Some good friends of mine got engaged recently, and it got me thinking about the environmental impact of proposing. I know…I’m such an old romantic! 😁
When planning your wedding, the last thing you want to worry about is the eco-consequences of your choices.
But did you know that many traditional wedding practices (including wedding jewelry) can harm the planet?
That’s where eco-friendly engagement rings come in. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also have a minimal environmental impact.
But, what makes an engagement ring eco-friendly? How are they made? How do they differ from standard engagement rings?
In this article, I’ll answer your questions and show you some of my favorite sustainable options.
They Say: Noémie pieces are made with a family-owned production house that has over 40 years of fine jewelry expertise. Our diamonds are purchased from conflict-free sources who enforce the standards established by the Kimberly Process and are in compliance with all applicable UN resolutions.
We Say: If you’re looking for a natural diamond engagement ring that is beautiful and ethically sourced, then the Noémie Solitaire Ring is a great choice.
This ring really caught my eye. It’s made with an 18-karat white gold band and features a stunning one-carat diamond.
However, there are so many combinations of metal, setting, diamond shape, etc., that you’re sure to find a sustainable engagement ring that's perfect for you.
Want something a little different? With the help of the skilled Noémie design team, you can use the free custom design service to create the perfect ring for your loved one!
Every Noémie piece comes with a lifetime warranty, and free returns (with a full refund) are available if you’re not 100% happy.
They Say: Our Three Stone lab-grown engagement ring features two exquisite side stones that enhance the brilliance of the VRAI created center diamond, telling the past, present, and future tale of your relationship. With secure, contoured cusps and a signature low-set sling, this setting lets your story shine.
We Say: I’m a big fan of VRAI and their eco-friendly lab-grown diamonds and sustainable precious metals. I recommended them in my eco-friendly jewelry article, and they’ve made the cut again in this article.
Their three-stone engagement rings are a beautiful and unique take on the classic solitaire. The two side stones are stunning and make the center diamond pop.
All VRAI diamonds are grown in a Los Angeles lab, meaning they are conflict-free. The company uses cutting-edge technology and sustainably sourced materials to grow its diamonds so that you can feel good about your purchase.
VRAI offers a lifetime warranty and free shipping, so you can be sure your ring will last a lifetime. If anything happens to the ring, they’ll repair or replace it for free.
Etsy is one of my favorite zero waste online stores. You pluck almost any category out of the air, and Etsy will present you with a host of artisan producers and eco-friendly options.
It’s especially well known for its range of vintage jewelry. So, where better to look for vintage engagement rings?
Etsy has a great selection of vintage and antique engagement rings that are eco-friendly and sustainable. Many of these rings are made with recycled metals and conflict-free diamonds.
Even vintage rings with a less than clean history can sort of be classed as eco-friendly. This is because buying a vintage ring means a new one doesn’t need to be made. Saving precious natural resources.
If you are looking for beautiful and sustainable engagement rings, then Etsy is a great place to start your search.
My two favorite vintage engagement rings currently on Etsy are:
They Say: Vintage. Size: 5 3/4 US. Materials: Gold, White gold. Gemstone: Diamond. Gem color: Colorless. Band color: Yellow. 18K yellow gold band with a white gold setting. The diamond is VS1 clarity and J color and has GIA certificate #6193908067.
We Say: Yes. You read that right. $45,000! 😱
However, if you have the budget and are looking for unique vintage engagement rings that will be an instant family heirloom, then look no further. This is a rock of a natural diamond in a classic setting.
Shipping is free in the U.S., and Etsy will offset the carbon emissions from the packaging and shipping impact of this item.
They Say: Stunning Vintage 9ct Yellow Gold Diamond Ring. It features tiny little diamonds throughout the design, and it does have some white gold under where the stone is. Looks very Art Deco. Would make a lovely engagement ring. Really beautiful. Very good vintage condition. Ring Size: UK M or US Size 6. Diameter: 16mm. Band Width: 2mm. Weight: 1.5g.
We Say: I wanted to highlight the vast range of options available on Etsy.
From the $45,000 rock mentioned above to this sweet little piece and everything in between, there’s sure to be something on Etsy your loved one will love!
This ring is currently in the UK, so shipping to the U.S. will cost around $12.
I wouldn’t usually recommend items that need international shipping.
However, because Etsy offset the carbon emissions from the packaging and shipping impact of this item, it means there is no net environmental impact getting this ring delivered to the U.S.
The De Beers Corporation is one of the largest diamond mining companies in the world.
To extract diamonds from the earth, De Beers uses a process known as open-pit mining. This involves vast machines excavating the land and displacing a large amount of soil and rocks.
On average, 250 tonnes are displaced to mine just one carat of diamond.
Diamond mining pollutes local water sources.
The vast machines used to excavate the land release harmful chemicals and toxins into local waterways.
These chemicals can then contaminate the water supply, which has a devastating effect on local wildlife and communities.
Air pollution is also an issue around diamond mines.
This is because moving vast amounts of earth releases dust and other particles into the air.
These particles can then be breathed in by local communities, which can cause various health problems.
The process of diamond mining also emits a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The exhaust fumes from the large machines used in the mining process release harmful gasses and chemicals into the air.
