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I’m not perfect. I’ve been known to fudge or compromise my values a bit when it comes to things like sunglasses. But it was very important to me that no people, animals, or ecosystems were harmed in the making of my engagement ring or wedding band.
Your wedding jewelry is 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 to an expanded circle of care for the planet and all the people on it.
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 dozens 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: The vast majority of mining is a dirty, destructive business that tears apart ecosystems and communities. So look for recycled metal or 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 was refined in one of the certified sustainable metal refineries in the US.
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 locally in the US or Europe where environmental and labor protections are high, or by documented fairly paid artisans in safe working conditions elsewhere. Choosing locally made jewelry also cuts down on shipping emissions from flying the product across the world.
Or, just choose from one of these thoughtful companies!
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.
Couple.co’s lab-grown diamonds are first certified by the International Gemological Institute and then only the best are personally selected by their in-house gemologist. Couple uses modern technology to create lab-grown diamonds that are atomically and chemically identical to mined diamonds, yet 35% larger on a price basis and meet the highest of standards (plus, they are eco-friendly and 100% ethically sourced and produced). In order to make sure you have support during every step of your purchasing experience, you have access to a personal Diamond Concierge with expert knowledge and 5-star customer service.
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!
With Taylor & Hart, you can choose between eco-friendly lab-grown diamonds and more traditionally-mined diamonds that are traceable and sourced ethically. If you’d prefer a mined one, you can get a CanadaMark diamond so that you can know the exact origin and history of it. You can also get fair trade or recycled metal for your ring if you ask (so make sure you do!). Taylor & Hart also has a generous 90-day return policy, free shipping and resizing, along with a lifetime warranty. Plus, they offer a complimentary, no-obligation consultation so you can make sure you’re making the best decision for yourself.
Great Heights was founded by a team of industry veterans with over 100 years of combined experience. They know the industry to its core and are infinitely equipped to clean it up. With their lab-grown diamonds, they’re putting quality and ethics first, without sacrificing cut, color, or quality. If you need help deciding on what you want, their diamond guide will help you find the right ring for you, or you can schedule a consultation to have one of their team members help you. Plus, they have free shipping, 100-day returns, free resizing, and a lifetime warranty.
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.
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.
Launched with the goal of being a leading ethical fine jewelry company, Bario Neal designs each piece in-house and works with 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.
Made with only lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals, MiaDonna’s rings include all the classic, sparkly styles. At a 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.
Founded in 2007, Ingle & Rhode guarantees every element of your wedding ring to be totally traceable and ethically produced. It sources pure gold and platinum from only certified Fairtrade or recycled sources. The brand’s diamonds and gems can be traced back to the mine of origin, and aren’t just guaranteed conflict-free. They come from ethical suppliers that respect workers and mitigate their impact on the environment.
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.
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.
A Note on Brilliant Earth….
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.