We’re not exactly sure how it happened, but the world was hyped about sustainable and ethical undies before sustainable and ethical jewelry entered the mix. For most of us, we’ll wear both of these on any given day—so it’s clear that sustainable jewelry has some catching up to do.
If you don’t know why “sustainable” and “ethical” are in the same sentence as “jewelry,” head here to get some background info.
Basically, jewelry is chained to a lot of environmental and social concerns. That bling may look beautiful, but it may be associated with child labor, unsafe working conditions, armed conflicts, water pollution, and ecosystem destruction—to name just a few.
But there are some diamonds in the rough out there, and some companies are doing something about these concerns. If you want to learn a little more about what we consider to be an ethical and eco friendly jewelry brand, skip on down to the bottom of the article.
Before we go on, we’d like to be crystal clear that the most sustainable jewelry is the jewelry you already own and buying secondhand or vintage jewelry is always a great sustainable shopping choice (try Vestiare Collective or Etsy for vintage jewelry finds!).
But if new is what you’re after and want to support sustainable jewelry companies, then without further ado, here are some of the best ethical jewelry brands we’ve unearthed so far.
KBH Jewels can’t be beat in terms of sustainable gold jewelry (hint: it’s all reclaimed!). We’re pretty excited about SOKO’s use of unique materials and an innovative business model and The Kind Karma Company is one of the top ethical manufacturers and charitable givers.
1. KBH JEWELS
About KBH Jewels
Headquartered in New York and founded in 2018, KBH Jewels believes that modern luxury should only be sustainable luxury. When it comes to investment-worthy pieces, luxe materials and sustainability should go hand in hand—and that’s what you’ll find when you shop KBH Jewels’ products. Per KBH:
“Jewelry should be beautiful, aspirational, covetable, and life long, but it should also be sustainable, thoughtful, and innovative where possible”
Putting the fact that they make lovely sustainable minimalist jewelry with a focus on quality materials and elevated designs aside: How does KBH stand apart from the competition? They don’t mine. Period.
PS: They also sell ethical mens jewelry.
KBH Jewels’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: The collection is handcrafted with 14K solid reclaimed gold, cultivated lab-grown diamonds and sustainably cultured pearls. Gold is one of Earth’s natural renewable resources that can be recycled without any quality degradation – which is why KBH gold is never plated, filled or newly mined and always 100% recycled and reclaimed. Read more about KBH’s impressive approach to metals sourcing here
KBH Diamonds are sourced only from labs who works towards having zero carbon footprint, whose values align with theirs.
KBH shares the following on their diamonds: “Grown diamonds are the result of innovative technology that should disrupt and introduce a new set of principles that brings responsible sourcing to the forefront of the jewelry industry. The end result is scientiﬁcally physically, chemically and optically identical to mined diamonds without the devastation.”
This season, KBH introduced their first pieces designed with sustainably cultivated South Sea pearls. The White Akoya and Black Tahitian pearls are sourced from small, local, farms who implement sustainable practices that improve water quality, support coral reef conservation, and reduce overfishing.
- Supply chain & labor practices: KBH works with suppliers who support positive environmental and socio-economic initiatives and fair wages. The majority of suppliers are SCS Certified and the collection is designed and made in the USA.
- Green business practices: Circular practices and recycling are applied to everything that KBH produces, supplies, and ships. KBH’s jewelry pouches are made from GOTS Certified fabric. All of the KBH packaging is either responsibly made or comes from post-consumer waste.
- Community & charitable giving: As a company, KBH supports organizations that fight drilling, mining and fracking to help offset output from the world in general.
Since launching in 2018, KBH has been proud supporters and members of Positive Luxury, Female Founder Collective, Ethical Metalsmiths, Earthworks – The No Dirty Gold Campaign, Pure Earth, Mercury Free Mining, MJSA, and more. KBH has also partnered with Baby2Baby and Susan G Komen to support focused campaigns.
- Product range: Sustainable and ethical fine jewelry, including earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets
SOKO was founded in 2013 and is a women-led ethical jewelry brand that brings global market access to artisan communities in Kenya.
And boy is this artisan sustainable jewelry ever absolutely stunning, not to mention easily wearable for just about any occasion. Pair it with an evening gown or with some basic sustainable jeans and you’ll look equally as flawless.
SOKO’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: One of SOKO’s main materials is brass, which they source from reliable vendors that meet consumer laws, namely Proposition 65 regulations. Around 90% of brass is recycled which makes this a more sustainable option than newly mined metals.
Many of SOKO’s materials have been creatively recycled and repurposed. This includes horns and bones from the food industry, in particular, the Ankole Longhorn cattle in East Africa. As a natural material, each horn and bone is uniquely gorgeous, with different shades of brown and black and striated patterns.
