Buying an engagement ring or wedding ring is a big decision. It’s a ring you may well wear for an entire lifetime, so you obviously want to make the best choice possible. Think of engagement rings as an investment in the future of your relationship and upcoming marriage.
While you can find great engagement rings just about anywhere, you can’t always find engagement rings that are made in ethical and sustainable ways. If that’s important to you, and you want to be sure your engagement ring or wedding band comes from a source that honors both humanity and the planet we live on, due diligence and research are mandatory.
Choosing a Sustainable Center Stone
What is a sustainable diamond? Do sustainable diamonds even exist?
One of the most important factors in tracing the sustainability of an engagement ring is tracing the origins of the materials used to create it. If you can’t trace those origins, you really can’t know for sure if the materials were obtained in ways that weren’t harmful to the environment or people. As you get further into your diamond research, you might begin having questions like, “what is a blood diamond?” or “is it ethical to buy diamonds?” These are all questions to consider as you dive deeper into your search for ethical rings or loose stones.
Thankfully, more companies are becoming aware of this and are making it easier for you to find and purchase sustainable engagement rings and other jewelry. So, when you’re on the hunt for great options, what should you look for?
Lab grown diamonds have a stigma around their name. Sometimes, when you hear the word ‘lab grown’ or ‘synthetic’, the word ‘fake’ comes to mind. However, this simply isn’t the case. Lab grown diamonds are as real as their natural counterparts down to their chemical, physical, and optical properties. The only difference between lab grown diamonds and mined diamonds is that man made diamonds are grown in a lab.
Lab grown diamonds are formed when they are subjected to the same extreme temperatures and high pressures that natural diamonds undergo in nature. The physical and chemical properties of man made diamonds are the same as that of natural diamonds. To the naked and untrained eye, a lab grown diamond sparkles and shines just like a natural diamond.
Compared to natural diamonds, lab grown diamonds are exchanged between fewer hands in the supply chain, which means that you can easily trace where they came from.
In other words, you definitely know which laboratory made them. Lab diamonds are also more environmentally friendly than mined diamonds. All in all, if you choose to purchase a lab diamond, you’ll know the environment wasn’t harmed, no human rights were violated, and no child labor was used.
Recycled diamonds are exactly what they sound like––diamonds that were once owned by someone and are now back on the market. Recycled diamonds are found available in all sizes, cuts, and carats, so don’t worry that you won’t find what you’re looking for. If you can imagine it, it’s probably already been done.
The key when looking for a vintage engagement ring with recycled diamonds is making sure that the ring comes with a GIA certificate. The Gemological Institute of America(GIA) certifies diamonds based on the 4Cs of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat.
A GIA certificate proves a diamond’s authenticity and quality. Aside from the quality, legitimacy is critical when purchasing a recycled and antique diamond engagement ring.
Recycled diamonds are a more eco-friendly option. Why buy the new thing if you can find a ‘like new’ thing that’s equally stellar? If a recycled diamond for your engagement ring sounds like it’s your speed, pawn shops and estate sales are the best places to find them. And by buying from these sources, you can buy with confidence knowing that the diamond was owned by someone else before you.
Specialized boutiques are also a great place to find these types of engagement rings. While they may house more expensive options than you’d find at a pawn shop, you can still buy with assurance, knowing that regardless of price, you’re still choosing a more sustainable option. One that purchasing a brand new diamond ring can’t offer.
Not a fan of diamonds? Prefer something a little left of typical? That’s wonderful! Every couple is unique, with unique tastes and styles. Luckily, there are many different ethical and sustainable engagement ring options that are not made with diamonds, but still, look like a million bucks.
Sapphire rings––like Princess Diana’s marvelous engagement ring––are a great selection. In fact, sapphire jewelry has been growing in popularity and may even be outpacing the popularity of diamond jewelry. More specifically, many people have been choosing sapphire engagement rings over diamond engagement rings to declare their love and commitment to marry.
Want to be able to proudly say ‘my ring is out of this world’ and mean it? Well, moissanite rings can give you that kind of guarantee.
In 1893, French scientist Henri Moissan was busy examining and studying a sample of a meteor crater. During his research, he discovered a crystal that had an uncanny resemblance to diamonds and was convinced that he had found an outer space source of diamonds.
Moissanite looks eerily similar to diamonds, but chemically they are not the same at all. Diamonds are made of the element carbon while moissanite is made of silicon carbide.
Because naturally occurring moissanite is so rare, scientists have found a way to replicate moissanite in laboratories, and no mining is needed at all. Like other lab grown options, it’s very easy to trace the origin of the crystal and find out where it was made. That means that moissanite is arguably one of the most ethical and sustainable materials you can use for engagement rings.
Cubic zirconia is another lab grown, ethical, and sustainable option for an engagement ring that many budget-conscious couples gravitate toward.
Cubic Zirconia is regarded as an inexpensive diamond alternative and the stone is quite easy to care for. However, something to note about cubic zirconia rings is that they don’t shine as brilliantly as diamonds do and the quality of the stone is sometimes noticeably cheaper.
Choosing a Sustainable Engagement Ring Setting
Your center stone isn’t the only thing to consider when crafting an eco-friendly engagement ring, you’ll also want to take your setting into account.
Made from precious metals such as rose gold, yellow gold, white gold, palladium, sterling silver, and platinum, an engagement ring setting refers to how gemstones are set into a metal band.
Similar to the diamond mining industry, gold mining is also known to indulge in dark practices. However, the one bright side to the use of gold in engagement rings and other fine jewelry is that gold, in all its forms, can be recycled and reused without losing its value. Recycled gold can come from a variety of sources including existing jewelry, industrial use materials, and electronics components.
This means that eco-conscious consumers have the power to shop for rings set using recycled, and more sustainable, materials. To ensure that you’re purchasing a ring made from recycled gold, look for jewelers who are certified or use precious metals sourced from certified responsible refiners.
Unfortunately, other metals such as platinum cannot be re-used and re-melted so a platinum engagement ring might not be the best fit if you’re looking for the most sustainable option.
If you love the icy look of platinum and want to keep a clear conscious opt for sterling silver or palladium instead. While similar in appearance, the first thing you’ll notice about these metals when compared is the difference in price. This is because while beautiful, sterling silver is prone to tarnishing over time making pallidum a more durable and better suited option for an engagement ring.
There are steps that you can take to ensure that your engagement ring is as ethically-made and sourced as it can possibly be. Remember, it will take some extra research, but the combination of a lab grown diamond or a diamond alternative center stone paired with a recycled engagement ring setting can help to combat the unfortunate reality of the mining industry and its relationship with fine jewelry.