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9 best ethical and sustainable jewellery brands

Opt for accessories that match your values and shop from brands that care about traceability

Lizzie Rivera
Friday 09 October 2020 17:00
 We chose brands that are battling old methods, working with trusted suppliers and operating to a much higher standard
We chose brands that are battling old methods, working with trusted suppliers and operating to a much higher standard

Jewellery is a gift to be treasured, often bought as a token of love, so, it’s important that when we do make that investment – however big or small in monetary terms – it is a piece of integrity.

It’s been about 14 years since Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond shone the spotlight on the brutality behind the diamond industry, shattering any illusions about how so-called “precious” metals and stones are mined.

A lot has changed since that film. But not nearly enough.

Mining companies destroying sacred indigenous sites in western Australia hit the headlines this summer, and reports of gold linked to militias in Sudan were also recently released.

As one jeweller told us: “If you’re not asking where your jewellery originates from, there’s a high chance you’re funding weapons for terrorists in war-torn countries.

"Your money could be going to companies who force people to work in mines at gunpoint or knifepoint and abuse children, making them work 10-hour days.”

Most of the jewellery companies you know are highly likely to be marketing beautiful items with no mention of the true origin of where their gold and gems come from.

Arguably even worse, some are hiding behind certifications that are nowhere near robust enough.  It’s a widely-held belief that The Kimberley Process (which claims to reduce the flow of conflict diamonds) is barely worth the paper it is written on. The Responsible Jewellery Council is better than nothing, but not good enough. 

To be candid, it’s highly unlikely even the best jewellers will have 100 per cent traceability of their supply chains. It’s just not possible – yet.

As such, genuinely ethical and sustainable jewellery is exceptionally hard to come by, but here is a guide that will help you buy in line with your values.

That said, there are some brilliant jewellers out there who are battling to change the system, working with trusted suppliers and operating to much higher standards.

The list below not only features them, but is dedicated to the extraordinary efforts they make.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Yala Jewellery Lela 3-way earrings

Yala Jewellery offers the chance to own beautiful African-inspired modern jewellery that creates financial opportunities for artisans working in the informal sector in Kenya. As the name suggests, these Lela three-way earrings offer three earring styles in one – they can be worn as simple circle studs, as a stud and half-moon combo or you can wear the half-moon as ear jackets behind the earlobe with the circle stud in front.

All Yala’s materials are recycled, re-used or reclaimed. These earrings are recycled brass made by Yala Jewellery’s brass artisan, George, and his team in their workshop just outside of Nairobi.

Yala Jewellery was the first jewellery brand to be certified a B-Corp in the UK – a certification that measures a company’s social and environmental purpose.

The earrings are currently out of stock but you can sign up to be emailed when stocks are replenished.

Harriet Kelsall Jewellery fairtrade 18ct rose gold and chocolate diamond engagement ring

Does anything sound more delicious than a chocolate diamond engagement ring? More specifically, a brilliant cut, natural chocolate 1.34 carat diamond ring, held in a statement double-talon claw setting and framed with a cluster of three diamonds in a Fairtrade 18 carat rose gold band? Harriet Kelsall’s speciality is creating beautiful jewellery with meaning. Kelsall has been in the jewellery business for more than two decades and specialises in bespoke designs for everything from engagement and wedding rings to dress jewellery, made in its UK workshops. 

As a young woman starting out, she was laughed out of the room when she dared ask about traceability and was told: “You’re in the wrong industry for this, love”. That didn’t stop her though, and now Kersall is also widely regarded as a pioneer of ethical jewellery, credited with being one of the founders of Fairtrade gold. She passionately believes the industry can do better and she uses her weight and experience to work towards improving supply chains in conflict countries. Her goals include ensuring a bigger share of profits goes back to the miners.

Kind Jewellery full moon disc necklace

The intention behind Kind Jewellery is for its pieces to offer a reflection and a reminder of the beauty of the world that surrounds us. This full moon disc necklace is created in Kind’s London studio from Fairmined gold. Its simple, organic form mirrors the fullness of the moon. It has a textured hammered side and a smooth side which has space for personal engraving on the back – in your own handwriting should you so wish.

Kind work closely with its suppliers to ensure they offer the most transparent supply chains possible.

Its sapphires, for example, come from Sri Lankan mines where they dig by hand and replace the gravel. The diamonds have the Canada Mark, meaning they’re traced from mine to maker through a transparent supply chain of approved cutters and dealers. All precious metal is Fairmined.