Many pieces feature handmade beads made from clay from Mount Kenya by Kazuri, a Fair Trade women’s collective in Kenya. For any sustainable wood jewelry, they use teak off-cuts from wood that is grown using sustainable harvesting and growing practices in South Sudan.
SOKO’s silver looking jewelry is made from brass and is chrome plated. They also used 24k gold plating.
- Supply chain & labor practices: SOKO is a Certified B Corporation and ranks high for creating jobs, promoting diversity and inclusion, and contributing to supply chain poverty alleviation. With a goal to empower local communities by providing them livelihood opportunities, their artisans earn five times more than average artisans.
Kenya has deep cultural roots but many artisans there are limited by local markets and micro-economies. SOKO is changing this with their use of a virtual factory, where a mobile phone app allows independent artisans to connect with the SOKO team to receive training, support, orders, and payment.
Their unique brand model incorporates a Field Team responsible for overseeing ethical production and ensuring that ethical practices are in line with recommendations from the ILO (International Labour Organization). These include rules about working hours and child labor.
- Green business practices: While they’re currently in the process of obtaining their ISO 14001:2015 certification, SOKO already has systems and procedures in place to reduce the use of hazardous materials, energy, and other natural resources.
They have established environmental objectives and targets and have indicators to measure progress for reducing, reusing, and recycling energy, water, and paper.
In addition, they also have ‘Environmental Champions’ within the team that provides training and support to ensure that all artisans and employees feel empowered when it comes to promoting environmental responsibility.
- Community & charitable giving: The SOKO Partnership range features some pieces that support social organizations—like UNTF, a program that combats violence against women. While Soko generally believe in Trade, not Aid, they are supporting their artisans through the current crisis via a community fundraiser
- Product range: Modern, ethical artisan handcrafted brass and gold and silver earrings, rings, bracelets, and necklaces
3. DARIA DAY
About Daria Day
“Daria” is from the old Persian language and means prosperity. Daria Day was founded by Farrukh Lalani with a mission of empowerment and prosperity—for both the wearers of the beautiful handmade sustainable jewelry and the female artisans who handcraft it.
The company was started in 2019 after Farrukh was working with NGOs in Pakistan. Forming a close relationship with some of the poorest and most isolated communities in the world, Farrukh wanted a way to be able to empower individuals creatively and financially. Daria Day was born.
Daria Day’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Natural gemstones are paired with sterling silver. All materials are ethically and locally sourced in Gilgit, Pakistan. The gemstones come from small local suppliers and artisanal mining collectives. They are not treated, dyed, or oiled.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Daria Day only uses local suppliers or artisanal mining collectives for their metals and gemstones. Farrukh has personally met with these suppliers to verify that the they are paid a fair wage.
Their gemstones are processed, cut and faceted by women artisans in collectives who are paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment. Again, Farrukh has visited these collectives herself and her team pays visits to the collective often.
Daria Day also partners with a local foundation, Rupani Foundation, to ensure that ethical practices are supported by artisans and suppliers. They’ll be taking all of this to the next level once they become a certified B-Corp (they’re applying this year).
They’ve featured a few interviews with artisans (some of which are climate refugees) on their YouTube channel including stories of how wages have allowed them to open bank accounts for the first time and finance the education of family members.
- Green business practices: The materials are processed and cut in the same region that they’re sourced in. This means less transportation and a smaller carbon footprint.
The ethical silver jewelry is shipped in eco-friendly packaging made from dead stock or left-over fabric.
- Community & charitable giving: Daria Day are currently donating a portion of their sales to current crisis efforts in Gilgit and are committed to continuing to invest profits back into their artisan communities.
- Product range: Handcrafted silver and gemstone earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings
4. KIND KARMA COMPANY
About Kind Karma Company
Founded in 2017 in Toronto, Kind Karma is exactly that: kind. One of the most unique jewelry brands out there, Kind Karma is a social enterprise that employs at-risk and homeless youth to change their lives—and provide consumers with affordable ethical jewelry in the process.
In their own words:
“As the saying goes, we should always “be the change we wish to see in the world” and so Kind Karma was established to counter negativity with hope and kindness.”
Kind Karma Company’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Kind Karma use various metals like 14K gold or sterling silver as well as gemstones (like lava stones, emeralds, and sea shells). Kind Karma sources these materials from reputable wholesalers in the USA and Canada.
Their focus has largely been on driving social impact so building a strong understanding of the environmental impact of their materials is still a work in progress.
