The Sustainability of Handmade Jewelry | Reasons to Invest in Something Handmade
People buy handmade jewelry for several reasons. Being unique and customizable are just some of them.
While most pieces are sustainable, not all handcrafted jewelry is sustainable. However, compared to buying a mass-produced piece of jewelry, you contribute significantly less to environmental damage.
What Sustainable Jewelry Means
Before discussing what sustainable jewelry means, let’s take a look at the meaning of the word “sustainable” itself. Sometimes, this word is used interchangeably with the word “ethical.” What is the difference between “sustainable" and "ethical”?
People often refer to “ethical” when talking about the impact of a product on society. The word also emphasizes the process of the product manufacturing itself.
Likewise, the term “sustainable” is frequently used to allude to a product’s environmental effect. People use it when talking about the result instead of the process.
Inherently, both words are interlinked. It’s impossible to be ethical without being sustainable, and vice versa. In fact, the goal of a company should be to create products that are both sustainable and ethical.
Sustainable jewelry is jewelry that is made using environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices throughout its entire lifecycle. This includes everything from the sourcing of raw materials to the manufacturing process, packaging, and distribution.
In other words, to produce a sustainable piece of jewelry, you need to make sure that each process doesn’t negatively impact the environment and society.
What Makes Handmade Jewelry Sustainable?
Here are the things that can make handcrafted jewelry sustainable.
1. Ethical Materials and Sourcing
How can you ensure that your jewelry is ethically sourced? A mass jewelry manufacturer is unlikely to be able to tell you where the materials in its products come from.
The primary substance in your jewelry is most likely precious metals. To obtain your jewelry material, there are potentially millions of adults and children that work in the business for less than the minimum wage.
Unethical labor is one of the biggest problems in the mining industry. It’s dilemmatic because if it doesn’t continue, these workers will have nothing to eat, and their income will stop completely. However, if it continues, they will keep suffering from unethical working conditions.
The best solution is to provide the workers with a good work environment and quality necessities, including clean water, food, and education.
What’s the solution for the customers? It all comes back to the dilemma again. You buy the product, and you support that unethical labor. If you don’t buy it, you’ll stop the workers’ income, although this needs to be boycotted to stop these practices.
Either way, it’s important not to turn a blind eye to the source of the material of your jewelry. Knowing that you can trace the source of your jewelry materials can help you make a more ethical decision for yourself.
That’s what homemade jewelry businesses do. They try their best to acquire the most sustainable material possible. They also make sure that their materials are traceable.
Sustainable Jewelry Materials
Here are some sustainable jewelry materials that are often used by handmade jewelry companies.
Metals are one of the basic jewelry materials that are present in almost every piece. They can include gold, silver, copper, platinum, titanium, bronze, and many more. The best form of metal to be used in jewelry is recycled metal.
Recycled glass can make your jewelry look sophisticated without adding extra cost. They’re also eco-friendly, colorful, and can be easily customized to the shape and size that you want.
Clay jewelry accentuates nature in your appearance. Not only that, but clay is also very sustainable. Even if you throw it away, it’s still useful for the environment.
Thread jewelry is now popular. Necklaces and earrings made of multicolored thread are appealing and give you an exquisite appearance. However, remember that some cotton is still produced in an unsustainable and unethical way. It would be useful to purchase cotton jewelry from a seller you trust about the materials.
Natural stones are a classic yet timeless jewelry material. No matter how old-school they are, they can be shaped into beautiful jewelry that looks trendy. They’re also extremely durable.
These materials can be found anywhere, so you don’t have to question how sustainable it is.
Rather than wasting materials such as newspapers, coupons, and brochures, you can turn them into beautiful and lightweight jewelry.
You might not have heard about this, but electronics contain traces of precious metals. When you gather those metals, you can create a beautiful piece of jewelry. Those materials can be found in circuit boards, capacitors, resistors, and many other unused electronic parts.
Plastic waste, such as plastic bottles, cups, and wrappers, have so much potential to be useful things. A piece of jewelry made from recycled plastic can be durable yet lightweight. It will be something precious for you.
