The Thoughtful Bride: Rings
Engagement rings and wedding bands are longstanding, beautiful symbols of unity and fidelity. With a growing international awareness about the social, political and environmental issues surrounding the mining and trade of diamonds and precious metals like gold and silver, many engaged couples want to ensure that the symbols of their commitment are ethically and environmentally produced. Luckily, there are many great ring options for brides and grooms!
For those who love the tradition of exchanging golden rings, Fairtrade International started an initiative a few years ago to certify gold as fair trade under the label of “Fairtrade Gold”. Most gold is mined through small-scale or artisanal miners in developing countries. Often these miners face exploitation and poor working/environmental conditions. Fairtrade* certified gold means that no child labor is used, women’s rights are respected, and that that workers are given fair wages as well as a seat at the bargaining table. Miners also have improved working conditions, and harmful chemicals used in the mining process are managed responsibly and phased out where possible. Fair Trade Jewellery Company*, FTJCo, in Canada is one of the first North American companies to use certified Fairtrade Gold. They also offer Fairtrade Silver and Fairmined Gold, which is another certification through the Alliance for Responsible Mining.
Many ethical couples are also choosing to buy certified conflict-free diamonds particularly those from Canada and Namibia. Companies like Brilliant Earth have a great collection of classic and vintage inspired designs to go with their selection of ethically sourced diamonds and metals. Brilliant Earth also offers a wonderful selection of antique rings, which are perfect for couples who love vintage design! Designers like McFarland Designs also use ethically sourced gems, which are mined domestically in the US.
One of the easiest ways to create an eco ring is to use antique gems, vintage diamonds and to repurpose/recycle precious metals. Philadelphia-based Bario-Neal and New York-based Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry are two wonderful jewelers who specialize in environmentally friendly fine jewelry. For an added personal touch many companies allow you to recycle your own gold from old jewelry like rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. Most jewelers are more than happy to design a custom ring, referred to as “bespoken jewelry”, to fit your own personal style so be sure to ask your jeweler about the types of design services they provide. Although this can be a little more expensive, it’s a great option for couples who want something unique.
Lastly, for more non-traditional, earthy and eclectic couples there are companies like Simply Wood Rings that create beautiful rings from reclaimed woods.
Regardless of the type of engagement ring and wedding bands you choose, be sure to do your homework first. It’s really important to know what you’re looking for; do you want gold or platinum? Do you want a diamond? What cut of diamond do you like? And beyond just the aesthetics make sure that you take the time to get educated about companies before you buy. Read customer reviews on jewelers, look into their policies, and lastly ask about how they certify their diamonds and where they source their materials.
For more information and for my more complete ring guide visit: In Tandem Fair Trade Weddings.
Notes: *The British and former colonies like Canada often use “fairtrade” whereas the United States spells it “fair trade.” British English also tends to use “jewellery” rather than “jewelry.”