It’s been a little while since I posted my first article in my new series on Planning a Sustainable Wedding, but I’m back, and this time I’m talking all things Sustainable Wedding and Engagement Rings! Safe to say, researching responsible wedding jewellery has been just as much fun as learning all about well-made wedding dresses, and I’m so excited to share!
It’s no secret that the jewellery industry has a dark past and present. Blood Diamond wasn’t just a great movie, but it spoke to some hard truths about where a lot of the world’s jewellery comes from. Conflict diamonds refer to diamonds used to fund wars, most commonly across seven different African countries, and traded illegally across the world.
Thankfully, global awareness of the issue is rising, helped along by the slow fashion movement. Where in 2000, the best most consumers could hope for were diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process*, many jewellers are now striving to do even better. After all, there’s also a huge social and environmental impact that inevitably comes with mining!
Most of the jewellers on this list of Sustainable Wedding and Engagement Rings use recycled metals, vintage gemstones or diamonds from mines in America, Australia and Canada. Not just that, they’re actively trying to rehabilitate communities and environments that have been negatively impacted by mining. It’s truly inspiring learning about the steps so many jewellers have taken to create a positive impact through their work.
It occurred to me while I was researching that there aren’t many things a couple can physically take with them from their wedding. Floral arrangements can be dried, photographs printed and turned into beautiful albums, but the only thing you’ll have as a reminder every moment of every day is your wedding and engagement rings. To me, knowing that these rings could symbolise not only your commitment to your love, but also to creating a better world, is truly romantic.
I hope you love exploring and learning about these beautiful creations as much I have. Please sound off with your favourites, your thoughts, or other jewellers you know of that are working to make a positive difference in the comments below!
Asides from being a jewellery atelier itself, Catbird is also a veritable treasure trove for beautiful jewellery from across the globe. The brick & mortar store in New York, founded by Rony Vardi, began as a place for Vardi to sell an eclectic mix of her favourite things, including her own handmade jewellery. Eventually this took front & centre, and Catbird is now a jewellery studio and store, featuring expertly crafted fine jewellery from some of the world’s best designers.
Catbird jewellery follows the tenets of dignity and respect, and believes in adjusting the jewellery industry’s damaging and careless history. To do so, all their jewellery is handmade in Brooklyn, and every decision that goes into running the business is carefully considered. Their diamonds are either recycled, from conflict-free suppliers with standards that go beyond the requirements of the Kimberley Process, or are lab-created diamonds. All Catbird gold is sourced ethically and with minimal environmental impact possible.
Catbird works with vendors who ensure the gold is either recycled or comes from responsible mines, both in an environmental and humanitarian sense. The New York design studio doesn’t only seek to use responsibly-mined and sourced materials though, they also donate at least 1% of all profits to charities chosen by the women who make up the business, through the Catbird Foundation.
But what about the jewellery? Well, if you’ve ever dreamed of delicate stacking rings, then you have Catbird to thank for that! Their style is refined, elegant and free. It’s the kind of jewellery that stands out on its own or that you could layer one on top of the other to create the luxury bohemian look that’s taken the wedding world by storm (for good reason!). Plus the jewellery ateliers they collaborate with fit perfectly into this niche – I’m looking at you, Kataoka Japanese Rose Ring!
While writing and researching this article, it’s become very hard to say which engagement ring I’d choose if I had to pick right now, but Bario Neal’s cluster rings would be a serious contender. While Bario Neal still offers all of the classics, think solitaire and diamond rings, the sustainable jewellery design studio also offers an array of unique and interesting wedding jewellery for socially conscious couples. From playful shapes, colourful enamelling and asymmetric gem clusters, Bario Neal is perfect for unconventional brides who don’t mind breaking away from the norm. And of course, the best part is all of Bario Neal’s wedding and engagement rings are made ethically and sustainably in Philadelphia.
A collaborative project by designers Anna Bario and Page Neal, Bario Neal was founded on the belief that all precious things have a story to tell. The pair felt disheartened by the industry’s disregard for human rights and the environmental toll of mining, and so they set out to change the story. To start with, you won’t find any mention of gender on their site – love is love and any kind of jewellery can be worn by anybody who loves it. It’s a philosophy I’m sure so many of us can get behind. Asides from support for the LGBTQ* community, Bario Neal also set out to change the jewellery industry’s environmental and human right’s standards.
