We all love the story behind an engagement ring. A friend of mine wore a red piece of string around his finger after his girlfriend proposed to him on holiday in Italy. The string was a stand-in for the real thing which the jeweller hadnâ€™t finished making yet. Unbeknownst to my friendâ€™s girlfriend, he had gone to the exact same jeweller and was waiting for her engagement ring to be finished. They both laughed when they realised.
My engagement ring was an heirloom, given to my now-husband from his grandmother before she had passed away. The ring originally belonged to her own grandmother and was made sometime after the first world war, which a jeweller found remarkable because of the shortage of gold, platinum and diamonds at the time. I love the ring, not only because of the meaning behind it but it just so happens to be ethical, too.
You see, more people are becoming aware of another, lesser-told story behind the making of engagement rings. Itâ€™s one that involves civil wars, an abuse of human rights, and environmental degradation to source the materials that end up sparkling on a chosen finger. But for those who donâ€™t have an heirloom or would rather gift something new, there are a bunch of ethical jewellery start-ups that can help seal your love and keep your conscience guilt-free.
The international standard for conflict-free diamonds is called the Kimberley Process (KP). It was implemented in 2003 to stop the sale of rough diamonds from funding civil wars. But many ethical jewellers have problems with this process as it narrowly focuses on mining and distribution and ignores wider violations of human rights. There are also fake KP certificates circulating, currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Malaysia and Ghana.
So when Do Amore founder Krish Himmatramka started his Texas-based company, he chose to go beyond the KP by sourcing diamonds from responsible mines in Canada, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. As for the precious metals used in the rings, the gold, palladium and platinum is all recycled, meaning no extra environmental devastation through mining, and the rings come in boxes made of sustainable wood.
The love keeps flowing, too, as Do Amore is partners with Charity: Water to help fund wells with every ring sold. So far, Do Amore has raised enough money toÂ provide 3,500 people in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and Nepal with clean drinking water.
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â€œOur whole philosophy is to bring transparency to the industry, so when we started looking for a diamond source, it was really disheartening,â€ Vrai & Oro founder told Vogue. â€œEven ethical diamonds drain the lakes and destroy the ecosystem, so thereâ€™s a fine line between whatâ€™s â€˜ethical.â€™ And the diamond industry itself is completely corruptâ€”it operates like a cartel.â€
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So, rather than taking a risk, the LA-based jeweller took an innovative approach when launching their wedding line this year. Theyâ€™re using lab-made diamonds, by a Silicon Valley start-up called Diamond Foundr.
Thatâ€™s right. Diamonds made in a lab.
In really simple terms, the rocks are made by taking a wafer-sized rough diamond, ethically sourced from Canada, and putting it through a hydrogen plasma reactor in conditions that mimic nature. Two weeks later, the result is a beautiful diamond thatâ€™s â€œcartel free with zero carbon footprintâ€, according to Vrai & Oro. Even better, Leondard DiCaprio approves. Heâ€™s an investor of the Diamond Foundr, so buying a lab-made diamond is basically the same as Leo giving you his blessing.
+ 3 well-established ethical jewellers:
Brilliant Earth: Since 2006, this jeweller has gone beyond the KP standard. They also donate five per cent of profits towards environmental and community programs in Africa and Brazil.
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ZoÃ« Pook Jewellery: This Sydney-based jeweller was the first to offer Fair trade Gold in Australia. ZoÃ« only uses diamonds and gems that are free of conflict, human rights abuse and child labour.
Ethical Jewellery: Based in Brisbane, this online jeweller makes rings out of recycled precious metals and fair trade gems and diamonds.
VisitÂ Lizza Gebilaginâ€™s personal website.