Alternative consumers traumatized by the films “Blood Diamond” and “Dirty Gold War” will be glad to know that there are jewelry brands friendly to people and the planet alike.
Render to Caesar… Burma is a pioneer in the use of synthetic stones. Since the Seventies, the brand has been using zirconium oxide (a diamond substitute) and synthetic emeralds, rubies and sapphires, all described as Burmalite. The sophisticated haute joaillerie style takes the shape of breastplates, tiaras and more. NB: there is no ethical aspect to the gold.
JEM (Jewellery Ethically Minded), created in 2009, is the brand for purists. JEM makes jewelry from Fairmined gold, a label guaranteeing 100% ethical gold. This means that it is mined in line with social norms (properly paid miners; no children exploited) and is environmentally-friendly (without the use of dynamite or cyanide). JEM proposes highly graphic collections, including “Voids” by India Mahdavi. A few models use synthetic diamonds. €1500 euros for an “Octogone” ring, €2,500 with lab-grown diamonds.
Paulette à Bicyclette
In 2010, Hélène Grassin launched Paulette à Bicyclette. Well-known for her wedding and engagement rings, she mainly uses Fairmined gold and recycled gold and silver, which she texturizes, beats and brushes. As a hardliner, she prefers to use moissanite (imitation diamond) and avoids rhodium plating (gold bleaching), which involves chemicals. €500-800 for a wedding ring.
Ute Decker, a London-based German designer, was one of the very first to make her jewelry out of Fairtrade gold (another ethical gold label) or recycled silver. Highly involved in the promotion of ethical jewelry, mainly through talks, she designs sculpture-jewelry made up of ever-changing geometric forms and gold ribbons or wire that unfold in space. Some of her works are already on exhibition in museums across the world. Meanwhile, her ‘Curling Crest of a Wave’ ring is the first Fairtrade gold piece to join the V&A Museum’s collection. It will be on view from April 2019, when the jewelry gallery is reopened.
In 2013, Chopard largely helped to spread the word about eco-friendly jewelry by launching a large-scale programme called “Journey to sustainable luxury”. The jeweler first produced one-of-a-kind pieces in Fairmined gold, worn by Marion Cotillard and Julianne Moore at the Cannes Festival then La Palme, as well as a few watches and an affordable collection. In 2018, Chopard made a commitment to produce 100% of their products in ethical gold: a first for a world-famous jeweler.
The American Monique Péan only uses recycled gold and diamonds that cause no environmental damage: an eco-friendly approach that goes hand in hand with powerful designs. Her graphic jewelry is enhanced by materials like walrus tusk and fossilized wood, and her favorite stones include agate with patterns evoking abstract art.
A recent newcomer to the market, this brand uses synthetic diamonds and recycled gold derived from old industrial or computer parts in an ultra-classic style particularly well-suited to engagement rings. Courbet has announced that it will shortly be using the first French-produced synthetic diamonds. €8,100 for a 1 carat diamond pendant, €2,900 for a 0,5 carat diamond solitaire.
This French jewelry brand, famous for its mail-order catalogue, brought out a synthetic diamond collection not long ago, advertised as 30% to 50% cheaper than a collection based on natural diamonds. Engagement ring in gold and a 25/100e lab-grown diamond from €499.
In 2018, De Beers (the long-standing producers of natural diamonds, famous for its slogan “A diamond is forever”) launched Lightbox. Using blue, pink and white synthetic diamonds, the brand mainly targets Millennials, with highly affordable prices. Budget for €800 per carat.
The Austrian brand specializing in crystal (used in dozens of sectors ranging from industry to jewelry) launched its first eco-friendly collection in synthetic diamond collection in 2018.