- Supply chain & labor practices: As a social enterprise, all of their jewelry is handcrafted by youth artisans. They employ at-risk and homeless youth and are passionate about creating a work environment that is flexible, understanding and healing for their workers.
Kind Karma regularly asks questions from their suppliers, particularly about workplace conditions and worker treatment. The brand is also hoping to eventually get their B-Corp and Fair Trade certifications.
- Green business practices: Kind Karma does use eco-friendly and recycled packaging and the brand practices upcycling and waste reduction whenever they can.
- Community & charitable giving: Community is where Kind Karma truly shines! Most of Kind Karma’s workers have had trouble holding jobs in the past. With Kind Karma, they’re not only benefiting from art therapy-based employment, but they’re also able to find financial independence and form sustainable relationships with other employees.
Kind Karma told us: “this method works and our youth employees have told us that this is the longest they have ever been able to stay employed. They have also started to look at their own goals with a renewed confidence in themselves and since we know that self esteem and confidence are the true underlying factors in determining overall success, it is rewarding to see growth in these areas. We truly believe that these youth will be going on to do wonderful and amazing things!”
Kind Karma’s workers come from diverse backgrounds but are commonly on the receiving end of charity. With that in mind, Kind Karma is committed to regularly donating to charities that support similar causes—like human trafficking, women and breast cancer, and homeless shelters.
They also host annual “Kindness Days” where employees are paid for a full day’s work but instead volunteer with the community.
- Product range: Fine, minimalist necklaces, bracelets, and earrings
5. CLEAN ORIGIN
About Clean Origin
Amidst some excitement about lab-grown diamonds, Clean Origin was founded in 2017 by some of the biggest names in the jewelry industry so as to satisfy the rising demand for ethical diamond jewelry.
Clean Origin realizes the meaningful role diamonds play in our culture—especially their significance when it comes to love. But they also know that the diamond industry is plagued by some pretty serious ethical and environmental concerns.
In the search for an eco-friendly and ethically sourced diamond, Clean Origin turned to 100% lab-grown diamonds which are not only better for humans and the planet, but are also some of the best affordable ethical jewelry and up to 20-30% cheaper than mined diamonds.
So for those thinking about doing something special for their loved one: here’s your chance to save the planet AND some cash on some ethical fine jewelry!
Clean Origin’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Lab created diamonds really make the jewelry from Clean Origin shine.
The setting of the ring or bracelet is just as important—and whether consumers choose platinum, rose gold, yellow gold, or white gold, they can rest assured that all metals are recycled (and certified by The Responsible Jewellery Council).
- Supply chain & labor practices: Clean Origin doesn’t offer much more information on their labour practices. We will be inquiring directly about more information here.
- Green business practices: Clean Origin’s diamond labs use carbon offset programs and they’re in the process of developing one for their headquarters. To top it off, all diamond rings and bracelets are packaged and delivered in eco-friendly recycled paper.
- Product range: Custom-built rings, loose lab-created diamonds, engagement rings, wedding sets, wedding & eternity brands, stud earrings, tennis bracelets
6. MADISON GRACE
About Madison Grace
Madison Grace is a brand that ‘gives a care’ about people, planet, and philanthropy. Founder Claire Pettibone wants to bring hope to counteract the systems and practices that are destroying the planet and compromising the lives of many of its citizens.
They’re not perfect (is anyone?), but ethical and responsible products allow Madison Grace and everyone who wears their products to stay #woke about what matters in this world.
Madison Grace’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Madison Grace uses brass and 14k gold and silver plating.
All of the materials sourced by Madison Grace were done so without hurting humans or animals. The brand’s artisan partners are scattered around the world but they all source their materials locally and workers are given a fair wage.
Madison Grace joins SOKO as a brand that ethically procures Ankole Longhorn horns, which is a byproduct of the food supply.
- Supply chain & labor practices: While the brand itself doesn’t use any certification schemes, all of the artisan partners either have 3rd party certifications or Madison Grace has visited them to ensure that they use ethical and sustainable practices.
- Green business practices: By 2022, Madison Grace hopes to be carbon neutral. All packaging is either made locally, FSC certified, or biodegradable.
- Community & charitable giving: As a member of 1% For The Planet, they ALWAYS donate their company’s expenses through Charity Charge.
Additionally, each season, Madison Grace chooses a nonprofit giving partner to donate a portion of the proceeds to (recently it was Feeding America).
- Product range: Simple, chic and classy necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings—available in brass, silver, and 14K plated gold
Available: Madison Grace – Madison Grace have kindly offered 10% off for Sustainable Jungle readers with code sustainablejungle at checkout
Danish brand, Nordgreen was founded by two lifelong friends. As watch enthusiasts, they believe in the best design and highest quality; and they prioritize companies that are honest and sustainable.
