For every groom-to-be, there are some basic rules for engagement ring shopping. You should spend around two months’ salary on the ring, while thinking carefully about the stone, cut, carat and colour. But with more people concerned than ever before about ethical shopping, ensuring you have a cruelty-free diamond is perhaps the most important aspect you need to bear in mind before proposing to your sweetheart.
If your better half is sincerely concerned about living a cruelty-free life, there are a few things you should bring up with your jeweller to ensure that the ring, and more importantly the diamond, is ethically sourced. Here, we’ll go through those all-important questions for your jeweller that you might not have thought to ask.
The diamond industry has often been shrouded in controversy, so when it comes to looking for an ethical engagement ring, how the stone has been extracted is probably the most important aspect to consider. Conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds are those which have entered the jewellery industry as a result of illegal trading, or which are used to fund conflict or violence in the area from which they were sourced.
This is why the Kimberley Process was introduced, as a way to ensure that diamonds are cruelty-free. However, this isn’t always completely accurate — as explained by Taylor & Hart, a market leader in ethical jewellery, conflict diamonds can still illegally enter the marketplace even if a country is participating in the Kimberley Process due to a lack of regular monitoring from independent companies. For a truly cruelty-free diamond, you should work with a jeweller who can guarantee the authenticity of their gems and can plot the entire journey they have taken to get to your ring.
Even if your jeweller can guarantee that your diamond is conflict-free, there is still a chance that it still won’t be a truly ethical gem. Even conflict-free diamonds can be cut and polished in unfair working conditions like sweatshops, where workers are paid well below minimum wage. In some cases, children as young as five are employed to work mining and panning for diamonds, with the smaller children performing dangerous activities, like crawling into narrow mine shafts that are too small for adults.
If you want to avoid any risk of buying a blood diamond, or one that isn’t fair-trade, you could look into buying lab-grown diamonds. Also known as cultured diamonds, these are guaranteed to be 100% conflict-free, and since the stones are grown in laboratory conditions, they’re completely ethical and sustainable. These diamonds are rising in popularity, and have even been seen in a pair of earrings worn by Meghan Markle.
Just as the diamond may be cut and polished in a sweatshop, there is a chance that the actual ring itself will be manufactured in less-than-fair conditions. Most jewellery is created in countries in Asia, primarily due to the cheap labour which, in some cases, could mean unfair conditions for the workers.
Much like knowing where the diamond has come from, your jeweller should be able to tell you the exact journey your ring took to get to your fiancé’s finger. If they’re unsure, you probably don’t want to risk buying the ring, as there’s no guarantee that it’s a completely ethical piece of jewellery.
Much like diamonds need to be mined for, so does gold, which brings more ethical concerns as to where the wedding band has come from. Your jeweller should know whether the metal used for the engagement band itself is Fairtrade or not. Buying Fairtrade Certified Gold means that you’re helping to support independent and small-scale miners get the money they’re owed and deserve for the work they carry out. A percentage of the money is also used to support the local community and protect the environment.
Another option is to choose recycled metals, or even buy a vintage ring for your proposal. This drastically reduces the demand for newly-mined gold and platinum, preserving the earth’s natural resources while also minimising the need for slave labour.