2. Ethical Labor
The jewelry industry has a substantially larger carbon footprint than other businesses. Mining valuable materials like diamonds and ore for high-end jewelry can have a negative influence on the surrounding ecosystem, such as chemical leaks, soil erosion, and a decline in biodiversity.
We’ve talked about the situation with your jewelry source. How about the production labor itself? The process of jewelry production in a common jewelry factory. Do you think it’s unethical as well?
Most probably, yes. In gem-cutting facilities, laborers often do not have proper ventilation or safety measures. Gem cutting produces fine micro dust that can easily be inhaled. Inhalation from that micro dust can end up damaging their lungs in the short term or long term.
The danger of mass-produced jewelry factories doesn’t stop there. Toxic chemicals are also often involved in production. It can later produce toxic waste. This makes it even more dangerous and harmful for the laborers.
However, during the production of handmade jewelry, this won't happen. Handcrafted jewelry is not made in a factory but rather in small quantities in workshops. Even if there are laborers, their well-being is usually prioritized.
Furthermore, they’re handmade, not machine-made. The use of no factory-scale machines in the production of handmade jewelry contributes to the reduced environmental footprint.
The jewelry industry has a substantially larger carbon footprint than other businesses. Mining valuable materials like diamonds and ore for high-end jewelry can have a negative influence on the surrounding ecosystem, such as chemical leaks, soil erosion, and a reduction in biodiversity.
While the use of machines may appear to be a good investment, it might have a detrimental long-term environmental effect.
The use of machinery, equipment, and software always involves the use of non-renewable resources and power. This can raise carbon emissions and decrease non-renewable resources.
As a result, using a large machine to produce something is not an environmentally feasible alternative. By not using machines, you already reduce a significant amount of the use of electricity.
Furthermore, most handcrafted jewelry businesses employ locals. This would subsequently strengthen the local economy and boost people’s well-being. It would be wonderful to know that the store where you buy your jewelry supports the local economy.
3. Not Mass-Produced
Handmade jewelry takes a long time to finish. Sometimes, our artisans take weeks or even months to complete a piece, not only because resources are limited compared to mass-production but also because of the love and passion they put in the process.
In case you’re wondering, handcrafted jewelry is often constructed with high-quality materials and meticulous attention to detail, resulting in a more durable and long-lasting product than mass-produced jewelry. This level of quality and longevity can minimize the frequency of replacement, lowering waste.
By taking a long time to produce, customers also appreciate the process of making handmade jewelry.
What to Look for and Avoid when Buying Sustainable Jewelry
While buying jewelry, it is critical to consider the environmental effect as well as the individuals engaged in its manufacturing.
Look for jewelry produced from sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as recycled metals, ethically sourced gemstones, and natural materials such as wood, stone, and recycled waste to make an environmentally responsible option.
Check if the jewelry was made using environmentally friendly methods, such as low-waste manufacturing processes, less toxic chemicals, and lower energy use. Choose jewelry producers who are open about their labor policies, assure good treatment and payment of their employees, and offer a decent wage.
Additionally, third-party certifications from organizations such as Fairtrade, B Corp or the Responsible Jewelry Council can assist in validating sustainable and ethical practices.
You should also consider the packaging that comes with the jewelry as well. Look for packaging that is produced from recyclable materials or that can be reused or recycled.
Lastly, select jewelry that is well-made and built to last since this can help to prevent waste and the need for frequent replacement. While choosing jewelry, you can make an educated and responsible decision by taking these factors into account.
The Bottom Line
Making sustainable jewelry purchases may benefit both the environment and the people engaged in its manufacture. You can decrease waste, save resources, and promote ethical and sustainable practices in the jewelry business by using eco-friendly materials, ecologically responsible production techniques, fair labor practices, and quality and durable designs. Not surprisingly, sustainable artisan brands' popularity has increased massively in recent years, even among celebrities.
Consumers can make educated and responsible choices that contribute to a more sustainable future, thanks to the availability of third-party certifications and a growing knowledge of sustainability. We, at Discovered, strive for a better future as much as you.