April 15, 2022 | OPINION | By Maddie Mollerus | Photo by Xixi Qin

Need some sustainable jewelry to complete your sustainable outfit? I know I do. Last week I took a dive into the (un)sustainability of the fast fashion industry, and this week I was wondering if the creation of jewelry is equally detrimental to the environment. So, how does the jewelry industry stack up?

Answer: it’s just as bad. According to the Human Rights Watch, the business is wrought with issues. Here are some statistics that I think show the big picture of the problem of the jewelry industry:

  • Mining enough gold to make just ONE gold ring creates 20 tons of mine waste (yes, tons)
  • On average, mining one small diamond produces 65kg of CO2
  • Workers in gemstone mines are subject to hazardous conditions, low wages, and are sometimes even forced to work in illegal mines to avoid economic and political strain
  • Cyanide and acid are byproducts of diamond and gold mining, and they are frequently illegally dumped into water sources
  • Child labor is common, and kids work in unsafe conditions, resulting in chemical poisoning, dust inhalation, and potential cave-ins

Luckily, there are many companies that focus on ethical jewelry production. I’ve compiled a list of jewelry brands that use sustainable materials, recycled metals and gems, and/or pay their artisans a fair wage. Make sure to check them out and hopefully you’re able to support these amazing companies! (PS: Number 2 on the list, Love Is Project, is my personal favorite, and their mission is super inspiring!)



Type: Ethically Sourced Materials

Price: $$-$$$

This brand has the CHICEST products! They have countless styles of rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets that are handcrafted by jewelers around the world (in Italy, India, South Korea, and more), at a much lower price. The materials include cultured freshwater pearls (my personal preference), genuine mineral stones, and diamonds that are ethically sourced. My favorite products are their gold hoop earrings.

Love Is Project


Type: Fair Trade, Charitable

Price: $-$$

Love Is Project employs over 2,000 female artisans all over the world and pays them a living wage. They also contribute to developing the artisans’ communities, while providing education, healthcare, and food to the artisans. The brand has jewelry from 10 countries, and each country’s culture is reflected in the bracelets they create. They also have upcycled bracelets made from natural and recycled materials. My pick: the Bali UNITY Beaded Bracelets!

Pura Vida


Type: Fair Trade, Charitable

Price: $

You’ve probably heard of Pura Vida already, but I wanted to focus on the impact that this brand makes all over the world. They employ artisans in Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, and China and provide consistent and fair employment. They’ve partnered with over 200 charities, donated over four million dollars, planted over 32,000 trees, and offset more than five million pounds of carbon emissions. Their waxed string bracelet stacks are super summery and cute too. “Pure Life” indeed!



Type: Ethically Sourced Materials

Price: $$

Arlokea’s mission is to use ethical jewelry to tackle social issues surrounding health, education, and poverty. Each purchase goes towards supporting women and small businesses in marginalized communities around the world in countries like Vietnam, Ecuador, and Ethiopia. They also use eco-friendly materials like Tagua nuts and recycled cow horns. Their jewelry is affordable, and the bold pearl statement necklaces are just gorgeous!

As the famous saying by Coco Chanel goes, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” I disagree—if your accessories help the Earth and the people on it, wear as many as you’d like!

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