What is Ethical Jewellery and how to buy it in India?

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Author – Leo Clarke

Photo by Kyle Frederick on Unsplash

Do you think about where your jewellery comes from?

Many people buy jewellery with little thought about its original source. Who made the jewellery, and where did they find the materials that were used to make it?

A lot of jewellery comes with a worrying past, which is why it’s essential to understand the importance of ethical jewellery.

What is ethical jewellery?

Ethical jewellery is made without damage to the environment or to people. When you buy ethical jewellery, you can feel confident that your purchase doesn’t have a negative impact. Ethical jewelry is made from materials that have been sourced sustainably and ethically; produced using methods that don’t do damage or cause any harm.

When might jewellery not be ethical?

Jewellery is often made using precious stones and metals. Understandably, people will do unethical things to get their hands on these valuable items. Diamond mines are often constructed with great damage to natural habitats and neighbouring communities, and end up being staffed by underpaid workers that are put at risk by their jobs. In some cases, child labour is still a feature of diamond mining.

Local communities may not see any return for these expensive gemstones being dug up next to their homes. Money doesn’t flow back to the community, with many people still living in poverty. Water supplies are often contaminated by mining, and craters up to 1,750 feet wide and 1,000 feet deep dot the landscape. Conflict diamonds are another issue. Here, the money from the sale of diamonds has been used to fund war and corruption. For instance, the majority of the funds for Sierra Leone’s civil war came from the sale of diamonds.

How can you source ethical jewellery in India?

Diamond mining started in ancient India, and it’s here that you’ll find many opportunities to buy jewellery from questionable sources. Many jewellers in India are based in unorganised markets or more run-down areas, and while many of these will be reputable, it can be hard to trace the true history of the items for sale, and so it may be best to avoid these stores and stalls. 

Instead, head to any of the major gold retail chains in the country, which have stores in many cities. You are generally more sure of a safer purchase here, and you can do your research online to make sure that the pieces you want to buy are ethically sourced.

Examples of ethical jewellery brands

  • Daughters of the Ganges sell ethically created, handcrafted jewellery from India. They follow Fair Trade principles in order to support their artisan communities, providing them with training, stable incomes and self-sufficiency, and offering after-school programmes for their children.
  • With Love Darling make their jewellery in Canada and ship it internationally, including to India. They adhere to the UN’s Global Goals, a list of 17 goals that would improve the world by 2030, including ending poverty, hunger, climate change and inequality, and fighting for human rights and sustainability.
  • 64Facets are a luxury, ethical fine jewellery brand. They use conflict-free rough diamonds sourced from their ethical partners, then cut them to maintain the beauty of each unique gemstone. All their workers are paid fair wages, too.

It’s best to take some purchase precautions:

  • Do your research Find out more about the jeweller that you’re planning to buy from. Ask if they understand the origins of the jewellery they’re selling, and try to look for jewellers that openly discuss how they source their jewellery material from sustainable mining. Avoid smaller stalls, and stick to India’s main chains.
  • Buy second-hand – Consider buying second-hand jewellery. That way, you’re not having a direct impact on the diamond industry. Most Indian jewellers will have a second-hand selection.
  • Buy recycled diamonds – Look into recycled diamonds. These may have been removed from older jewellery, to be given a new lease of life.
  • Choose artificial diamonds – Seek out artificial diamonds (also known as synthetic diamonds). These diamonds are man-made, copying natural processes through the use of extreme heat and pressure. These are sustainable and don’t cause environmental damage.
  • Avoid diamonds from certain areas – If you’re buying diamond jewellery, do your best to avoid diamonds that have been mined in Zimbabwe, Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is a good chance that your purchase will fund and support unethical action. Diamonds from Canada, Namibia and Australia are safer options. You can also choose to buy from Sierra Leone, where stringent rules have improved a situation that once was extremely negative. Most major chain jewellers will be able to tell you where diamonds were sourced.
  • Avoid diamonds completely – Diamonds are some of the most difficult challenges when you’re searching for ethical jewellery. If you’re unsure, avoid them completely. If you’re buying gold jewellery, look for Fairtrade gold to ensure that the producers are getting their fair share of the profits that are made. If you’re buying other gemstones, look for lab-grown stones or those with a traceable supply chain. Often, it’s much easier to be sure of jewellery being ethical once you take away the diamonds that cause issues.

Why buy ethical jewellery?

When you’re careful to purchase ethical jewellery, you’re doing your bit for the planet and its people. You’re ensuring that your purchase decisions don’t destroy towns and villages, devastate communities, ruin the environment or even fund wars.

Buying ethical jewellery, and tracing it back to its source, is often much more difficult. It’s easier to walk into any jewellery store in India, and buy whatever they’re selling. But your conscience may tell you that the extra effort is worth it.

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