Sometimes we see fashion lines and companies claiming that they are sustainable or ethical but what does that actually mean for a piece of jewelry?
The jewelry industry has an unfortunate history of being very unethical. The offenses are vast and longstanging - roots in colonialist taking of land deemed valuable, environmental damage from careless mining practices, and dangerous, exploitative labor practices, even child labor.
Accountability in the jewelry industry is the exception and not the rule, but there is more and more pressure to create more sustainable and ethical solutions and I am happy to see this industry changing.
The basics of what I look for when determining if a jewelry brand is sustainable: responsibly sourced gemstones, Made in the USA, sustainable packaging/supplies, and holistic sustainability practices company-wide.
Lab Grown Opal - Synthetic opals are an incredible alternative to mined stones. They still take around a year to grow in the lab, and are made from the same material that is found in real opal (silicon dioxide) and no dyes are used. The company I work with has provided me with some gorgeous stones over the years with way less environmental impact and free from unethical mining conditions.
American Mined Stones - Many gorgeous gemstones are mined right here in the US (where mining conditions are a lot better regulated) There are a lot of gorgeous gemstones that are found naturally in the US. Working with local mines and gem cutters gives a jeweler a better understanding of where the gems come from.
Ethical Gemstone Sourcing - I am phasing out working with crystals that I don't know the exact origins of. We're only buying natural gems from reputable companies that are transparent about their mine source and labor conditions. We're buying from Fair Trade certified companies, direct from mines and making sure that we are not supporting bad practices.
Most of the natural opals I use are from an Australian guy named Dag who has been in the industry for over 50 years. In an industry that is notoriously (and, I believe, purposefully) opaque about their sourcing, Dag's company Opex Opal mines in Australia and Brazil. The Boi Morto cooperative mine in Brazil, where these are from, was recently reopened after big changes were made to create safer working conditions and to be in compliance with environmental regulations.
Recycled Metals - We source our metals from a company in Portland that recycles and refines metals, and we recycle our scrap there as well. We don't work with gold because of the overwhelming environmental destruction caused by the precious metal mining industry.
Minimal, Reused and Recycled Packaging - I wrap and pack each order with just a few pieces of tissue paper and my business card. I don't print any additional packing slips or inserts for your purchases that will ultimately get thrown away. And If there is anything fragile in your package, you can bet that the bubble wrap keeping it safe is being reused from a recent Sephora order!
Conscious Partnerships - I cancelled my Amazon account this year and am no longer sourcing my mailers or labels from companies that don't pay taxes or donate to Trump like Amazon and Uline. I vote with my dollar too and try to source from the best options for Iron Oxide's business/shipping needs.
Repairs - Best loved things have the habit of getting loved to death. I offer (usually free) repairs for life. Usually it just takes a minute or the right tool to fix something minor and save it from getting thrown out.
Giving - 25% of my profit is donated to various organizations each month (see the 2020 lineup of giving) ensuring that as my company grows, my investment in my community does as well.
More Inclusive Pricing - Have you noticed that sustainable fashion is a little expensive? I offer Iron Oxide direct to consumer so that there is no additional markup and I can keep the prices more accessible.
Holistic Sustainability - I recently moved my domain hosting and bookkeeping from GoDaddy.com after I learned that the founder is a trophy hunter. I'm striving to make ethical and sustainable choices in every detail of my business, down to my domain host (as well as how I operate in my personal life.)
Made in the USA - This should almost go without saying. American made jewelry. Beware of companies that say "Designed in LA." if someone isn't clearly stating where something is being made, it is likely being made overseas. It's way cheaper to pay employees lower wages in other countries and that is usually because people are not being paid a living wage.