A Guide To Sustainable Jewellery

While the focus on fair fashion grows, what about sustainable jewellery? For me, a perfect piece of jewellery is made from fairly-sourced or recycled materials, and tells an ethical story alongside the sentimental one that’s personal to me. No matter the value of the piece, I want it to be made with love, care, and joy.

To give you all the tools to source the best sustainable jewellery, I’ve put together this ethical shopping guide to jewellery, covering gold, silver, platinum, diamonds and gemstones.

To better inform this guide, I’ve also spoken a number of ethical jewellers. This includes fine jewellers Ingle & Rhode, Lindsay Forbes of Laconic Fine Jewellery, and Francesca Kippax of Anuka Jewellery, to share their leading practices in creating ethical jewellery that will last a lifetime.

What To Look For In Sustainable Jewellery

Just like ethical fashion, ethical jewellery covers a lot of different aspects. Here’s a guide to what to look for and best practice across the jewellery industry:

1. Ethical Sourcing

The first thing to look at when buying jewellery is where the raw materials were sourced from. Gold and diamonds are mined around the world, but the mining conditions – and the miners’ pay – varies from place to place.

Ingle & Rhode chooses to use Fairtrade gold and conflict-free diamonds sourced from Canada, where they are mined under strict regulations imposed by the local government. Both of these materials guarantee fair, adult labour from independent organisations, which is really going the extra mile.

There’s also the social and environmental effects to consider: mining can involve the use of harsh chemicals, and a single wedding ring produces around 20 tons of waste before it reaches your finger (!) Due to the value of the materials, gold and diamonds can also create conflict, violence, and corruption.

By choosing a jeweller that works with Fairtrade Foundation and conflict-free mining organisations, this can be avoided, and funds a better way of sourcing jewellery.

For other precious metals and gemstones, there are a number of other considerations to make. For example, certain gemstones are softer than others, so some are more suited to occasional wear rather than everyday. However, as a general rule for ethical sourcing, I’d recommend looking for fairmined precious metals, or recycled materials.

What About Lab-Grown Diamonds?

I asked the same question back in 2019, and personally, I’m sold on lab-grown diamonds! While there are question marks over the environmental impact of lab-grown diamonds, the argument for better social impact outweighs it. I’d rather have a traceable, manufactured diamond over one that could have caused human and environmental harm. Read my guide to lab-grown diamonds →

2. Traceability And Transparency

In order to make sure jewellery comes from a good place, we also need transparency and traceability.

Many jewellers rely on a system called the Kimberley Process, which was created to prevent the purchasing of conflict diamonds. Unfortunately, this system isn’t 100% guaranteed, so while it’s a good start, it’s not perfect.

Ingle & Rhode prefer to use ethical, fully traceable diamonds, and you follow these back to their mine of origin. They have also found ethical sources for coloured gemstones – often working with small-scale mining cooperatives where the wealth generated by mining is directly retained by the local communities.

3. Fair And Professional Jewellery Makers

So, we’ve covered sourcing and the transparency around it. What about the people who make our jewellery?

Just like garment workers, jewellers are more likely to experience fair pay and good working conditions in highly developed countries. Brands like Yala Jewellery (sadly now defunct) work openly with jewellery makers and a women’s cooperative in Kenya to create their beaded and semi-precious jewellery. As with fashion brands, my recommendation is to look for transparency. If a brand is proud of the way it works with its makers, they’ll be sure to show it!

4. True Aftercare

Finally, how is the customer treated? I think this is a step that is often overlooked, even in ethical fashion. As customers we should be informed when making a purchase, but also treated well, even after we’ve made a purchase!

Ingle & Rhode provide personalised expertise and advice when you shop with them, so you can ask all the right questions before purchasing one of their fine engagement rings, or wedding or eternity rings. I think this is especially important when buying such a meaningful piece of jewellery – I would want my love story to be tied to a ring made with love and care!

They also provide their own I&R Warranty, meaning their pieces are of exceptional quality and you’re guaranteed to be satisfied with yours.

And don’t forget jewellery care! Here’s my guide to cleaning silver jewellery, as well as my more general guide to looking after my clothes and accessories.

My Sustainable Jewellery Collection

While I’m not big into the idea of marriage, I do like jewellery and have my own carefully curated collection of ethical jewellery!

My most meaningful piece: When I was 18, my parents gifted me a handmade chain necklace made from gold. On the chain hangs a gold key, a symbol of freedom, curiosity, and an echo of my mum’s own key necklace that she was given on her 18th.

My most worn jewellery: By far, I have worn my Little Chubbies by Monarc Jewellery the most. These beautifully made gold hoop earrings are chunky enough to work on their own, while being lightweight enough to not pull on my ears when wearing across an entire day. I’ve been wearing these almost daily for years now, and touted them as one of my best investment pieces back in 2021.

My current favourite piece: For my birthday this year I received a beautiful Pisces Necklace (gifted) from Wild Fawn Jewellery’s new Zodiac Collection. I’ve been a fan of Wild Fawn since 2017, after discovering them on Etsy, and since then I’ve been so happy to see the brand blossom into a London jewellery powerhouse. In 2020, they were kind enough to shine a spotlight on my work in their interview series, and I just hope to see them continue going from strength to strength!

19 of the Best Sustainable Jewellery Brands in the UK

So, you should now know what to look for when buying ethical jewellery. To go one step further, here’s a list of my favourite brands spanning different styles and prices, updated for 2024.

Anuka Jewellery: Recycled silver and fair-mined gold handmade jewellery.

Fenton: B-Corp certified jeweller specialising in responsible rings.

Gardens of the Sun: Mercury-free gold or recycled sterling silver, with gemstones and diamonds from known origin.

Jana Reinhardt: Wife and husband duo hand-making ethical gold and silver jewellery inspired by wildlife.

Just Trade: Budget-friendly handmade jewellery and accessories by makers in Peru, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Kimai: Lab-grown diamonds and 18k recycled gold fine jewellery specialists.

Laconic: Ethical, empowered minimalist jewellery handmade in the UK.

Lark & Berry*: Jewellery made with lab-grown diamonds, guaranteed conflict-free.

Little by Little: Recycled and sustainably-made jewellery inspired by nature. Get 10% off: BESMA10

Loft & Daughter: Certified B-Corp jewellery brand fusing traditional and contemporary designs.

Maren: B-Corp certified German jewellery brand now available in the UK!

Monarc Jewellery: Opulent gold and silver rings, necklaces, and earrings, handmade in the UK and New Zealand.

Monica Vinader*: Chic designs made with 100% recycled gold and silver. Get 20% off using my link!

Otiumberg: Minimalist jewellery at mid-range prices, always styled beautifully.

Sacet: Fine lab grown diamond jewellery, consciously crafted.

Shakti Ellenwood: B-Corp certified jewellery brand making ethical engagement and wedding rings.

So Just Shop: London-based shop stocking ethically-made, budget-friendly jewellery.

Wild Fawn: Minimalist jewellery created from recycled silver and gold, built to last.

Vrai: Beautiful jewellery featuring diamonds created with renewable energy.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links (denoted '*') and gifted items (denoted 'gifted').

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