Their search for the best watches in the world left them unsatisfied. So, they started their own.
Nordgreen is committed to ensuring that their products and processes are as sustainable as possible, and that their Scandanavian values are incorporated into each and every product through their generous commitment to social responsibility through their Giving Back program.
Nordgreen’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Nordgreen doesn’t use conflict materials and every watch is free of any toxic by-products.
Their materials do not contain toxic ingredients like phthalate plasticizer or heavy metal stabilizers. They are able to recapture and recycle at least 99% of solvents used in the manufacturing process.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Nordgreen’s watch straps are sourced in Italy and the watches are manufactured in Shenzhen, China. Each of their factories are Danish-owned, meaning that everyone works under European workforce standards.
Employees are also able to receive English classes and childcare, and sleeping arrangements are available for staff and their families.
- Green business practices: The Copenhagen office is carbon neutral and 90% of their employees cycle to work. The watches are packaged using FSC-certified cardboard.
- Community & charitable giving: Nordgreen’s Giving Back Program is where the company excels. With every watch sold, customers can choose from three different causes to donate to: providing two months of clean water to one person in The Central African Republic; funding two months of education to a child in India; or preserving 200 sq ft of rainforest in Latin America.
- Product range: Sustainable, functional, and affordable men’s and women’s watches
HOW WE CHOSE THESE ETHICAL JEWELRY BRANDS
As we mentioned above, the ethical issues with luxury jewelry companies are vast, which you can read more about here.
Ethical jewelry can mean a lot of things. It can mean environmentally sustainable materials and processes; it can mean fair wages and safe and supportive worker conditions; it can also mean ethical jewelry brands who give back to their community and support organizations with similar values.
Based on the criteria we developed for sussing out sustainable fashion, these are the basic points we use to help us break down how ethical these ethical jewelry designers really are.
- Materials: The materials can either make or break a sustainable jewelry company. Materials commonly found in the jewelry industry are associated with environmental degradation and unsafe work conditions. For these reasons, we looked for brands who reused/reclaimed/repurposed their materials—eco-friendly recyclable jewelry is in! We also looked for brands who use eco-friendly packaging. When it comes to diamonds, you’ll only see lab-grown diamonds on this list.
Certifications: Speaking of materials, it was helpful in our search to find brands who could back up their claims of sustainability. A few that you’ll see included in this list are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), The Responsible Jewellery Council, and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Supply chain & labor practices: It’s one thing to claim to be ethical, but it’s another to actually do ethical. These brands have all provided assurance that they not only talk the talk, but actually walk the walk. Basically, we look for ethical conflict free jewelry, that also didn’t require any forced or child labor, and unsafe work environments (which is so many jewelry mining operations). Oh, and we look for fair pay, of course!
Through certifications, visits to factories, or evidence of supporting workers in unique and positive ways, these brands have gone the extra mile to ensure an ethical supply chain.
- Green business practices: Any other ways sustainable jewelry brands are working to reduce their eco imprint falls here. This includes things like offering a buyback or recycling program, purchasing carbon offsets, using renewable energy, and pretty much any other creative green initiative they can imagine.
- Community & charitable giving: What truly makes that necklace or pair of earrings really shine? Jewelry is often used to express love and in this list we looked for the best ethical jewelry brands who also extend that love to their local communities and charitable organizations. Almost every single brand listed here gives back to their communities in ways that go beyond their standard business practices.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL JEWELRY BRANDS
How good will it feel to look down at that sparkly ring or bracelet and know that the only cost it came at was to your honey’s pocketbook. And if you really want to go sustainable, you can store it in one of so many adorable eco friendly jewelry boxes available on Etsy (like this reclaimed driftwood one!)
But do bear in mind, the best sustainable jewelry is that which you already own, so still exercise restraint when shopping, You only have one pair of ears and ten fingers, after all. However, jewelry can be one of the best ways to express ourselves or celebrate important events, so if we do buy new, it’s important that we don’t let it get tarnished by ugly environmental and ethical problems.
Since we’re just getting into this new subfield of sustainable and ethical fashion, we’re sure we missed TONS of brands (but don’t worry, you haven’t heard the last of us when it comes to sustainable jewelry companies).
So now we turn to you. Do YOU know where to buy ethical jewelry?If you know of a brand you feel belongs here, don’t leave us dangling. Let the earrings do that and let us know in the comments.
Learn something? Great! Now, help us spread the word about sustainable and ethical jewelry! Share this article among friends and maybe even your significant other as a somewhat not-so-subtle hint about what you’d like for this year’s anniversary.
Together, we can all change the systems that are associated with so many problems and start wearing bling without all the baggage.