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The Importance Of Sourcing Sustainable Gemstones

5 mins read. Published on 23 Apr 23, Updated on 01 Jun 23.
The Importance Of Sourcing Sustainable Gemstones

Gemstones have been revered for their beauty and rarity for centuries, but have you ever stopped to consider their impact on the environment? In recent years, there has been a growing demand for sustainable and ethically-sourced gemstones, with more and more consumers wanting to know where their precious jewels come from.

The mining and processing of gemstones can have a significant impact on the environment and local communities, including deforestation, water pollution, and unfair labor practices. By sourcing sustainable gemstones, we can reduce this impact and support responsible mining practices that protect both people and the planet.

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Why Sourcing Sustainable Gemstones Matters

Gemstones are often mined in environmentally damaging ways, and the unethical treatment of workers involved in the industry can be disturbing. Ethical jewellery, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly common as more people become interested in sustainable sourcing practices.

The Environment

Mining for gemstones can bring significant ecological harm. Mountain top removal mining, for example, can ruin entire landscapes and alter water systems. Additionally, mercury and other harmful chemicals can be used in the mining process, damaging the environment and the health of people who live near mines.

Human Rights

Many individuals who work in the gemstone industry are subject to terrible conditions. Children may be forced into backbreaking labour rather than going to school, and workers may be paid very low wages or exposed to toxic working conditions. In some cases, profits from mined gems may even fund war and conflict.


What Are Sustainable Gemstones

Sustainable gemstones are precious or semi-precious gemstones that are ethically sourced, mined, cut, and polished with environmentally and socially responsible practices. Currently, the mining and production of gemstones often have a negative impact on both the environment and the workers who mine and process them. To address these concerns, sustainable mining and sourcing practices have been developed.

Types of Sustainable Gemstones

There are various types of sustainable gemstones available in the market. Some of the more widely recognized options include recycled and lab-grown diamonds, fair trade colored stones, and ethically sourced gold, silver and platinum. Recycled diamonds are gems that have been previously used in jewelry and have been repurposed for resale, whereas lab-grown diamonds are produced in a laboratory and have the same physical and chemical characteristics as natural diamonds. Fair trade colored stones are sourced from mining projects that ensure fair and humane working conditions for miners, and ethically sourced precious metals come from mines with responsible mining practices.

Benefits of Sustainable Gemstones

There is a range of benefits of using sustainable gemstones rather than conventional ones. Firstly, they have a lower ecological impact as they are sourced with environmental considerations in mind. Mining and processing sustainable gemstones have much less footprint on the environment, reducing the harm and long-term impacts on ecosystems. Secondly, workers in sustainable mines and processing facilities are typically paid fair wages and work under safe conditions, which help the local communitys development, health, and safety. Lastly, aligning with consumers' increasing ethical, social, and environmental considerations, sustainable gemstones offer consumers a chance to make responsible purchases, reducing the risk of supporting unethical practices.

The Negative Impact Of Unsustainable Gemstone Mining

Environmental Damage

Unsustainable gemstone mining can have devastating effects on the environment. Mines can cause soil erosion, deforestation, and pollution of air and water. Moreover, gemstones are often discovered in fragile ecosystems and mining activities can lead to habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Chemicals used during the extraction and processing of gemstones can also contaminate nearby water sources, posing serious health risks to wildlife and humans alike.

Exploitation of Miners

In many cases, gemstone miners work under precarious and inhumane conditions, such as child labor and exposure to deadly chemicals. They are often paid very low wages and do not receive the proper safety equipment or training to perform their jobs safely. The lack of regulation and oversight in the industry means that these abuses can go unchecked and unpunished for many years.

Conflict and Violence

Some gemstones, such as diamonds, have long been linked to funding conflicts and civil wars in certain African countries. These "blood diamonds" are often mined by forced labor and sold to finance violent movements. Other gems, such as rubies and sapphires, have also been linked to armed conflicts and corruption in some parts of the world. This has resulted in social and political instability in affected areas, leading to poverty and suffering for entire communities.

