ADVICE - 5 Considerations When Choosing an Ethical Engagement Ring

6th March 2019

Ethical engagement ring proposal photo

Choosing an engagement ring is one of the most significant decisions that you'll make in your life, and ensuring it's an ethical purchase can make it even more special. In this article, Paul Mentessi, gemologist at Est.1897, explores the key considerations when sourcing an ethical piece.

Over the past few years, we've seen more and more people begin to make purchasing decisions that are influenced by ethical reasons. Between 2016 and 2017, spending on ethical fashion increased by almost 20% in the UK (Ethical Consumer) — this has extended to the jewellery market, too. And, with more millennial couples reaching the age where they want to settle down and get married, the demand for ethical engagement rings is reaching new heights.

If you're looking to propose to your significant other in the near future, you might also find yourself thinking about the ethics behind that special ring. But, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, there are a few considerations you can make to narrow down the field and find the ideal ethical engagement ring.

1. Choose a conflict-free diamond

Diamonds are the traditional stone of choice for an engagement ring, and they're by far and away the most popular choice. However, the mining industry for these beloved gems has been mired in controversy for many decades, giving birth to terms like "conflict diamond" and "blood diamond" due to issues like the exploitation of miners, damage to the environment, and the funding of wars.

Should you have your heart set on a diamond ring, you can make a more ethical choice by sourcing a stone that is "conflict-free", ensuring it has been mined and traded fairly. You'll need to work with a reputable jeweller to do so — they should be able to take you through the history of any diamond, including its exact origins and how it's been bought and sold. If they're not able to provide you with this information, you should think about using a different jeweller.

2. Swap a natural diamond for something man-made

Did you know that it's possible to manufacture diamonds in a laboratory? Using existing fragments, experts can create synthetic stones that are identical to the real thing down to the chemical level. This means that you can enjoy the sparkle of a gem while being completely confident that it hasn't caused ethical issues on its journey to your ring.

In addition, these lab-created diamonds can be made in a variety of sizes and colours, so no matter what style you need for your ring, you'll be able to get the ideal gem. What's more, there are even eco-friendly companies out there who manufacture their diamonds in a sustainable way using green power, so you can be sure it's left almost zero carbon footprint.

3. Explore other stone options

Ethical engagement ringIf you're willing to consider other types of stone to a diamond, there are plenty of gems out there that don't come with such moral implications. Firstly, there are simulated diamonds available that come without any ethical issues, as well as a much lower price point, without sacrificing looks and sparkle. Moissanite, cubic zirconia, and asha are just some of the popular stand-ins that offer their own take on that diamond look, so be sure to keep them in mind.

Should you be thinking about buying a ring with a coloured gem, such as an emerald, sapphire, or topaz, it's important to know that many of these mining trades are plagued by the same problems as the diamond industry. You should exercise the same caution as you would with a diamond when selecting a coloured stone from a reputable jeweller.

4. Look for Fairtrade gold certification

Alongside the troubled gemstone trades, the gold mining business is also fraught with human and environmental difficulties. However, unlike these other industries, it is possible to buy Fairtrade Certified Gold, which ensures that the miners are properly compensated and aren't exposed to dangerous working conditions, as well as helping ensure local sustainability. If you wish to buy a gold ring, looking for the Fairtrade certification mark is the best way forward.

5. Think about buying a pre-loved ring

Ethical engagement ringBefore you spend your money on a brand-new engagement ring, it's also worth remembering that there is a whole range of pre-loved rings to shop. Choosing one of these pieces means that you won't be supporting unjust or environmentally-harmful practices in any gemstone industry, as you are electing not to buy a stone that has not been mined recently. Instead, you'll be giving new purpose to a vintage gem.

Although there are a tonne of beautiful older rings out there, these styles do not always suit all tastes. That's why it's worth remembering that vintage stones can be removed from older rings and reset in a more up to date ring style. So, if you see a particularly beautiful gem in a pre-loved piece, why not consider getting it removed and switched to a newer style? 

Keep these five considerations in mind when you're choosing an ethical engagement ring and you'll be able to celebrate your love knowing there hasn't been a human or environmental cost.

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