Have you heard about blood diamonds and dirty gold? Is it time to re-think our obsession with diamond engagement rings and gold wedding bands?
Around the globe, society has been taught to covet expensive — and planet-wrecking — jewelry. The DeBeers company alone has spent millions convincing us that “Diamonds are forever.” In fact, 75% of women in the U.S. have a diamond engagement ring on their finger or in a jewelry case. ‘Lucky’ gals, like Kim Kardashian flaunt their rings as a symbol of status and love.
Dirty Gold, especially in India
In India, a country with over a billion people and growing fast, gold jewelry is coveted as a status symbol, insurance, and traditional investment.
Bold displays of gold blanket jewelry shops and wedding ceremonies. India alone accounts for 30% of the global supply of gold, and demand will only increase as their population grows.
Diamonds Are Forever…and So Are Their Environmental and Social Footprints
The film Blood Diamond (2006) starring Leonardo DiCaprio, an ardent green advocate depicted how the Western value assigned to rare stones fuels conflict and resulting bloodshed across Africa.
In South America and Africa, gold is still extracted from stream beds in small-scale mining operations using mercury where it can have sometimes adverse, even fatal health effects.
The process also disrupts ecosystems, erodes fertile soil, and pollutes air and water with heavy metals. No wonder Tiffany & Company attempts to reassure their stakeholders about the sustainability of their practices. However, is what they are doing enough?
Is it Time for a More Modest Proposal?
Someone had to ask, so it might as well be us Wastehaters: Do brides-to-be really need diamond engagement rings? Do their finances need to heed custom and societal pressure and spend so much money on an item with no functional value beyond sentiment and status?
What if we started to value jewelry that was passed down from our parents and grandparents? What about diamond and gold alternatives that have been hand-crafted from recycled materials?
Recycled accessories give our partners the opportunity to make something endlessly creative — even a one of a kind — tokens of their love, rather than cookie cutter diamond rings that create conflict and destroy the earth.
Alternative Jewelry Made from Guitar Springs, Silver Spoons and Sprockets
I am a Waste Hater. I am still single for the time being. But when the time comes, I would much prefer an engagement ring made from recycled materials than from a blood diamond.
My favorite ring is made out of an old spring. Not only do I feel good knowing that spring has been kept out of a landfill, it helps me make a fashion statement that reflects my personal values.
While strolling the Hoboken (NJ) Music and Arts Festival this Spring, I admired bracelets made from woven guitar strings, rings brilliantly crafted from silver spoons, intricate necklaces formed from sprockets and scrap metal.
With so many of the artifacts we use every day likely to wind up in a landfill, jewelry made from recycled goods is a waste-less and more environmentally gentle, and I’d argue eminently more personally satisfying, way to add creative flare to our wardrobes than blood diamonds and dirty gold.
Should We Rethink the Custom of Diamond Engagement Rings and Gold Wedding Bands?
Can our fiances and loved ones show their commitment and love just as well via alternative jewelry — and help us make our own fashion statement, too? What do you think?