The right jewelry and accessories can make or break an outfit. Even more, the sources of your jewelry can affect so much more than just appearance. While factors of price and quality certainly play a role when looking at different sources, there is a bigger problem faced by the fashion industry today.
The jewelry, clothing, and other fashionable items that we purchase from our countless mainstream retail stores are, in reality, just pieces of the broken system that is the fashion industry. The fashion industry thrives on both our wants and needs, and living within such a consumeristic society, this multi-trillion dollar industry has thrived on a lack of accountability. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world work 12+ hours a day to supply what fashion is demanding, while in the process making less than a living wage to support themselves and their families. Most of these factories and various work environments offer less than decent and unethical conditions, putting workers at a higher risk. This problem is beyond simple discomfort; the basic rights and needs of these laborers are not being met, thus holding them in systemic poverty.
That is not the only broken system of the fashion industry. Fashion is a top 5 contributor to the Earth’s pollution, making up 10% of the world’s carbon footprint, largely due to its “take, make, and dispose” based model. Additionally, the need for gold, silver, diamonds, and other valuable materials used to make jewelry has enabled excessive and negligent mining behaviors.
While the market of mining is very significant– valued at hundreds of billions of dollars in the last year alone– and provides work and income for millions of people globally, there are also several detrimental effects that can come with it as well. Irresponsible mining practices have led to toxic chemicals and waste entering waterways and soil, creating an increase in pollution and perpetuating its ripple effect.
Not only is this terrible for ecosystems and the environment, but it also negatively affects the health and well-being of mine workers and nearby communities. Other forms of mining harms often include abuse to human rights in the form of poor and dangerous working conditions, and forced displacement endured by indigeneous peoples and other locals in a variety of locations.
To combat such an established damaging entity, we need a major collaborative effort. Attention, accountability, and intentionality must be implemented into the conventions of consumers, brands, manufacturers, legislators, and everyone in between. Not only should we hold brands, businesses, and everyone affiliated with their processes to a higher standard, but also ourselves and what we deem ethical.
While “consuming less” may be the most effective solution, it is also the most unrealistic on a global scale. What is more realistic, though, is pushing for awareness and investment in truly sustainable brands and businesses. By doing so, you will be simultaneously pushing for positive environmental change and justice for those marginalized by the very trade their livelihoods depend on.
Below is a list of 16 of the best sustainable jewelry brands to beautifully (and affordably, I hope) accessorize your favorite looks.
SOKO, a women-led and morally upright jewelry brand, works to connect Kenyan artisans with the global market via mobile technology and a tech-powered manufacturing platform. The collection exhibits a beautiful array of tasteful staple, statements, and luxury pieces.
Price Range: $38-$228
Ethics: Certified B-Corp, fair trade
Materials: Uses 24k gold plated brass, recycled brass, silver via chrome-plated brass, ceramic beads via clay, reclaimed cow-horn & bone, sustainably harvested wood
Aurate is an inclusive and mindful jewelry brand based in New York with the core values of quality, transparency, sustainability, and tangible giving. As a tech-based, 21st century company, Aurate flourishes from consumer feedback and requests, which is integral to their design process and modern final products.
Price Range: $50-$9,000
Ethics: Invests in various causes, ethical working conditions, care for diversity
Materials: Uses 100% recycled gold (14k & 18k), 14k gold-plated vermeil, ethically sourced diamonds, sustainably harvested pearls
Catbird, a woman-run jewelry brand based in Brooklyn, engages in ethical production with emphases on durability and eco-friendliness. There is a wide variety of artisanal pieces (and prices) to choose from, ranging from everyday wear to engagement and wedding rings.
Price Range: $14-13,4000
Ethics: Giving fund (donates 1% of all sales to organizations in New York), ethical production
Materials: Uses recycled or lab-created diamonds, recycled gold and metals, pearls via clean water practices, small palette of stones from reliable mines
Omi Woods' fine, handmade jewelry acts as a nod to the African diaspora and honorary heirlooms tied to African culture. The brand works to create meaningful and lasting pieces to pass beauty and ethos on to future generations.