Ange B Designs bold geometric silver ring with turquoise gemstone

This big, bold ring is made from a repurposed trapezoid shaped turquoise gemstone set in recycled sterling silver. The shape of the ring reflects the unique shape of the stone; it also satisfies designer and maker Ange B’s love of geometric design with its straight lines and odd angles. It is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable to wear – the band has been purposefully made to be adjusted to fit.

Ange B’s jewellery are pieces of wearable art and are handmade in her garden studio in west London – from here she also offers workshops where you can make your own silver jewellery.

BAR Jewellery rivera earrings

BAR jewellery’s pure forms are inspired by modernist art, sculpture and architecture and crafted from recycled materials. These rivera earrings, for example, take influence from the sculptor Jose De Rivera. When Bar Jewellery was founded, its goal was to produce products that don’t harm the environment or people. Every decision they make is informed by these principles and as such it has a strong relationships with its manufacturers in the UK and Bali.

Founder Sophie McKay also offers her services as a mentor and says: “As fashion can be perceived as elitist, I have always wanted to break through and show people that it is a vibrant industry full of opportunities. In addition to helping people succeed in the industry I want to instill a sense of self worth and confidence into people starting out.”

Ingle & Rhode la mer

Ingle & Rhode was launched in 2007 with the aim of offering an ethical alternative to traditional luxury jewellery brands. Its story began a year earlier when David Rhode was looking for an engagement ring but couldn’t find a jeweller who could tell him where their diamonds had come from, or the conditions under which their jewellery was produced. 

He says: “The more I looked into the industry, the more compromises I discovered I was being asked to make. From blood diamonds, to dirty gold, to sweatshops and child labour.”Ingle & Rhode offers a range of classic, art deco and vintage styles, as well as a bespoke design service. It offers a choice of lab-grown or ethically-minded Canadian diamonds; recycled platinum and recycled gold from a refinery in the US and Fairtrade gold from cooperative producers in South America.

The engagement ring pictured marries the beauty of an oval cut diamond with two brilliant cut Canadian diamonds.

Anuka Jewellery Loka curve hoop earrings

The Loka collection takes its inspiration from the forms created in nature and tidal patterns left in the sand. The chunky and unusual shape of these loka curve hoop earrings, gives them unique appeal. Anuka solely uses 100 per cent recycled silver and Fairmined gold, as do many of the brands in this list. Fairmined supports small scale artisanal miners and their communities; providing better chances of fairer pay, gender equality, no child labour, safe working conditions and clean water supplies.

Anuka are also the first jewellery label to work with Provenance, incorporating their blockchain technology to enhance transparency in the supply chain. It believes that ensuring all its jewellery is made as ethically and sustainably as possible makes each piece much more meaningful – and we wholeheartedly agree. 

Project Cece votch black and pinatex with black moment

Votch watches lay streamlined on the wrist, offering a simple, modern and comfortable watch.

The interchangeable strap on this watch is Pinatex – a leather-like material made from pineapple leaf fibre as a by-product of the pineapple harvest – and the watch face is from recyclable stainless steel.

Votch is a strident cruelty-free watch brand, launched after founder Laura Way suffered topical steroid withdrawal, a condition that saw her lose her skin. When sourcing a vegan-friendly replacement strap for her watch proved nigh-impossible, the idea for Votch was born.

Ethics and sustainability go hand-in-hand for Votch. Laura personally visited the factories she had shortlisted to work with and delayed the launch of Votch by six months to ensure she chose the one with the highest standards for employees.

Solitude the Label sun necklace

“You be the sun and I’ll be the moon” so the oft-quoted poem goes, which Solitude the Label took inspiration from for the design of this delicate silver necklace, which is handmade by two sisters at their atelier in Amsterdam.

The sisters also custom-make jewellery. All jewellery is made from 14K recycled gold and recycled silver. The brand’s ultimate goal is to solely use “old” gold and silver jewellery sourced from their customers to make beautiful new pieces.

The verdict: Sustainable and ethical jewellery brands

For its beautiful designs, commitment to artisans in Kenya and fair pricing that proves ethics don’t have to cost the earth, Yala Jewellery is our top pick. If you’re looking for an engagement ring or bespoke design, Ingle & Rhode and Harriet Kelsall will be able to point you in the right direction.

Discover even more sustainable brands in our round-up of the best ethical fashion brands

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