These gasses trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Another issue with diamond mining is the poor working conditions of those employed.
Many workers are paid very little and must work long hours in dangerous conditions. They also often come in contact with toxic gasses and chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.
It’s estimated that around one million children are employed in the diamond mining industry worldwide.
Blood diamonds (also known as conflict diamonds) are diamonds that are mined in areas controlled by rebel groups.
These groups use the money they make from selling the diamonds to fund their war efforts. The blood diamond industry is indirectly responsible for a lot of death and destruction.
The term "blood diamond" was popularized by the 2006 film of the same name, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. The film tells the story of a diamond miner in Sierra Leone who is forced to work for a rebel group. It’s a powerful film that brings home the reality of blood diamonds.
If you’re thinking about buying a diamond, do your research to ensure it’s not a blood diamond. You can ask your jeweler where the diamond came from, and they should be able to tell you.
You can also look for diamonds that have been certified by the Kimberley Process.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the negative impacts of diamond mining let’s examine why lab-grown diamonds are a more sustainable option.
Lab-grown diamonds are created in a laboratory using cutting-edge technology. The process involves taking a small sample of carbon and subjecting it to high temperatures and pressures.
This replicates the conditions found deep within the earth, where natural diamonds are formed.
The main difference is that lab-grown diamonds are created in a controlled environment, so there is no need to mine them from the earth.
As a result, lab-grown diamonds have a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional diamonds.
Lab-grown diamonds are also ethically produced, as they don’t rely on child labor or poor working conditions.
Lab-grown diamonds undergo the same grading process as a mined diamond (cut, clarity, color, and carat). These are often referred to as the 4Cs)
You should avoid any rings made with environmentally harmful materials like gold mined in rainforest regions or diamonds sourced from war-torn countries.
Instead, opt for sustainable materials like recycled gold or lab-grown diamonds.
Not all jewelry companies have ethical business practices, so it’s essential to do your research before making a purchase.
Ensure the company you’re buying from pays their workers a fair wage, doesn’t use child labor, and is transparent about where they source their materials.
In addition to ethical business practices, you’ll also want to ensure the company you’re buying from has eco-friendly business practices across its entire supply chain.
This includes things like using recycled materials, investing in renewable energy, and offsetting their carbon footprint.
Many eco-friendly jewelry companies also give back to the environment or social causes.
Buying from a company that donates to charitable organizations is a great way to support sustainable initiatives.
Buying ethical engagement rings certificated by well-known and respected bodies can give you extra peace of mind that you’re getting a sustainable product.
Some to look out for include:
You might also want to consider the design of the ring.
A lot of ethical engagement rings are made with simple, minimalist designs. This is because it uses fewer materials and doesn’t require as much energy to produce.
Sustainable engagement rings can sometimes be more expensive than traditional ones due to the cost of sustainable materials.
However, there are also a lot of ethical engagement rings available at more affordable price points (especially if you go for lab-grown diamond or vintage options).
Conflict-free diamonds are those that have been mined and sourced ethically.
Unfortunately, some diamonds on the market today still come from conflict zones where human rights abuses and environmental destruction are rampant, and the proceeds are used to fund wars.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) outlines the rules that govern the trade in rough diamonds.
The KPCS has developed a set of minimum requirements that each participant must meet.
It does not fully guarantee that the diamond in your ring is conflict-free. However, Kimberley Process participants actively prevent 99.80% of the worldwide trade in conflict diamonds, so there’s a good chance it will be.
No, you cannot distinguish between a lab-grown diamond and a mined one with the naked eye. They are physically and chemically identical.
The only way to tell them apart is with specialized equipment that can detect the small impurities in natural diamonds.
A lab-grown diamond from a reputable company using sustainable materials and renewable energy is the most ethical option.
VRAI, for example, has a firm commitment to sustainability.
There are many options for those who want to avoid diamonds altogether. You could choose a different stone, like a sapphire or emerald.
Or you could opt for a stoneless ring made from sustainable materials like recycled gold or silver.
You could even break tradition altogether and propose with a lovely sustainable necklace or other piece of eco-friendly jewelry, for example.
Moissanite is a lab-grown stone that is physically and chemically similar to diamond. However, it’s not as widely accepted as a diamond substitute and does not hold the same value.
So while it may be more ethical, it’s not necessarily a better choice for a piece of jewelry as special as an engagement ring.
To remove dirt and grime, simply soak your ring in a bowl of warm water with mild eco-friendly dish soap. Use a soft brush to gently scrub the diamond, then rinse it clean.
So there you have it, my top recommendations for ethical engagement rings. I hope this article has given you some food for thought and that you find the perfect ring for your sustainable spouse.
I do need to come clean about something, though.
Due to the expensive nature of ethically sourced engagement rings, this is one of the few review articles I’ve written where I didn’t get to do a hands-on test of the recommended products.
However, I’ve still done all the research for you, and I feel my recommendations offer a broad cross-section of what’s currently available in the world of ethical engagement rings.
Where are you planning on buying your ethical engagement rings and fair trade gold wedding rings?
Are you happy ordering online, or do you need to visit a store and see the wedding bands in person? Would you only consider conflict-free engagement rings with lab-created diamonds, or are you more of a lover of vintage rings? Drop me a line and let me know.