Price Range: $70-$270
Ethics: Fair trade, ethical working conditions
Materials: Uses lab grown diamonds, recycled and conflict-free fine metals; sterling silver (92.5% fine silver), 18k gold-plated vermeil, 10k-24k solid gold, carbon-neutral shipping
Mejuri pushes for the celebration of women, individuality, self-expression, and empowerment via the implementation of jewelry. The brand is built on the autonomous relationship women deserve to have with their jewelry, along with a supportive investment in oneself and the community. Find stunning handcrafted rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets from jewelers in Italy, India, South Korea, and beyond.
Price Range: $30-$4,400
Ethics: RJC certified, invests in BIPOC & nonbinary communities
Materials: Uses 100% traceable 14k gold (80% recycled, 20% responsibly mined), 18k gold-plated vermeil, sterling silver, titanium, conflict-free diamonds and AAA-grade gemstones
Ten Thousand Villages, a pioneer of fair trade and maker-to-market business, produces their jewelry by means of modest independent artisan groups, co-ops, and workshops. Artisans are encouraged to create their own unique, handcrafted designs and in turn celebrate distinctive craft and culture.
Price Range: $4.99-$175
Ethics: Member of Fair Trade Federation, artisan-made, fair trade
Materials: Uses ethically sourced metals (brass, surgical steel, etc), brass, bamboo cane, thread, wire, glass beads, marble
GLDN is a personalized, sustainable jewelry brand that was conceived by making jewelry on a kitchen floor for an Etsy shop. Offering a collection of delicately handcrafted, minimalist jewelry, this brand exemplifies the beauty of simplicity, the importance of transparency, and teaches us to trust the process.
Price Range: $30-$343
Ethics: Giving program (donates 10% of profits), empowering people through craft
Materials: Uses 90% recycled metals, 95% domestically sourced materials, recycled materials for packaging
Monica Vinader is an ethical jewelry brand that is made with the intention of promoting empowerment, confidence, and individuality among women all over the world. Globally-influenced, Monica has created a conscious and adored line of jewelry, characterized by its simplicity and luxury.
Price Range: $27.50-$1,317
Ethics: Positive Luxury Certified, 5-year warranty and lifetime repair service, fully carbon neutral
Materials: Uses 100% recycled gold vermeil and sterling silver (92.5% pure), 100% ethical and responsibly sourced diamonds and natural gemstones, sustainably grown genuine pearls, extensively cured leather, 100% recyclable packaging (100% FSC paper) and reusable pouches
Made Trade is a small woman-owned, family-run business with high ethical standards and priorities. In addition to their sustainable fine jewelry, this brand offers a wide range of products including clothing and home goods.
Price Range: $16-$480
Ethics: Fair trade (wages above profits), priority of artistry and quality craftsmanship, BIPOC owned, vegan, handcrafted, 100% carbon neutral
Materials: Uses recycled + upcycled gold, brass, and other metals, sustainably resourced
31 Bits is a women-owned jewelry brand inspired by Ugandan (and, later, Indonesian) artisans, their culture, and their relational richness. The brand works to provide dignified job opportunities to various artisan groups around the world, and as a result has cultivated a diverse collection of dainty textured jewelry.
Price Range: $3.99-$76
Ethics: Fair wages, personal care for artisans, cultural preservation, apprenticeship opportunities, artisan-made, handcrafted
Materials: Uses recycled paper beads, brass
Arlokea is a sustainable jewelry brand with core values of supporting others, eco-friendliness, and building strong communities. The brand is also heavily focused on the topics of health, education, and social issues/inequalities, and invests funding accordingly. Their jewelry can be described as earthy, boho-style statement pieces.
