The fashion Industry has some work (ok a lot of work) to do, before it can be considered sustainable.
We know all about the good the bad and ugly of the clothes we wear but as we look down at our hands we know nothing about the impact of our gold rings or our silver bracelets.
There is little talk about sustainable jewellery because there is little knowledge. To be honest we very rarely consider how our jewellery is made and maybe that's because it's not a conversation anyone is having. So how is our jewellery made and how can we make sure it's sustainable?
Mining can harm the planet, we all know that. And how do we get our hands on our favourite precious metals? We mine for them. Mining for gold and silver causes erosion, soil contamination and loss of biodiversity. Not only is there a direct impact on the land and ecosystems around the mine; the ongoing effect on the air is detrimental to the environment and us.
Smelting (the process of separating the metal from impurities so it can be worn as jewellery) is responsible for releasing 142 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere every year; equating to 13 percent of global emissions. Not only is there the environmental impact, but we only have a finite amount of gold and silver and the fact is that they're depleting.
So how do we make sure our jewellery is sustainable?
1. Choose recycled materials
Many manufacturers are switching to recycled metals. They're adding to second hand jewellery and creating something unique or melting it down into something new. Environmentally, new metals aren't being pulled from the earth, your jewellery has character and each piece already has a certain history to it. Source out a local jeweller who uses sustainable materials, or maybe even check out Etsy!
2. Create your own
If you have your great grandmother's ring but let's be honest it's not something you would ever wear. You could get it melted down and made into something that would suit you better while keeping the sentimentality of wearing your great grandmother's ring. The same could be done with multiple rings, turning them into one.
3. Buy second hand
Personally, I love jewellery, especially gold. However, my whole life I've bought all my rings, necklaces and bracelets second hand. You can't find a piece that is perfectly suited to you or your style from a chain jewellery store. Every second person walking down the street will have the same ring or earring as you. And who really wants that? Jewellery is a craft so when buying unique pieces that have a history you can appreciate the rings on your fingers and question how old they are, who has worn them before and who will wear them next.
3. So where do I buy it?
Go to stores such as cash converters, pawn shops or antique warehouses. They will all have a jewellery section under glass, usually at the front of the store where you can admire all the pieces. It's the same as a jewellery store, you pick what you like, ask to have a closer look and try it on then purchase it if you want to. Because these are old pieces of jewellery some rings may or may not fit you as they were made for someone else. The price of pieces in any of these stores will usually be less than buying them from a known jewellery brand. Although prices vary depending on what precious metal is used, gold costs more than silver and platinum more than gold. Precious stones also affect the cost. Most second hand jewellery will be set with sapphires, garnets, rubies, diamonds, pearls or opals, each varying in price. When choosing your piece of jewellery you can factor these in and pick pieces that are within your own budget. If you're looking at a lower budget, don't choose a ring that has more than one metal and multiple stones.
Cheap, knock off jewellery stores are in abundance and they completely strip the sentimentality of buying a piece of jewellery. Back in the day a special piece of jewellery perfectly completed an outfit for a rare occasion. Not to mention knock offs are usually made of plastic which is not ideal. Adult jewellery does not have safety regulations that have to be tested for so they contain harmful chemicals such as lead, chromium and nickel which causes allergic reactions.
Our fast fashion mentality has caused and allowed for jewellery to be made at such a large scale that we no longer really value it. It's no longer about appreciating a piece of jewelry and having that same piece passed down for generations to come. We as consumers need to return to the importance of craftsmanship, sentimentality, history and the precious metal or stone if we want to wear sustainable jewellery.
So next time you're in the market for a new piece of jewellry, consider who made it, who's already worn it, and how it was made. There are jewellers that use recycled metals and create amazing one off pieces. Buy second hand or even ask your mum or nan, They probably have some amazing pieces just waiting to be worn again.
Coco Clark is a film graduate who loves watching and making documentaries. She's passionate about the environment and on a hot day she spends her time at the beach. In her spare time you can find her searching for unique second hand gold jewellery and cleaning like Monica from "Friends". See more of her work here.
WE ARE WOMEN AND GIRLS FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE PLANET BUILDING A LIFESTYLE REVOLUTION TO FIGHT THE CLIMATE CRISIS, WILL YOU JOIN THE MOVEMENT?