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Choosing the right engagement ring can be a daunting task. There are so many styles to consider and most of us want to pick one that we can commit to forever! It's a big decision for most couples who don't actually know the dark side of the jewelry industry, especially gold and diamond mining.
The jewelry industry is riddled with human rights issues and environmental damage, it's not pretty and it's why considering ethical engagement rings is so important. Today, ethical modern fine jewelers have simplified the process making 'putting a ring on it" ethically easier than ever!
Sustainable Engagement Ring brands
So how do you actually shop for an ethical engagement ring? Greenwashing is so prevalent in this industry, so before you say "I do" take a look at our buying guide at the end of this post. We highlight how we chose these brands and what you should be on the lookout for when making your decision. We hope you find the perfect gem to go with your wedding dress.
Gardens of the Sun lets you symbolize your greatest love with an act of love - for both the planet and the people on it.
Their ethical engagement rings are one of a kind and mostly made to order, using individually sourced gemstones and diamonds that take guilt-free jewelry to the next level. Founded by a former sustainability consultant, doing good and giving back are the drivers behind this ethical jewelry brand.
Gardens of the Sun's Materials
Gardens of the Sun has set up its own supply chain for ethically sourced gold, offering full transparency from the mine to your jewelry.
Their gold is mercury-free, does not cause any deforestation, and empowers indigenous Dayak women. Although their 18-karat gold is not certified, organizations like the World Bank, Planet Gold, and UNDP speak with praise about this partnership.
Independent research by the University of British Columbia found the partnership and the resulting access to finance had a positive ripple effect on poverty, gender inequity, and human and environmental health in the community of the gold miners Gardens of the Sun partners with.
This jeweler doesn't hide behind the claim that Kimberley Process has eradicated all conflict diamonds. In fact, they advocate that Russian diamonds should be considered blood diamonds, and have a sourcing policy and system that's much stricter than the Kimberley Process.
They offer only diamonds of known origin, giving preference to diamonds from Australia, Botswana, and Canada, as well as diamonds from artisanal miners and cutters in Indonesia.
Gardens of the Sun's Ethical Sourcing
Gardens of the Sun implements a rigorous and strict sourcing process for their gemstones. Since November 2018, all gemstones are from known origin. Their Sustainability Team tracks issues related to mining in each origin country and offsets any relevant risks through a targeted giving-back program.
Gardens of the Sun's Corporate Responsibility
Gardens of the Sun offset both their direct and indirect carbon emissions and plants 5 trees for every piece of jewelry sold, resulting in over 55,000 trees planted to date.
They publish an annual Impact Report which offers a candid look into their operations and impact. At the time of writing, this jeweler has helped prevent the release of an estimated 39.98 kg of mercury, donated $23k to good causes, and paid $27,240.31 in premiums to the indigenous women they work with.
Catbird was founded in 2004 by Rony, she started selling clothes and other small items including jewelry she either made herself or bought from others.
Rony learned that she had a passion for jewelry and decided to open another store in 2006 that focused on jewelry, fast forward to today she has over 100 workers and a studio where the workers craft beautiful pieces.
Catbird makes stunning engagement rings and there are 160 styles to choose from. They carry classic solitaire rings, unique rings, three-stone ones, colored gemstones, and halo-style rings.
There is something here for everyone; you can choose your metal from either rose gold, white gold, or classic gold. As a bonus, they carry recycled engagement rings made from repurposed materials. The starting price is $3,000 depending on the carat size.
All of Catbird’s rings are made from recycled materials, the band is made from 100% recycled gold and partially recycled platinum.
As for the diamonds they only use recycled diamonds that are reclaimed from vintage and deadstock jewelry, they carry conflict-free diamonds (the rose cut) which follow the Kimberley Process, and lastly their cultivated diamonds which are also known as lab-created diamonds.
Catbird’s ethical sourcing
The recycled diamonds eliminate the need to extract any additional diamonds to create these pieces which means they can also control how and who makes the new pieces.
Catbird’s corporate responsibility
The studio works with over 95% recycled gold and diamonds, and they are a woman-run business that encourages a safe working environment. Catbird also has a giving fund that gives 1% of all sales to non-profits that align with the company’s core beliefs.
Another NYC-based business that is on a mission to deliver sustainable jewelry and make your finger dazzle!
Aurate was founded in 2015 over brunch among friends, Sophie and Bourchra who wanted to give consumers an affordable option when it comes to their rings.
Thanks to all the technology that has developed over the years Aurate is ready and willing to make your ideas come to life with custom orders.