To start with, all of the precious metals used in Bario Neal’s jewellery is either fair mined or reclaimed. While fair mined gold is mined by small-scale or artisan miners, and regularly audited by independent third parties, their reclaimed gold is sourced and processed by US refineries who adhere to their strict environmental standards. While this is now the standard for any jewellery studio seeking to keep ethics at the forefront of their business, Bario Neal were some of the first to make fairmined and recycled gold their standard!
Bario Neal’s main difference though is their commitment to ethically sourced gemstones, even when it comes to the tiniest of diamonds. Diamonds that weigh less than 0.15 carats, known as Melee Diamonds, are some of the hardest to trace. It’s a lot of work to provide fully traceable diamonds, and most suppliers don’t see the point for such small stones. They’re also harder to keep track of as it’s next to impossible to laser-inscribe tracking numbers, a common practice with larger stones. Bario Neal wanted to be sure that all of their gemstones were traceable, as well as sustainably and ethically sourced though, and they found their solution in Australian and Canadian diamonds.
Australian and Canadian gemstone mines are subject to strict regulations and controls, making them the perfect choice for couples on the hunt for sustainable and ethical wedding jewellery. Bario Neal has truly done all the legwork for you when it comes to ensuring you can feel good about your wedding and engagement rings… now, somebody help me decide which is better, this cluster ring with a rose cut diamond and blue sapphires, or this burst cluster morganite and diamond ombré ring! Seriously, I can’t decide!
Digby & Iona is for the unconventional, for the travellers and creatives who still appreciate the good things in life. Aaron Ruff, the maker behind Digby & Iona, was always fascinated with the idea of uncovering treasure and ancient relics, especially as a child, and this fascination shines through in his unique jewellery designs. His sustainable engagement & wedding ring collection is for couples who want something a little different, but none the less precious. I especially love his use of engraving and of salt & pepper diamonds – diamonds with dark carbon deposits and white inclusions, that traditionally made them worth much less.
And of course, the good news is, his beautiful wedding & engagement rings are made ethically & sustainably in Brooklyn, making them perfect for bohemian brides & grooms who are planning a sustainable wedding. Ruff uses only reclaimed & recycled gold and sterling silver, and prefers to use Antique and Vintage Post-consumer Diamonds. After all, reusing is one of the surest ways not to contribute to the environmental strains of mining. Any new gemstones are certified by the Kimberley Process, while the ethereal sapphires featured in rings like the Pear Nico are largely sourced from a small production miner in Montana. If I were to get married today, Digby & Iona would easily be one of my top picks for sustainable wedding and engagement rings.
Anyone who has embarked on the search for ethically-made, sustainable products will know it can be disheartening at the best of times. FTJCo. is the antidote to that feeling. While most jewellery designers who want to keep eco-conscious couples at the forefront tend towards recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds, FTJCo has taken it a step further, sourcing gold responsibly from within conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Working together with IMPACT’s Just Gold, FTJCo. was the first company to export traceable, conflict-free gold from the DRC. Asides from just ensuring safe working conditions in these mines, FTJCO., Just Gold and IMPACT work together to provide education for miners on the ground. They also loan equipment to miners in order to help them build ethical and sustainable businesses from the get-go. It’s the kind of thing many would say is impossible, but FTJCo. now offers a house blend of 50% Just Gold (mined responsibly in the DRC) and recycled gold. I love this story so much that I could write about it forever, but we’re here to talk Ethical and Sustainable Engagement and Wedding Rings as well as epic businesses working to create a positive impact!
Asides from their work with IMPACT and Just Gold, FTJCo. is also B Corp Certified, offers fair trade gold, is certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council, and the American Gem Society. Moreover, the Toronto-based company is 80% female.
As for FTJCo’s jewellery? Their beautiful rings feature classic, elegant designs with an occasional added touch of whimsy, like the Arch Ring with Akara Sapphires. So whether you like all things minimal or prefer the endless shine of a halo ring, FTJCo. has got you covered!
