Where to Buy an Ethical Engagement Ring in the UK

Ethical Engagement Ring UK

Men in the UK think they should spend at least £3354 on an engagement ring for their to-be spouse. Picking out the right ring can be as demanding as choosing the right partner. So much so, that people take weeks or up to months to zero in on the right engagement ring.

When you’re willing to spend more than 1.5x the average monthly salary in the UK, you need to know where your money is going and how to get the best of what you’re paying.

If you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level, read on.

Materials Used for Engagement Rings

Most commonly, engagement rings have diamonds embedded in them. According to a 2018 study by the US-based wedding website The Knot, the most popular centre stones are diamonds at 86%, followed by other precious stones at 10% (moissanite, sapphire, morganite, etc).

The study also mentions the most popular metals for the rings – white gold (54%), followed by rose gold (14%), platinum (13%), yellow gold (13%), and lastly, sterling silver (7%).

 

Why are Engagement Rings Unethical?

We grew up believing that diamonds are one of the best gifts to express our love with and gold is a great form of investment. It probably never crossed your mind until a few years ago (or until now!) how precious metals and stones can be unethical and destructive to the planet and people.

Conflict diamond

In 1990, the human rights violations raised awareness about conflict diamonds or ‘Blood diamonds’. These illegally traded diamonds would be used to fund conflict in war-torn areas.

In 2000, the Kimberley Process was established, which tracks a diamond from the mine right to the store and marks it conflict-free.

Although the World Diamond Council claims that today 99% of the diamonds available in the market are conflict-free, the Kimberly Process is far from foolproof.

The biggest limitation of the process is the narrow definition which fails to include the issues of worker exploitation. Moreover, the certificate applies to a batch of rough diamonds instead of individually cut diamonds.

Finding a truly conflict-free and ethical natural diamond is difficult. It’s also important to keep in mind that when you buy a Canadian diamond (which belongs to a non-conflict zone), you are still supporting the market for less-ethical African diamonds and driving the prices up.

Diamond mining

According to a geological survey, the average diamond in an engagement ring is a result of removal/processing of 200 to 400 million times its volume!

This waste rock and tailings produced from mining are dumped and undergo chemical reactions causing acidic water which merges with groundwater, contaminating it and harming/killing species that depend on it.

Moreover, diamond mining is not carried out specifically on wastelands, but wherever diamond is found. This often leads to displacement and wreckage of local communities, ecosystems and wildlife. The Diavik Diamond mine is so immense that it can even be seen from space!

Diamond mining produces more than 125 pounds of CO2 emission per carat, wastes around 572 litres of water per carat, and uses an immense amount of electricity.

Gold mining

As consumers, we don’t realize where the gold in our jewellery comes from and how it is mined. Gold mining is one of the most disruptive industries.

Gold mining displaces communities, contaminates water and endangers workers. The gold for just one ring can generate 20 tons of waste.

The mineral-rich and developing countries surprisingly have slow growth rates and high poverty. Moreover, the cleanup costs and the cost of dealing with the environmental disruption caused by mining is often shouldered by the taxpayers due to lack of regulation.

 

What are Ethical Engagement Rings Made of?

Despite the issues mentioned above, you can still find a beautiful engagement ring made of precious stones/metals which is also ethical. Let’s find out what are ethical rings made of:

1. Recycled diamonds

Recycled diamonds have been previously owned and are now put back into the supply chain. They can have old cuts or can be antique pieces that have been recut and repolished.

These diamonds are repurposed but  are100% natural diamonds. Yet they are not newly mined, this means that they’re an environmentally friendly choice with no social implications.

While choosing a recycled diamond, make sure you understand the 4 C’s of diamonds.

2. Fairtrade gold

Fairtrade certified gold supports miners by ensuring they get fair compensation and it helps protect the environment and community around the mines. Fairtrade gold is sourced from mines that meet the Fairtrade Gold Standards.

It is usually around 20% more expensive than non-traceable gold. This is a small price to pay considering that fairtrade gold values people and the planet over profits.

You can find a list of registered goldsmiths dealing with fairtrade gold here.

3. Lab diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds have the same properties as natural diamonds. Instead of taking billions of years to form underground, they are grown in a lab, recreating the natural process and can be grown in 1-4 weeks depending on the size.

Lab-grown diamonds are priced considerably lower than natural diamonds while having the same characteristics. So they’re cost-effective to the consumer and you can plan to purchase a larger rock in the same budget.

In 2021, the lab-grown diamond market was 7.45 million carats a year and is expected to grow to about 19.2 million carats in 2030.

A lab-grown diamond is fundamentally a much more ethical and eco-conscious choice compared to natural diamonds, as it reduces carbon emissions, wastage of water, and degradation of land. However, it’s important to note that they still have an environmental impact due to their carbon footprint.

4. Recycled gold or other metals

Previously owned gold is melted down and refined to produce new jewellery. Recycled gold is ethical as it does not create demand for new mining.

