Jewelry That Is Changing Lives: How To Choose An Ethical Jewelry Brand
Jewelry is an incredible form of self-expression and has been used all around the world for centuries to represent different cultures and traditions. Unfortunately, it also has been used as a form of exploitation and oppression, when certain precious metals and stones become popular and valuable to those in power who see the economic potential of these metals and stones.
The most popular example of exploitation in the jewelry industry can be seen in the diamond and gold industries, where blood diamonds and “dirty gold” have been exposed for the environmental and human footprint effects these precious metals and stones have on the world. Especially in regions where marginalized communities are impacted by powerful corporate entities and corrupt governments.
ethics in the jewelry industry
The ethics and history in the jewelry industry are riddled in civil war, labor issues, and environmental devastation, yet they somehow seem to go under the radar of the average consumer. Metal mining, and especially gold mining is one of the most environmentally destructive kinds of mining that typically occurs in low-income countries where workers are subject to dangerous working conditions and poor wages.
While there are many companies who are working hard to try and change the way jewelry is produced, we still have a long way to go, which is why purchasing ethically sourced jewelry is so important. To get you started I have listed a few things that you can look out for when trying to change your jewelry purchasing habits.
opt for fair-trade
Since October is fair trade month I thought it would be a great time to talk about why fair trade matters, and really what the fair trade movement is supporting. The fair trade movement is a critical movement for our global economy that promotes the purchasing of products from businesses who are committed to upholding fair trade standards.
These standards were put in place to help support a change in our global economy that puts the environment, local economies, local communities, and marginalized individuals first. It is a set of standards that gives a voice to those who previously have not had one, and works to create a healthier and more just world for all global citizens.
Fair trade jewelry is one standard in the jewelry industry that puts the environment and human rights first. When you purchase fair trade jewelry you know that you are purchasing something that supports responsible companies, empowers workers (including no child labor), and protects the environment.
Ten Thousand Villages is a great example of a company that sources beautiful jewelry that has all been fair trade certified. I also love how transparent they are when sharing the story and message of the people and origin behind the jewelry in their stores, which makes the connection to these beautiful pieces so much stronger.
choose less popular metals and stones
One of the best ways that we can reduce the unethical practices in industries like the gold mining and diamond industry is to demand less of it. It really is a simple issue of supply and demand. The more we demand something, the more value we give it, and the more supply we require. So the next time you are thinking about purchasing a new piece of jewelry try and think a little more outside the box, and be a part of reducing the demand for unethically sourced metals and stones.
The above necklace is from Ten Thousand Villages bombshell collection, which uses recycled brass metals to create beautiful jewelry using Cambodian traditional and design.
value traditional artisans
Jewelry making has a long-standing history in many cultures that is rooted in celebrating local materials, traditions, and values. In many ways it is an art form that should be celebrated more for it’s meaning and the cultural history it represents rather than the monetary value it holds.
Supporting traditional artisans is also an amazing way to help keep these traditions alive and support individuals or purpose driven companies that bring meaning to the items we wear on our bodies day after day.
So the next time you are thinking about making a jewelry purchase take some time to look into some traditional jewelry crafts. Maybe there are symbols or materials that can connect you with your own heritage and I would guarantee that there is some artist out there who would more than love your support.
I personally find etsy to be an amazing resource for small jewelry designers who are working to bring more of a message to their jewelry.
Choose recycled materials
There are more than enough precious stones and metals currently circulating the globe for our jewelry needs, so instead of purchasing newly minded metal and stones, think about opting for jewelry that has been made from recycled or repurposed metals and stones.
I first witnessed the incredible uses for recycled materials in jewelry making when I was traveling in Cambodia and I got to visit with some local artisans that were using repurposed brass from used bombs and bullets. These pieces of jewelry were meant to educate the public on the continued minefield crisis in Cambodia and were a symbol for peace, hope, and continued strength.
Ten Thousand Villages has a beautiful collection of recycled metal jewelry that is all made using fair trade practices. My personal favorites are from the bombshell collection which supports artisans in Cambodia. Everytime I wear one of these pieces I am reminded to my time spent in Cambodia and the incredible people I was able to meet.
This is why I truly do believe that jewelry and physical items can be such a powerful tool for connection in our global economy, and a means of supporting change even half way around the world.
If you would like to learn more about the fair trade movement I would highly recommend checking out the World Fair Trade Organization and for more information on fair trade labeling the Fair Trade Certified Organization.
Note: I am a brand ambassador for Ten Thousand Villages, an amazing company that I feel so proud to support, however as always every opinion is my own.