Why you should pledge to buying ethical jewellery
Time for transparency
It's more than just crossing your T's and dotting your I's when it comes ethical jewellery. While interchangeable with terms such as 'fair-trade', 'eco-conscious' and 'sustainable', the reality of diamonds and precious stones that are 100 per cent conflict-free, however, is a bit more hazy than simply closing down factories employing child labour or switching to suppliers with organic practices.
The truth behind these pretty gems is that most of them have origins that are less than pristine, connected to horrifying cases of human rights abuse, militia funding and even genocide at its base level. Just watch the film Blood Diamond starring Leo DiCaprio if you haven't an inkling how conflict gems finance warlords and profit diamond companies, which in turn fund civil wars and the continuation of atrocities being committed against the local people. But with more consumers going green and an uptick in being socially responsible with their purchases — not to mention the call to action for transparency among big companies — measures have been implemented to ensure diamond purchases are as clean as possible, namely the Kimberley Process set up by the United Nations, which seeks to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market.
Of course, this system isn't infallible, as pointed out by Hannah Lownsbrough, executive director of SumOfUs, an organisation using people power to hold the biggest companies in the world to account. Highlighting how certain luxury companies have silently abandoned their boycott of sourcing gems from conflict zones, in particular quality jade that originates from Myanmar, she pins the tail on the donkey on the issue of responsible jewellery practices — or rather the lack thereof — and how shoppers are unknowingly contributing to mass violence and genocide when they buy pieces from brands that "...were quietly complicit in providing an income stream to the perpetrators of the violence."
So in the grand scheme of things, how can an individual affect change? We're not saying you need to re-brand yourself into the next Amal Clooney, but you'd be surprised at how much weight your purchasing power holds. For one, do your research and make the conscious switch to jewellers with ethical business practices, such as Vanleles Diamonds whose founder Vania Leles is nothing short of a perfectionist when it comes to doing her homework on ensuring the gems she uses are as ethically-sourced as possible. Even homegrown label Choo Yilin is no slouch on that front, sourcing her gems only from small, artisanal mines, and pledging to utilise recycled silver and gold or pre-existing pieces in her creations. Additionally, you won't find rare woods or endangered animal products like ivory or shark's teeth in her collections either, making the brand ethical and ecologically friendly.
Alternatively, there's lab-grown diamonds that are as brilliant as the stones created by Mother Nature, if you don't care either way either your rocks are mined or man-made. Innocent Stone, a grown diamonds laboratory based right here in Singapore is one such company flying the ethical and environmental flag, producing gems for philanthropic jewellers such as French brand Twin for Peace, on top of creating their own designs. As said by brand director Stéphane Wulwikhe: "The hope is that more and more brands will adopt these types of diamonds to be able to offer choice to their consumers."
It's 2018, guys. Time to get with the programme for change.
To join the cause for ethical jewellery and to learn more about SumofUs, click here.
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