There are six shapes to choose from, round, cushion, pear, oval, emerald, and princess, you can also get them in six different styles solitaire, three-stones, pave, and more! All the styles come in one carat and either a lab-created diamond or a natural one.
They only use lab-created diamonds or natural diamonds. The natural diamonds follow the Kimberley process to ensure that the diamonds are conflict free, they also come with a GIA or IGI certification as well.
Aurate’s ethical sourcing
Aurate sources its natural diamonds from Asia, the Middle East, and South America, all of these areas do not source blood diamonds.
Aurate’s corporate responsibility
Diversity is at the heart of this company; they employ every from all walks of the earth. They have 50% diverse leadership and 100% young parents in leadership roles, they also employ 75% of women and more than half of their board is female.
4. Ring Bear
This one is for the men out there! Why shouldn’t men feel just as special picking out their dream ring as women… Ring Bear has got just what a man needs.
This is the first carbon-neutral men’s band and male ethical engagement rings on the market, and they source their bands from recycled metals, they are also built to last the test of time (just like your love!).
They have an assortment of rings in various metals and styles, they have gold, silver, and tungsten, and they also have styles like flat, brushed, colored inlays, wood, braided, and so much more!
Ring Bear’s materials
They source FSC-certified timber, and recycled metals to make their rings.
Ring Bear’s ethical sourcing
As they use recycled materials there is less production that it takes to create the rings, crafting a gold or platinum men’s wedding band only uses 3% of the energy and emits 1% of CO2 required to mine gold.
Ring Bear’s corporate responsibility
Ring Bear has full transparency and the same goes for their prices, they are priced with no markup. They also use recycled packaging and plant trees in order to ensure they offset their carbon emissions.
In 2005 co-founders Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg wanted to change the ethical standards of the diamond industry. Brilliant Earth uses Beyond Conflict Free™ diamonds selected based on their ethical and responsible origins.
They really consider the buyer when they design their ethical engagement rings, from the comfort of the ring, right down to the intricate designs. Choose from a diamond or a lab-grown diamond, and shop by style, metal, and even shape, you can really make one of these rings your own by customizing it on their website.
Brilliant Earth does an exceptional job of purchasing ethical engagement rings online because of the many ways you can customize them.
Brilliant Earth’s materials
They use natural diamonds, recycled gold, and recycled diamonds, they also use lab-grown diamonds. They create moissanite and gemstone engagement rings.
Brilliant Earth’s ethical sourcing
Their recycled metals come from their own products, the original metal comes from certified responsible refiners, currently, their gold is 93% and the silver is 99.8% recycled material.
The Beyond Conflict Free™ diamonds go above just making sure they don’t fund rebel movements, they ensure human rights are being upheld, the environment is not being harmed, the employees are safe, and it supports community development, these diamonds are mined in Canada or Botswana. Finally, the lab-grown diamonds are just that, created in a lab using minimal energy.
Brilliant Earth’s corporate responsibility
They provide training in a mercury-free area to empower miners in the community of Madre de Dios. Brilliant Earth also donates to groups such as Feed America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, created a partnership with the Rainforest Alliance to fight deforestation, and provides education to students in rural diamond mining communities. The company is carbon neutral, and they use FSC certified for their wood ring boxes.
Taylor & Hart puts you in the creative seat when it comes to the perfect engagement for your loved one. They wanted to put the love and magic back into bespoke jewelry and have really devoted their business to helping you create a piece that is just as unique and special as the person you intend to marry.
If designing your own ring isn’t the right process for you don’t worry, Taylor & Hart has a collection of pieces ready to order. Starting with your diamond you can choose a natural, lab-grown, or ethically sourced sapphire engagement ring.
There are stunning options to choose from, start by choosing your setting, they have very classic solitaire options starting at 810 EUD and very intricate designs like a double halo and various side stone shapes that can be priced up to 12,360 EUD. Note that prices can be dependent on your final product after choosing your diamond and the carat size.
Taylor & Hart materials
Taylor & Hart has started developing more lab-grown diamonds as there has been such a surge of want for a more sustainable option.
They use a “seed” of a natural diamond to grow a full-sized diamond in the lab, the “seed” is set in carbon and exposed to high pressure to craft the diamond.
Natural diamonds go beyond just being conflict-free, they also ensure human rights are protected and that fair wages are paid.
The beautiful sapphire gemstones are sourced by an in-house buyer who lives in Sri Lanka and owns her own women-led gemstone exporting business, the gemstones are sourced in traditional ways which means relying less on mass production.
Taylor & Hart corporate responsibility
Your ring will be placed in a faux leather box, they have recently redesigned the box to last a lifetime and have it be a multipurpose item, and along with that, they have eliminated paper documents to reduce waste.
