, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Handcrafted and Recycled:
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. Their 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 for consumers like you. 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.
Each piece of Enji Studio jewelry is made in their Carlsbad, California studio and brings new life to reclaimed gold and silver. They use only FairTrade and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones, along with recycled marketing and packaging materials. Enji Studio’s Founder, Niki, designs unique, modern pieces using traditional techniques that are easy to dress up or down.
With locations in Philadelphia and New York, Bario Neal is a women-owned-and-operated brand committed to making jewelry which supports human rights, marriage equality, and a healthy environment. Materials are sourced from mine to market, which means no conflict, no abuse, safer working conditions, reduced environmental impacts, and more benefits for the communities where mines and gemstone cutting facilities are located. Each ring is handcrafted to order, employing techniques that are no longer practiced in larger jewelry manufacturing, like glass enamel, hand engraving, or wax carving. All jewelry is made with solid precious metals and designed for longevity.
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 their sister company’s wedding and engagement collection, Ceremony.
Handmade in New York City, delicate and minimalist blanca monrós gómez earrings, stackable rings, and everyday gold-chain necklaces are crafted from environmentally responsible materials, like recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds.
Driven by her appreciation for the earth’s natural beauty, Monique Péan is committed to only using sustainable materials when creating her jewelry. With the help of skilled artisans from around the globe, the designer transforms recycled 18k gold and platinum, conflict-free diamonds, and rare materials like responsibly sourced fossilized dinosaur bone and meteorite into works of art.
Pamela Love has been making jewelry in her Brooklyn, NY apartment since 2006. Citing astronomy and astrology among her inspirations, she features moon phases, stars, and other celestial symbols in her fine jewelry collection. Her earrings, bracelets, and necklaces are crafted in shades of polished gold and embellished with sparkling black and white 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. They also carbon offset all their shipping.
With roots that trace back to their 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. They use 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 jewelers in West Africa to be self-sustaining and funds microloans through Kiva.
Handmade and packaged in Brooklyn, NY, K/LLER COLLECTION revolves around themes like architecture, alchemy, androgyny, and juxtaposition. In addition to recycled metals, they also use very unique, responsibly-sourced materials like horn, distressed leather, crystals, porcupine quills, cactus, and feathers
al.tru.ist is a New York-based brand that uses 100% recycled 14k gold or sterling silver using uncompromised techniques. They create stable luxury pieces that are meant to last you a lifetime.
Inspired by the tangible beauty and power of natural stones, the sacred essence of spirituality and the handcrafted aesthetic of knotted thread and wire wrap techniques, Taylor Kenney uses 100% recycled silver and 14K gold as the foundation for her cast pieces alongside responsibly sourced gems and metals. She also gives back a portion of her proceeds to different charitable organizations.
Trained as a goldsmith, Vanessa Lianne hand-forges each piece of jewelry by hand in her Brooklyn studio. Her signature textures and palpable craftsmanship infuse the collection; the effect is delicate armor. Instead of serving as adornments, pieces become a native extension of the woman who wears them. Metals are 100% recycled and the all natural stones used are ethically sourced.