Recycled gold is as valuable as normal, newly-mined gold. However, fair trade gold can be considered more ethical as we can be sure of the means using which it was mined, its impact on the planet, and the fair compensation of workers.

 

Where to Buy Ethical Engagement Rings in the UK?

Let’s find out where you can purchase an ethical engagement ring that has caused minimal or no damage to the planet and the people involved in the process.

1. Lebrusan Studio

Ecological Gold and Ethical Diamond Engagement Ring

The Lebrusan Studio is created by the award-winning designer Arabel Lebrusan. They believe in the ethical sourcing of materials and have rings made from ethical diamonds, gemstones and sustainable metal. They have a range of sustainable metal options for you to choose from – recycled metal, fairtrade gold and fairminded ecological gold.

The Lebrusan Studio is one of the few jewellers offering fairminded ecological gold, which we highly recommend. Apart from complying with the usual fairmined gold standards, the mining of this gold does not use any toxic chemicals whatsoever.

The gorgeous ring above is available to buy in fairtrade or fairmined gold, with options of yellow, rose and white gold. The diamond in this specific ring is either from Canada (non-conflict zone) or a recycled one. The same ring is also available in recycled platinum.

One of the most interesting rings that Lebrusan studio offers are the unique salt and pepper diamond rings. These are naturally occurring diamonds with distinctive ‘birthmarks’ – pots, feathers, cracks, clouds or chips. This makes them less in demand although they’re beautiful in their own way and have all the qualities of a diamond.

Although the mining process of salt and pepper diamonds is the same, they are more readily available and extracting them is a shorter and gentler process compared to high-grade natural diamonds.

 

2. Savvy + Sand

Lab Diamond Ring by Savvy + Sand

100% of diamonds by Savvy + Sand can be traced back to their origin and the brand has a separate line of lab-grown diamond engagement rings.

The lab-grown diamonds by Savvy + Sand are made using renewable energy and are certified carbon neutral. They were in fact one of the first retailers to start selling lab-grown diamonds in the UK market.

Their diamonds have an excellent cut and are mid to high clarity grade (VS2 and above).

 

3. Stone Lab

Lab Grown Sapphire Ring by Stone Lab

If you want your engagement ring to be truly different, we recommend Stone Lab. Apart from having an excellent lab-grown diamond ring collection, they also have lab-grown sapphire and ruby rings.

Gemstone mining is destructive to the environment, moreover, ruby mining can be especially troublesome as 90% of rubies come from Myanmar, the sales of which finance the country’s corrupt and repressive regime. Lab-grown rubies have the exact composition as the natural ones and are much more cost-effective.

Sapphire mining is no better, 40% of the world’s sapphires come from Madagascar which harms its ecologically diverse environment. Despite the resources the country has, 75% of citizens still live below the poverty line.

If you’re considering a gemstone other than a diamond, a lab-grown sapphire or ruby would be perfect.

 

4. Aether

Diamond Ring by Aether

Aether is a US-based company that is doing something absolutely magical – taking the lightest thing in the world and turning it into the hardest thing.

Aether pulls out CO2 from the air and uses it to create lab-grown diamonds. They’re the first company to do this and as of now, the only one.

Diamonds created by Aether actually extract almost 20 long tons of CO2 from the air for each carat of diamond sold.

While other lab-grown diamond producers are struggling to achieve carbon neutrality, Aether is carbon negative today.

Aether uses fairminded gold for all their rings. Their packaging is sustainable too. Although they’re US-based, they ship to the UK.

 

Myths About Lab Grown Diamonds

Lab diamonds have been in production since the mid-1900s but there are still some misconceptions about them that inhibit consumers from buying them. Let’s break it down:

1. They’re bad for the environment

While naturally mined diamonds use 149 kWh of energy per carat, lab-created diamonds use 69 kWh per carat. Moreover, these days, it is easy to find companies that use 100% renewable energy to create lab diamonds!

Mined diamonds use up a whopping 572 litres of water per carat, but lab diamonds only use 81 litres per carat. So compared to mined diamonds, lab diamonds are better for the environment.

2. They’re not real diamonds

Atomically, physically, and optically, lab-grown diamonds are undifferentiated from natural diamonds. They are only created in a different way.

3. They’re expensive

This one couldn’t be more wrong. Lab diamonds commonly costs 50-70% less than mined diamonds.

4. You can only buy small lab diamonds

Lab diamonds are available in different colours and sizes. The largest lab-grown diamonds in the world can go up to more than 15 carats.

5. They can’t be insured

Lab-grown diamonds can definitely be insured.

6. They’re a bad investment

This one is true, lab-grown diamonds are a bad investment but so are natural diamonds. Pricing and valuation of natural diamonds is subjective and so they can turn out to be a bad investment unless you are skilled in selecting the right diamonds.

 

Conclusion

Diamonds are forever and they leave an impact on our planet lasting forever. An engagement ring is a declaration of our love, so it’s important where it comes from and what it signifies.

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