How to Purchase Sustainable Jewellery
How buying jewellery can be one of the most lasting and environmentally-conscious investments you make.
Participate in the Re-Sale Market
Just as the re-sale and consignment market for high-end clothing and accessories has skyrocketed in recent years, the estate, vintage and antique jewellery market has also become massively popular, and much more accessible than in the past. Auction houses, estate sales, antique dealers and retailers which specialize in vintage and antique jewels (such as Katherine James Jewellery) are all excellent places to begin your journey on the hunt for re-sale pieces.
Purchasing a pre-existing piece of jewellery and giving it a new life, rather than sourcing a new-to-market item from a high-street retailer, is one of the most sustainable approaches you can take to purchasing jewellery. Just remember that when acquiring older pieces, it’s wise to have a jeweller double check the settings to ensure any prongs or other components are safe for everyday wear, as well as complete any necessary repairs beforehand, to ensure you don’t lose any precious stones (we always recommend insuring your jewels, as well.) As a rule of thumb, know that “antique” pieces are at least 100 years old, “retro” is generally used for mid-century design pieces (1940-1960), “vintage” items are generally 20-50 years old, and “estate” jewellery refers to anything that has been preowned.
Re-Use a Gemstone You Already Own or Acquire
Just like inheriting a fur coat from your grandmother or rescuing one from a vintage shop, re-using family Diamonds and other coloured gemstones from rings, brooches, earrings and other jewels, which perhaps are no longer being worn, is the ideal way to ensure they continue their life in a meaningful and environmentally-conscious way.
If you’re not lucky enough to inherit a piece, you can also shop the re-sale market for gemstones rather than specific pieces of jewellery. For example, while an Edwardian Toi et Moi ring or retro cocktail ring may not exactly be your style or what you’re looking for in an engagement ring, they may feature a stunning Sapphire or Old Cut Diamond you can have re-set in a piece you design yourself. Re-setting Mum’s ring as well as other gemstones, which have already entered the market, in a new piece which perfectly reflects your personal taste is the ideal way to create a new, yet sustainable treasure which you can continue to pass down for generations to come.
Invest in Everlasting Heirlooms
Synthetic, man-made and lab-grown gems, are all terms which are used for gemstones, including Diamonds, which are manufactured in a factory to have the same chemical composition and structure as natural gems. While they have gained in popularity in part for avoiding the strain of being traditionally mined, they still take part in mass-production, which is often what makes them available at such competitive price points.
When it comes to natural, coloured gemstones, it’s estimated that 80% of gems are mined in independent and small-scale operations. This is largely due to the nature of how they are formed. For example, Rubies and Sapphires are often found in easier-to-source alluvial deposits such as beaches and riverbeds, which don’t require hard-rock mining. Since Diamonds can only be formed in the high-pressure environment of deep within the Earth’s crust, they do require large, industrial operations due to the immense scale of work that is required to bring them to the Earth’s surface. While it’s true that mass industry is involved, it is these standards which have also greatly improved the process of tracking each and every Diamond that takes part in the process. Now, all mined Diamonds can be tracked from their conflict-free place of origin, to wherever they arrive, ready to be set in a piece of jewellery. This tracking process, which is referred to as the Kimberly Process, can provide the peace of mind that purchasing any natural Diamond can be done in an ethical and responsible way.
Just like the invention of culturing Pearls made the value of natural Pearls skyrocket, Earth-grown gemstones are a rare, finite resource, which provide the magic of owning something utterly spectacular, which has been formed naturally by the Earth over billions of years. Unlike most pieces of designer clothing or many other luxury purchases, the beauty of gemstones is that their rarity and value as hard assets are practically guaranteed to hold their value over time, essentially making them infinitely recyclable. Natural gems will undoubtedly continue to rise in value and prestige, especially in the face of more plentiful and less expensive synthetics which will become more and more commonplace.
Most importantly, with any natural Diamond or coloured gem which exists on the market, they’re best put to use in a meaningful piece of jewellery which will stand the test of time and become heirlooms (and investments) which will be kept, treasured and passed on for generations to come. Their everlasting nature truly makes them one of the most sustainable items on Earth.