Diamond engagement rings are a definitive symbol of love and have been for a long time. However, in the last two decades, more and more people have started to look for more than just a symbolic jewelry piece in their engagement rings.
The environmental impact of the diamond mining industry and the bloody conflicts that surround it have been a focal point in public discussion since the turn of the century and even more people are becoming mindful of the environmental impact of precious metal production too.
Enter eco-friendly engagement rings.
If you are one of the countless socially-minded couples nowadays that’s looking for engagement rings that are not only beautiful to the eye but light on your conscience too – here’s our quick guide on what eco-friendly engagement rings are and how to find them.
- What’s an eco-friendly engagement ring?
- How can you buy an eco-friendly engagement ring?
- Why is it important for a ring to be eco-friendly?
- Who looks for eco-friendly engagement rings?
- Shops that offer eco-friendly engagement ring options
What’s an eco-friendly engagement ring?
Moissanite engagement ring in recycled gold setting by Stephanie Maslow. Check Price Here.
Several different factors make an engagement ring eco-friendly. As such, you’ll often see engagement rings marked as “eco-friendly” even though a significant part of their production process was anything but that.
Simply put, an eco-friendly engagement ring not just conflict-free but has also caused as few environmentally impactful emissions as possible.
If you want to make sure that your future engagement ring is truly eco-friendly you’ll either have to buy it from a trustworthy vendor or do a little research yourself.
How can you buy an eco-friendly engagement ring?
The two main things you’ll want to look for are 1) whether the center diamond or gemstone is both conflict-free and eco-friendly, and 2) whether the metal was produced in an eco-friendly manner too.
An Eco-friendly Center Stone
Most diamonds, like this one, come with a conflict free guarantee.
To cover the first point you’ll need the vendor you’re working with to offer you a detailed history of the stone – not just a grading report and a Kimberley Process conflict-free certificate but a detailed history of how the diamond was mined and processed.
The center gemstone is a key part of any engagement ring and it is its most expensive component too. Natural diamonds, in particular, have very long and complicated mining and production processes that includes a lot of people and processes. To find a diamond or other gemstone that is eco-friendly, consider:
Origin: How traceable is the production of the diamond? Most vendors can’t or don’t offer a detailed history of their diamonds besides a grading report. Knowing where and how a diamond was mined and cut, however, is crucial if you want to make sure it’s eco-friendly. Even if a diamond has passed the Kimberly Process certification for being conflict-free (which most diamonds nowadays do) this still doesn’t guarantee that it was mined in an environmentally-friendly way.
Lab-Created Diamonds: You can opt for synthetic diamonds. A lot of people still dislike the idea of a synthetic diamond as they perceive them to be “not real diamonds”. This isn’t helped by the fact that there are still a lot of misconceptions around the production of synthetic diamonds – even professional vendors will sometimes still tell you that synthetic diamonds “don’t look right”. This is false – synthetic diamonds produced today look exactly like natural diamonds with the exception of the microscopic engravings in their bases that indicate their synthetic nature. See lab-created daimonds here.
Synthetic Gemstones: Unfortunately, natural diamonds are not the only natural gemstones with significant environmental impacts – most natural precious gemstones are mined in pretty disastrous ways. However, there are many different types of synthetic gemstones that you can also consider for your engagement ring. For example, cubic zirconia and moissanite are two of the most popular alternatives that you can consider.
Of course, synthetic gemstones and diamonds also require resources and produce emissions when created, but those are typically negligible compared to the mining of natural gemstones and diamonds.
A lot of prominent environmentalists such as Saleem Ali insist that to reduce the environmental impact of a lot of mining industries we shouldn’t just reduce all mining activities across the board but “be smart” about it and restrict certain mining industries while promoting others.
Synthetic gemstones fit nicely into this concept as they require resources that are mined in a more environmentally-friendly way.
As far as the metal is concerned, a lot of people underestimate how disastrous the production of precious metals can be for the environment. We tend to focus on the diamond but not on the setting holding it.
According to the World Gold Council, every single metric ton of gold produced in 2019 was responsible for 32,689 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This is identical to burning 36 million pounds of coal.
In other words, you can take the weight of your gold ring, multiply it by 32,689 and you’ll get the amount of carbon dioxide that’s been produced for that one ring.
If you want to make sure that your ring’s metal is produced in an eco-friendly manner as well you should work with vendors that use recycled precious metals or fair trade gold.
How about vintage engagement rings?
Unique vintage engagemen ring by Trademark Antiques. Check price here.
To add to the two main points above, you can bypass all these considerations and buy a vintage ring instead.
Yes, technically, vintage rings are “second-hand” jewelry, however, in addition to being 100% “eco-friendly to produce” because they already exist, they are also quite romantic – why take a whole new engagement ring that’s fresh off the production line when you can get a ring that’s already brought so much love and happiness to another couple before you?
Are Canadian diamonds eco-friendly?
The Canadian diamond industry has had quite a growth since the introduction of the Kimberley Process a decade and a half ago. That’s because Canadian diamonds and their mining are famous for being 100% conflict-free as well as more ethically sourced overall. Their production is also more easily traceable and detailed, and workers in the Canadian diamond mining industry are treated much more fairly.
That being said, the mining of Canadian diamonds still has its environmental impact – Canadians don’t just magically levitate their gemstones out of the Earth. So, while we’d recommend Canadian natural diamonds over most others, they still aren’t as eco-friendly as they are sometimes made out to be.
Why is it important for a ring to be eco-friendly?
We’re not here to get into long environmental or moral discussions about the fate of our planet and species. However, we do live here and so do our children.
At the end of the day, engagement rings are supposed to celebrate engaged, i.e. soon-to-be-married, couples and that is often followed by children.
So, why not make sure that said children can live in a healthy and beautiful world too?
Who looks for eco-friendly engagement rings?
The reason more and more people are looking for eco-friendly engagement rings is that recent generations are becoming more conscious of environmental and social impacts than their parents were.
A recent report by Jefferies Financial Group Inc. has shown that ~75% of millennials say they would alter their buying habits due to environmental conerns and Gen Zs are projected to do the same. On the other hand, only 34% of boomers agree with that position.
So, with recent generations becoming an increasingly bigger part of the market, their concerns are naturally changing the industry too.
Shops that offer eco-friendly engagement ring options
There aren’t very many vendors and shops that offer truly eco-friendly engagement rings, with most just rebranding their existing stock as “eco-friendly”. However, some of the biggest online vendors are offer good options for eco-friendly rings and more will likely follow in the coming years.
Here are the three main vendors we’d recommend as of today:
- James Allen – this online vendor has revolutionized the online jewelry trade in the past decade and a half, and for good reasons. James Allen offers 100% conflict-free natural diamonds as well as lab-created synthetic diamonds. They don’t offer recycled metals yet, unfortunately, however, they were the first jeweler in North America to use Fair Trade gold.
- Blue Nile – this vendor is one of the most well-known online jewelry vendors in the world and they are a great option for eco-friendly engagement rings too. They have been committed to the Kimberley Process for years and their commitment has seen them extend the KP requirements too. They also use Fair Trade gold and have committed to increasing gold sourcing from recycled and secondary sources.
- Taylor & Hart – this shop offers ethically-sourced diamonds that go far beyond the Kimberley Process. They also offer Canadian diamonds and Fairtrade and recycled gold for customers who request it.