Price Range: $19-$120
Ethics: Give back initiatives, supporting health, education, and communal equality
Materials: Uses eco-friendly and sustainable resources, brass, gold, silver, wood, tagua and leather, pearls, stone and druzy materials
Nisolo, a Nashville-based brand committed to ethical practices and products, collaborates with artisans from Peru, Mexico, and Kenya to create their timeless and high quality fine jewelry. In addition to jewelry, Nisolo also largely produces a variety of men’s and women’s shoes and other accessories.
Price Range: $20-$35
Ethics: Certified B-Corp, provides living wages, healthy working conditions, education, and healthcare, investment in local economy, combating climate change and deforestation
Materials: Uses upcycled and intentionally sourced raw materials
ABLE, a reputable brand of sustainable jewelry based in Nashville, works tirelessly to support, invest in, and empower women, particularly those who have overcome adversity. With the ultimate goals of facilitating self sufficiency and providing safe and dignified jobs, ABLE has also facilitated the uplifting of entire communities. Along with their beautiful staple jewelry, the brand also sells a wide range of fashion apparel.
Shipping: US & Canada
Price Range: $20-135
Ethics: Certified B-Corp, deep investment in women and providing sustainable jobs for those exiting the commercial sex industry, handcrafted, scrap metal sent to refineries, lifetime repair and replacement guarantee
Materials: Uses upcycled leather, recycled sterling silver, 100% recyclable packaging and tags, uses natural solutions in manufacturing process (rather than harsh chemicals)
The Little Market is a culturally rich and globally-influenced jewelry brand invested in empowering women and the promotion of conscious shopping, environmental mindfulness, and intentional conversation. Using traditional artisanal techniques, this brand’s jewelry offers a beautiful array of dreamy and elegant pieces.
Price Range: $22-$148
Ethics: Fair Trade Federation members, empowering and investing in female artisans, facilitating financial and family support + self-sufficiency, preserving skills and cultural traditions, handcrafted
Materials: Uses conflict-free and ethically sourced 14k gold, glass and 24k gold-finished beads, gemstones, freshwater pearls, wire wrapping, elastic
SVNR is a quirky jewelry brand “born from the union of ethics and aesthetics.” With its creation of unique, one-of-a-kind jewelry from found and upcycled materials– a highlight being their collection of earrings– the NYC-based brand cultivates a beautiful and colorful form of self-expression and remembrance.
Price Range: $40-$485
Ethics: Handcrafted, commitment to sustainable manufacturing practices and conscious consumption, globally-influenced
Materials: Uses found, recycled, upcycled, and natural materials; 14k gold, gemstones, pearls, seashells, rocks, porcelain, vintage glass buttons, turquoise, wood, coral, brass, bone, coconut, and the list goes on!
Accompany is a collaborative, ethical jewelry brand that believes in one-of-a-kind accessories and is driven by true humanitarian and philanthropic motives. With their promotion of accessibility for direct-to-consumer needs, along with their push to empower artisans and indigenous people, this brand’s striking eccentric jewelry and accessories are certainly worth a browse.
Price Range: $30-$190
Ethics: Certified B-Corp, fair trade, handcrafted and artisanal, supporting indigenous people, ethical wages and working conditions, protecting cultural traditions, supporting local industries, supporting communities via education and other resources, percentage of profits given to charity (benefits sources of items produced), inspiring and empowering artisans
Materials: Uses responsibly sourced nickel-free metals, 24k gold-plated brass, upcycled bronze, glass beads, seashells, tagua nuts, polyester thread, and more!
In addition to shopping sustainably on a more widespread level, you can also make a point to support your own local businesses and vendors– whether it’s jewelry you’re looking for or not! Taking a step back from the current commercialization of big companies in our world proves to be very beneficial, though it takes integrity to do so. Or pick up a new hobby! Who knows, maybe you love making your own clothing and jewelry and don’t even know it.
I hope you all found the topic of sustainability to be as enlightening and inspiring as I did. There must always be time to consider the habits you’ve accumulated and the role you are playing in the world. Convenience should never be the priority over humanity. With a purposeful change in mindset and motive, the goals of ethical practice, people and planet promotion, and the excitement of beautiful new possessions can all be achieved. It starts with you!