It is crucial for the gemstone industry to move towards more sustainable and ethical practices in order to reduce the negative impact of gemstone mining on people and the planet. By sourcing sustainable gemstones, we can support responsible mining practices, protect ecosystems and wildlife, and ensure that workers are treated fairly and safely.

The Benefits Of Choosing Sustainable Gemstones

Choosing sustainable gemstones is a decision that comes with a variety of benefits. These benefits not only benefit the environment but also support ethical practices in the jewellery industry. Here are a few reasons why opting for sustainable gemstones is the right choice:

Environmental Benefits

When you choose sustainable gemstones, you are supporting environmentally responsible practices in the mining and production of gemstones. This includes using energy-efficient processes and using reclaimed water in the manufacturing process to reduce water waste. Sustainable practices also promote the protection of ecosystems and wildlife habitats surrounding mining sites.

Social Benefits

Sustainable gemstones support ethical mining practices that prioritize the wellbeing of the local communities involved in the mining process. This includes fair labour practices, equitable wages, and the minimization of child and forced labour. Supporting sustainable practices can also help to improve the local economy and provide access to education and healthcare services for mining communities.

Economic Benefits

The production of sustainable gemstones supports small-scale and artisanal miners who use low-impact and traditional mining methods. By choosing sustainable gemstones, you are supporting small-scale businesses and promoting sustainable economic development.

In conclusion, choosing sustainable gemstones is a decision that not only benefits the environment but also supports socially responsible practices and sustainable economic development. So, next time you are considering purchasing a new piece of jewellery, opt for a sustainable gemstone and make a positive impact!

Certifications To Look For When Sourcing Sustainable Gemstones

When it comes to sourcing sustainable gemstones, there are various certifications to look out for that can assure you of the sustainability of the gemstones. Here are some of the certifications you should consider:

Fairtrade Certified

Fairtrade Certified gemstones are produced under strict ethical and environmental standards. This certification ensures that the miners who produce the gemstones are paid a fair wage and work under safe conditions. Fairtrade certification also promotes responsible mining practices that minimize harm to the environment.

Responsible Jewellery Council Certification

Responsible Jewellery Council certification is a global standard that ensures the responsible sourcing of gemstones. This certification guarantees ethical labor practices, environmental sustainability, and responsible supply chain management. This certification is particularly essential for larger companies in the jewelry industry.

LEED Certification

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is a globally recognized certification that promotes sustainable building and design practices. While it's not a direct certification for gemstones, jewelry brands that have LEED certification or use LEED-certified facilities can be a good indicator of commitment to sustainable practices.

Carbon Neutral Certification

Carbon Neutral certification is a standard that ensures the product or production process has net zero carbon emissions, meaning that the carbon emissions are either offset or reduced to zero. This certification is becoming increasingly relevant in the jewelry industry, which has notoriously high carbon emissions. When sourcing sustainable gemstones, it is important to look for certifications to ensure that the production and mining processes are ethical and sustainable. These certifications can help promote responsible and eco-conscious practices within the jewelry industry.

How To Identify Sustainable Gemstones

Gemstones have been a part of human history for centuries, adorning jewelry and other decorative items. However, not all gemstones are created equal, and some are sourced using unethical or unsustainable practices. Here are a few methods for identifying sustainably sourced gemstones:

Ask About the Gemstone's Origin

Some gemstones are associated with specific regions or countries, such as Tanzanite from Tanzania or Opal from Australia. By asking about the origin of the gemstone, you can begin to determine whether or not it was mined in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Look for Certifications of Sustainability

Certifications such as the Gemstone Industry and Trade Act (GIT) or the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) indicate that a gemstone has been sourced responsibly and sustainably. Look for these certifications when purchasing gemstones.

Consider the Extraction Method

Some extraction methods, such as artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM), can be more sustainable than large-scale industrial mining. Consider asking about the extraction method used to mine the gemstone before making a purchase.

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