What to consider when buying an ethical engagement ring
An article by Taylor & Hart for English Wedding
The planning of a wedding is defined by a constant stream of exciting and important decisions. And while some are obviously far bigger and more significant than others, every detail you make should have some deeper meaning for you and your spouse-to-be. But these decisions begin long before the moment one of you gets down on one knee to pop the question, starting with your choice of engagement rings.
Choosing an engagement ring involves taking a lot of factors into consideration in and of itself, from the cost to the gemstone and the style of the band itself. However, one factor which has become increasingly important in recent years has been ensuring that the materials used to make the rings themselves have been sourced ethically,
What makes an ethical engagement ring?
The most recent Mintel report on the state of the UK’s jewellery industry showed that 55% of those surveyed cited ethical sourcing and sustainability as a key concern when buying engagement rings. Much of this stems from the long-standing controversy over how many diamonds are sourced, with the mining industry in areas like Sierra Leone notorious for financing anti-government militias and civil wars — hence the term “blood diamonds”.
Much of the controversy surrounding ethical jewellery relates to the way diamonds are mined, but as leading ethical engagement ring specialists Taylor & Hart note, there’s more to it than just avoiding rings which use blood diamonds. Their process aims to strike a balance between natural diamond mining and creating them in labs in a way which encourages the regulation of the industry and provides “the opportunity to help and support [the] communities, who depend on the natural diamond mining trade to earn a living.”
The company goes a step further than most with their approach to crafting engagement rings which are as exquisite as they are sustainable, taking the bands into account. Not only are their gemstones ethically-sourced, but their bands are also made from fair trade and recycled gold and platinum. This reflects what they describe as “a growing desire for the jewellery supply chain to be Fairtrade certified at each stage”, and while they note that this service is a “work in progress”, it shows that couples need to bear more in mind than how the jewels in their rings are obtained.
How can you be sure that your engagement ring is ethically sourced?
Lab-grown diamonds are becoming big business within the jewellery industry, with high-profile fashion inspirations like Meghan Markle sporting them in public, prompting others to follow suit. In terms of their physical make-up, nothing separates a synthetic diamond from a naturally-occuring one, with those created in laboratory conditions simply speeding up the heating and compression process that forms diamonds. As such, in most cases, finding an ethically-sourced engagement ring is as simple as asking for one with a synthetic stone.
However, as the BBC points out, those interested in these man made diamonds should be mindful that, just because these gems are ethical, that doesn’t mean they are sustainable, as the process creates three times more greenhouse gases than those which occur in nature. That said, it is still a relatively new process, and the associated emissions are set to be reduced as the process of manufacturing diamonds from scratch is further refined.
As for mined diamonds, jewelers are now all too aware of the questions they will be asked by those seeking an ethically sourced engagement ring, and will be happy to put any concerns to rest. Consumers should do their research into jewellery companies, and ask where their gemstones of choice were extracted, where the rings were made, and whether or not the materials used are Fairtrade.