A Sustainable Future – How a new woke generation is transforming the jewellery economy

A Sustainable Future – How a new woke generation is transforming the jewellery economy

Ethical jewllery

Christmas, a time for family gatherings, excessive eating, indulging in a hearty sing along and proposals. Harper’s Bazaar reports that 40% of all engagements take place over the festive period with an estimated £147 million spent on engagement rings during Christmas 2018. But do we really know where our diamonds and gemstones come from and does it matter? CNC’s Alice Morey looks into the sustainable jewellery movement and the expertise of Katherine Andrews leading Gem and Jewellery Consultant, who spoke at the college as part of our industry speaker series.

Image via KatherineAndrews.co

Katherine Andrews Jewellery & Gem Consultant On Ethical Jewellery

An engagement ring is a symbol of one of the biggest promises we can ever make, and with growing concerns around supply chains and the rights of workers our choice of ring has become an extension of our values and ethos. Today, the market is being driven by a new Gen Z audience who are demanding sustainable sourcing and proof of stone origins. Recently, Jewellery and Gem Consultant, Katherine Andrews gave an industry talk at Condé Nast College.

When speaking at the college she noted the importance of creating tangible strategies to increase quality and capacity throughout the supply chain. Her work has seen her hold the position of Creative Projects Manager to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, working on initiatives in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Focusing on the preservation of traditional heritage in order to ensure the provision of jobs and a long-term sustainable income. Katherine’s talk focused on whether the outcome of what we create justifies what we destroy? With the stone mining leading environmental destruction and deforestation. 

Condé Nast College Industry Speakers

A case study presented by Katherine showed the evolution in the way mining land is being farmed. Banana farmers who own fields in Thailand have come up with a four year cyclical process, where for three of the years banana crops will be grown. This is proceeded by one year where the farmers will allow miners to dig for gems. Any profits made will be split with the farmers with the four-year cycle allowing for the recovery of the land and a reduction in over mining of one area. 

Ethical Jewllery
Image via Vogue.co.uk

Fairmined Ecological Gold

There have also been developments in the clarification of fair trade and fair mined gold. Fairtrade gold is an independent ethical certification system for gold, ensuring a living wage and additional support is provided to support the welfare of the family of miners. There are three globally Fairmined organisations that produce Fairmined Ecological Gold, without the use of mercury or cyanide. This is an example of responsible mining and small-scale artisan production. These measures ensure the traceability of gold and accountability of actions. 

From Blood Diamonds to Synthetic Diamonds

Diamonds have been at the centre of conflict with blood diamonds (diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency) featuring at the core of civil wars and unrest. For example Sierra Leone suffered 9 years of civil war and trafficking of blood diamonds, they are now the recipients of donations from ‘The Water Project’ who take money from ethical jewellery designers such as UK based brand Lebruson who donate quarterly to the charity to help those who continue to be affected by corrupt diamond trade. 

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A diamond is estimated to have touched 22 people before it gets to you. For every carat, 250 tonnes of earth have to be dug, with a 143lbs of CO2 produced.

As a result, there has been an increase in synthetic diamonds; Statista notes, there has been an increased demand in synthetic diamonds as a way to meet market demands, without compromising on the environmental impact of diamond digging – with 4.41 billion carats being produced annually. 

Ethical Jewellery
Image via Vogue

Growing advancements in technology allows for two main methods of diamond production from 3D printing, where layers of carbon are placed on a diamond seed in a vacuum, to high temperature and high pressure in a microwave chamber to transform carbon into a diamond. These grown diamonds make up 3% of the overall diamond market. With a focus on a new woke generation there is set to be future market growth where Lucid statistics found that 63% of millennials would rather buy a synthetic diamond compared to 46% of non-millennials. 


Jewellery has always possessed a sentimental meaning and now it is taking on a sustainable reboot. Where the value is not just placed on the cut, colour, clarity and carat, but also on its sustainable sourcing journey and the traceability of a stone. This emerging movement is only set to grow further with Nielson Data Agency reporting that 73% of millennials are willing to spend more money if a product is ethical. The jewellery trade is set to become a new force for good. 

By Alice Morey

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