Many jewelry retailers have jumped on the ethical bandwagon or tout conflict-free diamonds, but what does ethical really mean for the conscientious shopper about to commit to an engagement ring or wedding band? How do you cut through the noise and the the green-washing to get to the truth? What questions should you ask to ensure that your rings are made with standards that address glaring issues like unsafe working conditions at mines and cutting facilities, the environmental effects of mining, and child labor? The following tips should help you navigate through the complex process of choosing truly ethical wedding rings, and create a ring that both represents and supports love and progress.
At Bario Neal we offer an array of ethically sourced diamond options, and every size and cut matters. Shown above, the diamond cluster rings and band featuring our uniquely traceable, ethical baguette cut diamonds.
1. Demand diamond details.
Couples looking for an ethical engagement or wedding ring should always ask where the diamonds and gemstones were mined—and steer clear of vague assurances. A responsible jeweler will know every step in the path from mine to market and go far beyond Kimberly Process certification. The KP may still include diamonds from sources that fail to address unfair labor practices, environmental protections, nor does the certification actively exclude diamonds from countries whose governments fund war crimes and/or commit human rights abuses. We can tell you everything there is to know about each one of our diamonds, which are sourced from Australian, Recycled, and Canadian stock. At Bario Neal, every size matters. Maybe your jeweler was able to provide good intel about that big center stone, but then what about the rest of them? Though ethical sourcing is often deemed too difficult for small gems, we make sure all of our pave stones are traceable. Our design team is constantly influencing our sourcing work, while our sourcing team contributes to the design process. This extra effort drives innovation both internally and within the entire industry, like our uniquely traceable, ethical baguette cut diamonds.
2. Require responsible metals.
Did you know that one gold ring creates 20 tons of waste? Metal mining is one of the most toxic industries in the world, and recent statistics have placed it as the number one polluter in the U.S. In our eight years as a small independent company, we’ve saved roughly 134,000 tons of metal from being extracted from the earth by primarily using only recycled metals that are processed at U.S. refineries. Want to go even further in combatting the problematic mining industry by supporting the little guys that are out there doing it right? Choose rings crafted in certified Fairmined Gold and metals extracted by empowered and responsible small-scale and artisanal miners to advocate for the 100 million people who depend on gold and precious metals to make a living.
3. Buy handmade.
When shopping for wedding jewelry try to think of everything in the long term. If this is the one person you choose to love for the rest of your life, don’t you want ring that will stand the test of time? A handmade ring of precious metals and gemstones is an investment in wearable art you rarely take off or throw away. In fact, with care, you will even be able to pass it down to your future grandchildren (who still have a world to get married in because you already helped save their environment!). Like most products, bargain-priced and mass-produced jewelry is often lower quality—and definitely does not create meaningful work or a decently paid job for anyone involved along the way. That’s why everything we make is designed and handmade in Philadelphia, primarily by our talented in house staff of artists or with skilled craftspeople on Jewelers’ Row—the oldest diamond district in the United States. Because our jewelry is custom-made, piece-by-piece, we have the flexibility to personalize each ring to be one-of-a-kind, all while using low-impact, environmentally-friendly processes to reduce our carbon footprint.
4. Consider color.
Modern couples can create new traditions with their choice of partners, food, venue, and yes, even their jewelry. Colored gemstones are a great way to express your personality and avoid the diamond conversation altogether. Plus, there are just so many amazing gems out there in the world, it’s fun to choose an array of colors, shapes, sizes—and stories! We understand that just like every gem, every community and ecosystem where colored gemstones are sourced is different. We work with established mines and support newly-engaged, responsible miners that are just getting started to ensure that each and every gemstone we source meets our specific and thorough ethical standards. Dabbling in color isn’t just for the gems—you can play with the metal colors each partner sports or venture into the ancient art of glass enamel.
5. Use your heirlooms.
Avoiding new materials altogether is another way to create ethical wedding rings you can be proud of. With a recycled heirloom or vintage piece, no new resources are expended. Do you have an old ring that just isn’t you? Fill out our custom design questionnaire or give us a call to begin the path to your jewelry makeover. Imagine your gemstones or metals reworked into a custom Bario Neal ring that includes your own family history. How’s that for a great story?
6. Honor equality.
An ethical wedding ring should honor human rights throughout the supply and production chain, but why stop there? We feel marriage and the wedding industry, can and should evolve into something beyond the traditional, predictable or commercial. Supporting unity and advocating for equal rights is a part of our ethical mission to create objects that represent a better way forward. As a long-time advocate for gay marriage, we continue to fight against state-level and global discrimination. Sexuality or gender discrimination is wrong in any form and the choice to marry and start a family is a human right worth protecting. Not only do we donate a portion of our proceeds to support these causes, we strive to make every part of our company a comfortable and inclusive space. Many of our bands are non-binary and will suit anyone who loves timeless jewelry, regardless of gender. To us, a wedding ring symbolizes love and commitment, while honoring equality and empowerment.
There are plenty of guides to picking out the “right” ring, but we think feeling good about what a ring represents is just as important as the cut, setting and size. There is no better way to show your commitment than with rings representing a sustainable future. As you choose a piece to say “I do” remember that we craft our jewelry with a commitment to you: to create a positive social and environmental impact with every handmade piece.