In this article, Michael Ayers, from pre-owned jewellery specialist Est.1897, takes a look at how you can choose and maintain a jewellery collection that doesn’t contribute to unethical practices.
Building a jewellery collection can be a real joy, but it’s important to be mindful of what can often be an exploitative and environmentally-damaging industry.
The demand for precious stones and metals can often lead to unscrupulous companies practicing mining techniques that have both a human and natural cost. Quarrying methods can cause major problems for the environment: for instance, toxic chemicals are often used to separate metals from ore, which then find their way into the ecosystem and cause havoc. That’s not to mention the use of poorly paid labourers who have next to no rights and are tasked with carrying out dangerous work.
So, the next time you want to add to your jewellery collection, it can help to put a bit more effort into your purchasing decisions. By planning ahead and making smart choices, you can enjoy jewellery that hasn’t been sourced unethically. Read on to find out how.
Do your homework before you shop
When you feel the need to add to your collection, it’s best to be armed with the facts. Take the time to find out which jewellery brands are sourcing their materials ethically and manufacturing responsibly, then support them over others that are not doing enough. The best brands will operate with a high degree of transparency, and should have information available about their practices.
Look for the Fairtrade mark from the Fairtrade Foundation, who set the standard in the UK for products that have been sourced fairly and responsibly. Some brands may be members of the World Fair Trade Organisation if they’re based outside of the UK, or the British Association of Fair Trade Shops if they use materials not covered by the Foundation.
Some things, such as conflict-free diamonds, don’t have a certification system, so they can be harder to spot. However, if you shop with a good jeweller, they should be able to give you all the information you need about a diamond, including its origin. This way you will be able to make sure you aren’t investing in something that might have caused suffering in its creation.
Shop pre-owned or vintage?
If you want to make sure your next jewellery purchase hasn’t contributed to unethical practices, you should consider buying pre-owned or vintage. Doing so will not only save you money, but it reduces demand for more precious metals or stones, so you won’t be contributing to the continued unethical practices of many companies.
There are plenty of places to shop around for the best pre-owned or vintage pieces, both around town and online. Charity shops, fashion markets, and car boot sales are a blast to root around, though you may want to consider a specialist jeweller if you have something particular in mind. Online auction sites and vintage retailers are also somewhere you should check — their stock will always be changing though, so be sure to check back often.
Remember that less is often more
Are you a serial buyer of cheaper jewellery? If so, you might want to work on being a little bit more mindful when it comes to your shopping habits. Rather than making a lot of impulse purchases, stop and consider whether you really need a piece before you splash the cash — sleep on it if you need to. This way, you can ensure you’re not contributing to the demand for throwaway fashion that sees the environment impacted for the sake of clothing and jewellery you only wear once or twice. More often than not, you can save your money, then buy something you really love further down the line.
Take care of your jewellery collection
One of the best things you can do to reduce the chances of buying unethical jewellery is taking good care of the pieces currently in your collection. When you have a whole box of beautiful rings, bracelets, and necklaces that are in great condition to choose from, you’ll be much less likely to feel the need to go out and buy more to replace them.
Be sure to keep your collection away from any sources of light or heat, as many gemstones and metals can become dulled or weakened from too much exposure, spoiling their looks or causing them to break easily. You’ll want to avoid chemicals too, as everyday substances like hairspray, lotion, or perfume can cause damage to your jewellery. Keeping your pieces organised in a box and taking them to a specialist for repair and maintenance is the best way to maintain your collection.
Follow my advice and you will be able to add to and maintain your jewellery collection in a way that doesn’t contribute to the unethical practices of the industry. With a bit of planning and smart choices, you’ll get into the habit in no time.