Put an (Ethical) Ring On It

Old Habit:

Buying and wearing engagement rings
without knowing where they come from.

Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed gives me all kinds of feels, but there’s one specific thing that makes me gasp every time: The adorable picture of a happy couple, with a hand reaching out towards the camera showing off their stunning symbol of love - a ring.

The culture of giving engagement rings as a symbol of marriage has existed since the diamond ring trend sparked among European aristocracy in the 15th century. Fast forward to the late 1940s, De Beers, a leading diamond jewelry company, launched their slogan “A Diamond is Forever”.  Since then, receiving a diamond ring has become an expected move come time a couple gets engaged. It has become not only a symbol of love, but also a representation of status and wealth.

For many of us, there’s no question a ring will be or have been bought in our future or present engagements. While it’s easy to focus only on aesthetic and value, it’s important to stop and think about where these diamonds come from. As consumers, we can love a nice shiny rock, but rarely are we educated or given transparency to where our jewelry comes from.

 

Why This Matters

You may have heard of the Leonardo Dicaprio movie, Blood Diamond.  Unfortunately, the movie was inspired by the reality of the diamond industry in Africa. Blood diamonds are alive and well. Also known as conflict diamonds, blood diamonds are illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas - specifically in central and western Africa. The ‘blood’ in blood diamonds symbolizes blood spilled as a result of conflicts funded by the mining and smuggling of diamonds. In 2000, the global diamond industry, alongside the United Nations and several NGOs created the Kimberley Process Certification System. This certification guards against conflict diamonds entering the diamond supply chain.  While this initiative was a step forward in protecting the ethics of the diamond industry, it only rendered conflict diamonds as “gemstones sold to fund a rebel movement attempting to overthrow the state”, but nothing else. The Kimberly Process didn’t address unfair labor practices and human rights abuses as they don’t qualify as conflict. According to a 2014 UN report, 140,000 carats of conflict diamonds were smuggled out of the war-torn Central African Republic. Not every diamond you see may be a blood diamond, but it’s hard to pinpoint where the diamonds come from if companies aren’t transparent with their sources.

 

New Habit: Shop ethical rings - they shine the brightest.

A loving fiance once said this about the ring he bought for his bride-to-be: “I don’t want a symbol of our union to also be associated with chaos and controversy and pain.” There are many ways to be good stewards when searching for the perfect ring. The best way right now is to seek trusted jewelry companies that value and guarantee conflict-free diamonds:

Brilliant Earth has made their stamp on the diamond industry by being a leading conflict-free jewelry company. They are committed to protecting human rights, improving livelihoods through fair trade principles, empower communities by promoting long term economic development, protect local ecosystems, and make sure to keep all of their diamond origins transparent through the supply chain. Not to mention, their rings are gorgeous.

Fair Trade Jewelry Co. is a BCorp committed to doing business ethically to positively impact the world around them. They are transparent with their extraction of diamonds, basing their diamond sources in Canada. They also sell vintage Canadian diamonds that are certified as 100% post-consumer by Scientific Certification Systems.

Blue Nile guarantees that all diamonds they sell are ethically sourced and conflict free. They’ve committed to observing and holding high ethical standards for themselves and their partners.

Written by Gracie Leung