Jewelry may be a pretty and precious gift, but it can also carry a very big environmental cost. Mining for diamonds and gold leads to deforestation, contaminated rivers, large open pit scars on the Earth's surface, and pollution from mercury and cyanide. In addition to the environmental problems, human rights violations are a serious concern- many miners work in poor conditions, sometimes even in slavery, and diamonds are often exchanged for weapons in developing countries.
So if you want to buy green jewelry, what are your options?
You may have heard of Canadian diamonds. These diamonds are not conflict diamonds, but that does not make them green! The diamonds must still be mined, which requires drilling, road building, tailings ponds where the toxic wastes needed to mine diamonds are left behind, and eventually large open pit scars.
Likewise, diamonds certified through the Kimberley Process are not free from environmental degradation. The Kimberly Process was created to certify that diamonds are from sources free of conflict. There are no environmental regulations involved in the Kimberly Process, and certified diamonds may still be conflict diamonds, as conflict diamond smuggling sometimes still occurs.
Your best bet is to remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle. This may mean buying an antique ring. You can also buy jewelry made from recycled metals and recycled diamonds. You can buy a synthetic diamond, which reduces the need to mine new diamonds. These diamonds are chemically, visually, and physically the same as mined diamonds. Or you can opt out of traditional jewelry, and choose something like a wooden ring instead.
Here are some resources to get you started on your green jewelry shopping adventure:
For wooden rings, www.touchwoodrings.com
greenkarat.com is one company that sells mine-free jewelry. They use recycled precious metals, and synthetic or recycled gems. Green Karat can also recycle or reuse your old jewelry.
www.c5company.com is another company that uses synthetic diamonds and recycled metals.
www.brilliantearth.com uses recycled gold and Canadian diamonds.
http://lizashtromberg.com recycles unwanted gold and platinum jewelry; engagement and wedding rings made with 100% recycled metals and diamonds