Zero Waste, Ethical Engagement Rings
December 6, 2016 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on April 7, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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?
Congratulations! So exciting!
My engagement ring was a family heirloom passed down and my wedding band was from a pawn shop. My husband’s band originally belonged to my great-great grandfather. It made things much simpler.
I love that! I love heirloom pieces. 🙂
Congratulations on your engagement! Can you tell us the engagement story?
My wedding ring (a simple silver band) was the wedding band my mother wore for a while before her fingers outgrew it, so I was happy to use it for the emotional value. It wasn’t until years after I got married that I found out that the original way my parents obtained the ring was the a man walked into my father’s pizza shop one day, newly divorced, and exchanged him the wedding ring for a pizza! So this ring has passed through many hands, it turns out.
Thank you! Yes, I’d love to tell our story. I’m thinking about uploading it to youtube. THAT IS THE BEST STORY EVER. Seriously. You’re dad is awesome.
Bario-Neal is amazing! I got my ring from them and it was semi-custom. Their customer service was excellent and my non-diamond ring is so beautiful.
YES! Their stuff is drool worthy.
My engagement ring is also an antique. My husband and I found a vintage platinum engraved ring from the 1930s with a large aquamarine stone – his birth stone – which was absolutely perfect in my opinion. 8 years later, still going strong. Congratulations! Have the best time!!
I love that! That sounds so perfect. 🙂
Very interesting, in the back of my mind I had an idea but never realised. I cannot even imagine how much waste to find and make a diamond!
There are several different ways to mine for diamonds, pit mining is bad, but the ecological impact of diamonds is now where near as bad as precious metals…. We have diamond mines in AR. In fact, you can pay an entrance fee of like $10 and go dig for diamonds. It’s just a giant dirt lot you dig in. It’s a lot of fun and if you find a diamond, you get to keep it. In fact, the three largest diamonds ever found in North America came from Arkansas. (just useless trivia I find cool 😉
Great article! Something that I was really conscious about was the value chain on diamonds and gem stones. The reality is that no certification can ever guarantee they are conflict free. I felt more comfortable going moissanite – Etsy shop MinimalVS apadted one of their design for us and I was super happy with it!
That’s awesome! I hadn’t really heard of moissanite before. But, that’s so coo!
My husband proposed with a lab-made diamond (made in Austin, so local to us – hooray!) which was fitting since we’re both engineers. I love heirloom rings just as much, as each one has an interesting story.
I love that!
Another great one is BrilliantEarth, you can design your own ring or pick from predesigned ones! And all the gold, silver etc. is recycled and the diamonds are mined in an environmentally way and with ethical labour!
Or if you want to be SUPER eco friendly they also have lab diamonds which look the exact same and are really diamonds they are just compressed in a lab instead of mined which is much better. Smog diamonds are cool too but I don’t know if they have them yet. Hopefully they get them soon!
They also do other types of jewellery… 🙂
I was wondering if you had any tips for wedding band?
I find it a little harder to find in vintage/pawn shop…
Nice Post I love as you said that Diamonds engagement Ring as a Symbol of Longevity- qualities like longevity, durability, and clarity – are transferred in a symbolic way to diamond jewelry, especially when the diamonds are given as a gift.
Thanks, this Post was really great.