The average £10,000 wedding ring will generate 3 tonnes of toxic waste during its production, including cyanide and mercury. Not the everlasting reminder you want of your green wedding! Environmentally irresponsible mining techniques, as well as the common use of “conflict diamonds” make the world of jewellery a dark and ambiguous place, where the origins of its production are often clouded in jargon. It is no surprise then, that many couples are now choosing to use eco friendly wedding rings. This guide will explain how to support the wedding ring industry responsibly, without contributing to the exploitation of people or the planet’s resources.
The mining of gold is considered to be one of the most polluting processes on the planet. The mining process involves churning up tonnes of earth to extract just tiny flakes of the precious metal. The exposure of the churned up rock to air and moisture starts off chemical reactions that produce harmful by-products such as acids and toxic metals. If these are not responsibly controlled, they find their way into nearby waterways, poisoning fish and other aquatic organisms, upsetting the ecosystem of the whole area. A process of roasting the gold ore is often used, which releases tonnes of poisonous mercury into the atmosphere. It is estimated that a single 18 karat wedding band can generate 20 tonnes of ore and waste which will often be simply be left behind to harbour contaminants for centuries.
These harrowing statistics have prompted many in the jewellery industry into action. The Oro Verde Corporation has been supporting environmentally responsible gold and platinum for the past decade, aiming to restore and replenish the biodiversity of mined areas and encouraging the sustainable use of natural resources.
The Association for Responsible Mining is a network which now works globally to promote environmentally responsible standards, such as those set by The Oro Verde Corporation. They provide certification guaranteeing the origin of the product and the standards that have been followed during its production. With this guarantee, environmentally minded jewellery makers can now buy gold in the confidence that it has been mined without exploiting natural resources or polluting the surrounding area.
Diamonds are an iconic feature of wedding and engagement rings. However, the simple diamond has come to represent the exploitation of workers and the funding of political conflicts worldwide, particularly in the war-torn Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Great effort has been made to guarantee conflict free diamonds through the Kimberly Process, and 99% of diamonds in the UK are now certified to be free from these dark origins. However, the Kimberly Process does not guarantee fair treatment or pay of workers and often, children are exploited for their sharp vision and small hands.
The use of radiation is also a concern. Gemstones are often irradiated in order to enhance their colour, with this radiation often remaining on the stone for years, causing damage to the health of its wearer as well as those involved in its production process.
While work is now being done to improve the welfare of miners and workers in African diamond mines, many ethical jewellery makers are now turning to politically stable countries such as Canada for their wealth of diamond sources. Mining is undertaken under strict guidelines to guarantee fair treatment of workers and sustainable development in the mined area. All diamonds sourced through this system receive a “Canada Mark” inscription, proving their ethical origins.
Your wedding ring should remind you of your special day and your love for your partner. So remove all the dark associations of pollution and exploitation and choose a ring with an accreditation stating its origin and guaranteeing its eco friendly production.
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