As far as creators of sustainable and ethical wedding and engagement rings go, Brilliant Earth checks all the boxes! They’re Beyond Conflict Free, use only recycled metals, and they are Carbon Neutral. But what exactly does Beyond Conflict Free mean?
Well, the Kimberley Process defines Conflict Free Diamonds as diamonds that don’t finance rebel movements. Brilliant Earth doesn’t believe this is enough, and so they’ve gone beyond the Kimberley Process, requiring all of their gemstones to be sourced from mines and businesses that also:
By ensuring their suppliers adhere to strict protocols that follow international environmental, labor and trade standards, Brilliant Earth can be sure that their business is creating a positive change in an industry that is traditionally secretive and damaging. And by putting in all the legwork of creating a sustainable and ethical jewellery studio, it means you can feel good about wearing their stunning jewellery as well!! After all, your wedding and engagement rings are two of very few things that you’ll have to remind you of your wedding day on a daily basis – alongside your photos, of course 😉
Trumpet & Horn is a vintage-lovers haven, and perfect for all of couples planning a wedding while trying to keep any new purchases to a minimum. Run by a group of self-professed ‘jewellery nerds’, Trumpet & Horn was set up specifically with the intention of selling vintage, eco-friendly, ethically-sourced jewellery. They don’t want you to think of your engagement ring as an investment, but rather an heirloom, something to be passed on from one generation to another. It’s a romantic notion, but one that I think goes to the very core of living sustainably and planning a sustainable wedding.
The benefits of buying vintage and antique jewellery are clear – by giving new life to an already existing piece, you’re having virtually zero impact on the environment and can be sure that you’re not accidentally supporting conflict-diamonds. Trumpet & Horn also stock vintage-inspired jewellery, designed and made by them in Downtown Los Angeles, where they can ensure responsible and ethical production. Their designs are mostly made using recycled metals and antique stones, which they repurpose from broken vintage jewellery.
Pro-tip: If you plan to browse their site, perhaps choose to sort by price or run the risk of falling head over heels with an engagement ring well outside your budget! While Trumpet & Horn have options for all budget ranges, when I first checked out their Engagement Rings page, I couldn’t help but notice most of the prices were 5 figures and then some!
A quick glance at Evorden’s site, and you’ll find yourself enamoured with their modern engagement rings that still evoke vintage charm. Or at least, I did! The Daisy and Islene Rings are truly works of art. Their wedding bands, on the other hand, are a beautiful mix of modern, classic gender-neutral designs.
Based in Vancouver, Evorden is a boutique jeweller offering modern jewellery for conscious consumers. Their jewellery is all made in Vancouver, just a few blocks away from their showroom, where they work to make every step of production as sustainable as possible. The makers behind Evorden also track their materials, aiming to use ethically-sourced metals and stones, including jewellery that they upcycle themselves and recycled diamonds. Perhaps Evorden’s biggest point of difference though is their use of Canadian Diamonds.
Canadian Diamonds are responsibly mined in the Northwest Territories of Canada and are subject to strict audits. These audits track the diamonds from the mines they’re found in, up to the point they arrive at Evorden’s workshop and showroom. Not only does this mean you needn’t worry about conflict diamonds, but the environmental side-effects of transport are minimal.
Finally, Evorden offers a beautiful selection of curated vintage rings, which is another great alternative for eco-minded couples!
If you have always pictured yourself wearing a traditional wedding band with a solitaire engagement ring, but you want it made sustainably and ethically, Blue Nile are the jewellers for you. Blue Nile, based in Dublin, Ireland, first opened their virtual doors in 1999, disrupting the jewellery industry by opening online and cutting out the middle man. They wanted jewellery to be made more accessible and wanted their customers to be able to make educated decisions. In fact, a big part of their website is information about the various cuts, metals and fits, but most importantly, about conflict-free diamonds.
Most of the jewellers on this list exclusively use diamonds that have, at minimum, followed the Kimberley Process. Blue Nile takes it a few steps further and doesn’t purchase diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond district due to reported human rights abuses. They’re also a signatory to the Golden Rules, which means they work to ensure that all their metals are sourced sustainably and ethically. It can be exhausting trying to imagine all that goes into creating beautiful engagement and wedding rings, especially for socially conscious weddings. Thankfully, companies like Blue Nile exist who think everything through for you!