They also feature transparent sourcing through Diamond Time Lapse and CanadaMark diamonds which outline the source of origin for your diamond. They have a goal by 2023 to have complete in-house manufacturing to ensure sustainable and equitable practices.
7. Clean Origin
If you are looking strictly for a lab-grown ethical engagement ring, you will want to check out Clean Origin. Founded in 2017 by a bunch of veterans from the diamond industry who wanted to make a change and get away from the dark cloud of diamonds, they created this brand to deliver a diamond with no hidden secrets.
Lab diamonds are not mined, and a common misconception is that they are not real, but they are! On Clean Origin you can pick every aspect of your ring, or you can choose from one of their ready-to-ship options. If you want to customize your ring you can start with your setting or your diamond and choose the 4 C’s that you’re after.
I played around a bit and found the prices are very reasonable for what you are after. The settings start at $731.74 - $4,663.96 (this does not include the price of the diamond).
They have a ton of variety to fit any style that you prefer, from classic and timeless, to art deco and modern rings, you can pick your metal color as well and they have a large range of ring sizes.
Clean Origin’s materials
The diamonds are all 100% lab-grown diamonds, and the metals are made from recycled materials.
Clean Origin’s ethical sourcing
As they try to avoid the dark side of the diamond industry, they have manufactured their own lab-grown diamonds and recycled materials for the metals that come certified by the Responsible Jewelry council.
Clean Origin’s corporate responsibility
Clean Origin gives back to many charitable organizations such as aiding children through mentorships including Year Up which is a tuition-free job training program.
They have also partnered with Junior Achievement USA which offers guidance to young people, and they have donated to Give Kids the World and Blessings in a Backpack which gives kids everything they need to go back to school.
The employees are huge animal lovers so they also strive to protect biodiversity and the animals that come along with that.
This is a big up-and-coming brand, I remember seeing Facebook ads for Mejuri before it became super well-known. Co-founder Noura Sakkijha believes that jewelry is an expression of yourself, and you should be able to live in them and that they come from responsible sourcing.
The rings are sleek and modern, they carry both men’s and women’s rings as well as fashion pieces. The engagement rings are more band-style rings, but they do feature a cluster ring, prices start at $148 – $4,900.
Mejuri uses a mixture of recycled and fairly mined materials that are all authenticated, they use 14k solid gold, sterling silver, 18k gold vermeil, and titanium. For some of their other jewelry they also use enamel, and ceramic.
As for their rings with diamonds or gemstones, the diamonds are responsibly sourced and are certified through the Kimberley Process and the gemstones are also responsibly sourced.
Mejuri’s ethical sourcing
All the materials are sourced with minimal impact on the environment and the items are all traceable to avoid an unintended negative impact. Currently, 80% of their gold is recycled and they have an ongoing partnership with RJC-certified production partners.
Mejuri’s corporate responsibility
They plan on being fully transparent and traceable in the future and they also created an Empowerment Fund in 2020 to support BIPOC women and nonbinary individuals by giving them scholarships for further education, they have donated $285,000 for the fund so far.
Noémie was built on the premise that the journey is as dear as the destination and that is why they take the time and care to handcraft their jewelry and make it last as long as your love.
They have the utmost quality for their rings, and you can choose from a stunning natural diamond that is conflict-free or a lab-created diamond.
There are 6 products to choose from in the engagement ring collection they feature round and oval engagement rings in classic settings like solitaire, halo, or solitaire pave, and if you’re looking for something less traditional try their crisscross ring, all the rings come in 18k gold and can be white, rose, classic gold, or platinum. Their rings are all priced at around $9,000.
They only use 18k gold, but you can request 14k gold, they use lab-grown diamonds and conflict-free diamonds that follow the Kimberley Process. You can get the gold in white, gold, or rose gold, they also offer a platinum option.
Noémie’s ethical sourcing
They source their diamonds from conflict-free areas and also follow the Kimberley Process, they also are in compliance with all applicable UN resolutions. The lab-grown diamonds are grown in-house as well.
Noémie’s corporate responsibility
Noémie cuts out the middleman when crafting their jewelry and therefore can cut the cost up to 5x that their competitors charge, since the rings are handcrafted in their own production facility, they also reduce energy and CO2 emissions from using multiple factories. Noémie also has a calculator under each of their rings that shows you the cost per wear of the ring you’re buying.
Holden celebrates all types of love and has thoughtfully designed an engagement collection that is gender-neutral. Holden has heard many stories from friends who felt judged or excluded when shopping for an engagement ring, so they decided to get rid of the gap in the market and offer a unique product that is also not overpriced.
