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Ethical Jewelry: 8 Ways to Feel Good About Your Jewelry Purchases

Written by Anna Currell
October 16, 2023

Your favorite earrings, your engagement ring, the matching pendants you and your best friend exchanged — jewelry can be so sentimental. But how can something so meaningful raise so many ethical concerns? In the past, jewelry production has been fraught with dangerous mining practices, unfair labor standards, and environmental harm. As a thoughtful consumer, you want beautiful, well-crafted jewelry that upholds your values. You want stunning pieces with substance, made to last a lifetime. The good news is you can find ethical jewelry that makes you look and feel good by following these guiding principles. Let’s dive in:

1. Look for Recycled Metals and Upcycled Gems 

Reduce, reuse, recycle — the tried and true eco-friendly phrase applies to jewelry, too. Seeking out brands that reuse metals and stones is one of the most ethical jewelry options. Recycled gold, silver, platinum, and other metals reduce the destructive environmental impact of mining. Upcycled diamonds and gemstones give new life to discarded materials that would otherwise go to waste. You can also consider working one-on-one with a jeweler to transform family heirlooms into more modern designs, which is a meaningful way to reuse already beloved items.

2. Opt for Vintage and Antique Pieces

Vintage and antique jewelry make for a creative sustainable choice because they reuse existing materials without needing any new production. Search estate sales, auctions, and antique shops for one-of-a-kind treasures that have a rich history. Shop reputable online sites for estate jewelry and curated vintage finds. Be sure to make the old piece new to you with simple alterations; it’s easy for a jeweler to resize a ring so it’s a perfect fit or gold plate a necklace that’s developed a patina that doesn’t fit your vibe. 


3. Choose Responsibly Mined Gems 

When buying mined gems, it’s important to conduct diligent research to make sure the stones were sourced ethically. Look for brands that adhere to strict standards around responsible mining practices, workplace safety, and environmental protections. Brands that prioritize these practices will have a paper trail backing up their commitments, like certifications from the Responsible Jewellery Council and the Kimberley Process. Sustainable jewelry brands are usually transparent about their responsibility promises, and they are probably happy to publish certification information on their website or post it in their stores.

4. Seek Ethically Sourced Metals

Metals mined through safe, fair, and environmentally sound practices are key for creating ethical jewelry. Shopping for jewelry that’s made with ethically mined metals like gold, silver, and platinum supports safe and sustainable small-scale mining operations. Check for jewelry brands that follow ethical sourcing practices laid out by leaders like Fairtrade International; these organizations exist to ensure that ethics are a priority at every step of the mining and extraction process.

5. Support Local Jewelers 

Buying from independent jewelers can help both the environment and local businesses. Plus, it can be really easy to do; community craft fairs and online shops like Etsy are great for discovering local jewelers. When you shop locally, it reduces shipping impacts from carbon emissions, and it also supports artists in your community. You can also ensure that a shop is using ethical materials and production practices by visiting in person or getting in touch and building a relationship. Seek out independent jewelers who are actively committed to responsible sourcing and sustainability over those that make vague claims they can’t back up. 

6. Invest in Quality Over Quantity

Buying fewer but finer jewelry pieces that are made to last a lifetime instead of cheap fast fashion trinkets that end up in landfills is one of the most ethical choices you can make. Invest in fine jewelry crafted from precious metals like gold and platinum along with ethically sourced or recycled stones. Consciously curated jewelry boxes full of meaning will outshine impulse purchases any day, and buying jewelry made to last instead of constantly accumulating whatever is new and shiny will help to cut down on production and mining impact around the world. Plus, classic designs that stay in style can become treasured heirlooms in a way that fleeting, trend-chasing pieces never will.


7. Ask Questions

Don’t hesitate to ask brands extensive questions about their sources, standards, and supply chains. Ethical jewelry brands that are knowledgeable about their materials' origins and production methods will happily provide you with detailed information. Be aware of overly vague responses that leave out the specifics. Brands that prioritize ethical practices will likely already have this information handy, and can direct you to certifications that back up their commitments. If they don’t have these practices in place, look elsewhere for your next jewelry pieces, but don’t feel like it was a waste to ask. Your thoughtful questions might even help pressure jewelry brands to start prioritizing ethical practices so they can meet the expectations of conscious consumers like you.

8. Check Resale Value

Along with investing in quality over quantity, consider long term resale value when shopping. Fine jewelry from ethical brands, especially designs using precious metals and ethically sourced stones, will often hold its value and become more lucrative if you decide to sell it in the future. This continues the jewelry's lifecycle even once you’ve outgrown it, compared to fast fashion and costume jewelry which has essentially no value. Check sites like The RealReal to evaluate potential resale prices before investing in finer jewelry, or get an appraisal to gain a deeper understanding of the jewelry you already own and love. 

With proper research and discernment, you can find ethical jewelry aligning with your values from sustainable materials and fair production methods. Follow these tips to shop mindfully and ethically for pieces that you’ll truly value. Once you’ve found a piece that you feel good about, remember to take good care of it. Trust our team at Quick Jewelry Repairs to give it the VIP treatment with a proper and thorough spa cleaning so your jewelry can sparkle like it’s brand new.

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