Zero Waste, Ethical Engagement Rings

As most of you know, I am engaged! I am so excited to start the wedding planning process. After I announced the engagement, I received several emails asking about engagement rings. 


There's a pretty high environmental and human rights cost with diamonds and gold. I think everyone is pretty familiar with the concept of conflict diamonds. 

But, did you know that a single wedding ring produces 20 tons of waste?

Mining for precious metals leaves behind toxic waste that often winds up in the ocean.

Gold mines use 182,000 tons of cyanide each year to separate the gold from the stone. This contaminates the groundwater and results in a significant loss of land. The land is stripped-mined destroying it forever.

The cyanide, poisons the ground water, killing fish and making water undrinkable or usable for irrigation. In Indonesia, they just dump the toxic waste water into the ocean.

You can read more about the problems with mining for precious metals here

So, if diamonds, gems, and precious metals present problems - how can you make better choices? 

Thankfully, the second-hand market is RICH with options. Tons of options! 

Justin and I started looking for rings at the beginning of the year. For me, the most important aspect of the ring: second hand and inexpensive.

I cannot fathom spending $1000 or more on a ring. I would much rather go on an awesome vacation! Nor can I imagine purchasing something with an up waste stream of 20 tons!

Justin surprised me with the ring, but we did go out and explore all the cool places to buy vintage rings. Here's what we found.

pawn shop:

The local pawn shop is actually where my ring came from! I had never been to a pawn shop before, and it was amazing. It looked just like a jewelry store. They had so much to offer. Tons of glass counters, mirrors, and attendants to let you try anything on.

They had an awesome selection of modern engagement rings and vintage rings. I've always been drawn to vintage and untraditional stones, but it was nice to see a large selection of both.  

antique stores:

If you love vintage rings, you have to go to an antique store. They typically have a glass counter by the register where they keep both costume and real jewelry. I had more difficulty tracking down help in the antique stores we visited, but they had some very unique rings. 

Lots of amazing cocktail rings. Some of my favorites were amethyst and amber, but they were a little too fun for my taste. I like to keep things pretty simple, but they were pretty to look at. 


Etsy is a great option. They have a lot of vintage and antique jewelry, but there's also a lot of really talented artists that make rings. You can chat with the creator about the metal and gems and really get to know the process. 

Getting involved is always a great way to know your consumption and make an informed choice. Being an informed consumer is the most powerful thing you can do! 


eBay has been the ideal second-hand marketplace since it's emergence in the late 90's. However, I would be pretty skeptical of high-end jewelry unless it was coming from a very reliable source with great feedback. 


Did you know a lot of jewelry stores have a "pre-loved" section? The jewelry has been cleaned and inspected by a jeweler and is sold around 50% off the original price. My mom has found some fabulous deals on estate jewelry in our towns jewelry store back home. 

ethical companies: 

If you can't find something that you're looking for second hand, then look for an ethical and sustainable company. A lot of new companies even used recycled metal! I'm also really interested in these smog diamonds

But, some of my favorite ethical companies are: Fair Trade Jewellery Co., Melissa Joy Manning, Bario-Neal, and Trumpet and Horn.

They make some truly beautiful pieces for all budgets too. 

Have you ever bought vintage or second-hand jewelry? Do you have any favorite ethical companies?