Holdens rings are elegant, classy, and minimalist, a lot of their engagement rings are solitaire with varying shapes such as oval, pear, and emerald.
They have a few options if you would like diamonds on the band itself, and they offer thicker bands if the thin band isn’t for you or your loved one. The rings start at $799 but they do go up in price depending on metal type, bandwidth, and center stone size, cut, and clarity.
All the metal is 100% SCS-certified recycled and they ethically source lab-grown diamonds that come certified with GIA or IGI.
Holden’s ethical sourcing
Holden only uses certified recycled materials for their precious metals and only uses ethical lab-grown diamonds, everything is locally made in NYC in the Diamond District.
Holden’s corporate responsibility
The beautiful box that your ring comes in is from 75% post-consumer waste and you can recycle your box once removing the foam insert. If for any reason a ring has to be returned it does not go to waste, they recycle the returned ring and make it into a new product to display in the showroom.
Holden is Climate Neutral Certified, and they offset 100% of their emission each year. They also work with The Trevor Project which supports LGBTQ+ youth and is a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, they donate % of all sales to the project and they donate an annual minimum of $50,000.
How do you shop for an ethical engagement ring?
We all know there is a dark side to diamonds though and the notorious record of human rights violations and lots of environmental concerns. Diamonds are at the heart of the conflict in Africa and various parts of the world, they are often referred to as blood diamonds due to the unethical ways they are minded and used to fund militia. A lot of misconceptions about ethical engagement rings are surrounded by them being “fake” but that is not the case.
Obviously, the human rights violation and the war that breaks out due to diamonds are horrible, but there is also a significant impact that mining diamonds has on the environment. For every 1ct of a mined diamond, there is 100 sqft of disrupted land and over 6000 lbs of mineral waste, and for every 1,000 workers, there is 1 injury annually (that’s a lot of hurt people!).
Those facts are just the tip of the iceberg if you will, the water waste is astonishing! For every one carat of a mined diamond more than 126 gallons of water is wasted, PER CARAT!
There are so many reasons to purchase ethically sourced engagement rings and now with lab-grown diamonds and gemstones becoming more and more popular, this gives you plenty of options to go ethically for your proposal. You can apply this for more than just rings, you can apply it to watches are anything that might have a diamond in it.
We have broken down what to look for when buying the best ethical engagement rings.
Engagement rings can come in all different types now, you can still have a classic diamond if you want but you can also get moissanite, lab-grown, and gemstones. You can also factor materials into the band itself, the gold or silver can be sourced ethically, or it can also be made from recycled materials as well.
2. Ethical sourcing
Where did the diamond come from? Was it made in a lab or ethically sourced through diamond miners who work under safe and regulated conditions and are also paid fairly? You will want to ask these questions when looking for your engagement ring. A rule of thumb to ensure that your diamond is ethical is making sure it isn’t coming from a country where war is funded by the diamond industry. So ask lots of questions.
Certifications matter here! We've mentioned The Kimberley Process a few times. It's a good starting point but it's not perfect as it leaves out smaller mines that can't afford the certification.
Other certifications you can trust include: the American Gem Trade Association, Fair Trade, No Dirty Gold, International Gemological Institute (IGI), Gem Certification and Assurance Lab, Council of Fashion Designers for America (CFDA), Source Certain International (SCI), Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI), and Certified B Corporation.
It's important to note that complete traceability is not possible in this industry, these brands are helping to change that though.
3. Corporate Responsibility
What extra steps does the company take to ensure that your ring is ethical and safe for the environment? Looking for certifications like Guaranteed Conflict Free and the Kimberley Process ensures that the highest ethical standards are upheld.
A common misconception to watch out for is that GIA-certified diamonds are conflict free, that is not the case, GIA simply means they don’t accept rough or partially rough diamonds.
A final word on ethical engagement rings
Sustainable jewelry is an extension of ourselves, it’s a subtle way of self-expression and a way to bring your outfit together, it makes for the best gifts, and the most cherished item your loved one will wear when you pop the question.
Whether you decide to get an ethical natural diamond, a lab-grown diamond, or a gemstone, ensuring that all the proper certifications are there and that you can trace where your diamond came from and under what conditions are crucial.
In today’s world, we have so many options at our fingertips to reduce our carbon emissions, reduce waste, protect the rights of those working in poverty, and really make an impact on our environment just by making informed choices. And of course, you could always consider buying your ring secondhand.
If you found this article helpful or want to drop a hint to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, give this article a share!