9 best ethical and sustainable jewellery brands
Opt for accessories that match your values by sourcing jewellery from ethical brands – we've found the best shops to visit
Slow fashion is having a moment. Now that so many of us are becoming more conscious of the environmental and ethical impact of garment manufacturing, we’re starting to see a move towards clothes which link up to our values.
But amid the noise, it’s easy to forget about our accessories – an integral part of an outfit, no doubt, but also one which can be fraught with ethical issues. Much like clothing items, high street brands are struggling to guarantee ethical manufacturing processes when it comes to their jewellery pieces, and even high-end options are not free from concern: gold and diamonds in particular have long been mined and treated under dubious conditions.
There are however, a lot of brands selling sustainable jewellery products at a good price, which are sourced and manufactured to highly ethical standards, with a focus on treating the environment – and their workers – as best they can. Here are some of the best options.
This brand has put sustainability at the centre of its practice, sourcing all of their materials in the UK and using fairtrade gold and silver, and as many recycled materials as possible, as well as avoiding harsh chemicals often used in the jewellery making process. Aitchison started the eponymous brand in 2016 and it’s clear her ethics are imbued in the company, which donates one per cent of its profits to environmental charity 1% For The Planet.
The product design is unique and on-trend. They offer rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and brooches, many with a similar asymmetrical, hammered metal design. For fairtrade products made in the UK, the pricing is very reasonable and even the packaging is entirely recyclable, made out of organic cotton and recycled tape.
The brand describes its style as combining “edgy themes reminiscent of Eighties punks and the softer style of the Bohemian Seventies,” and looking at their pieces, that feels exactly right. The collection is split into “Dark Side” and “Light Side” pieces, the former offering a stronger, distressed silver look with heavy stones and slightly more gothic-looking designs, while the letter is comprised of daintier pieces – think flowers instead of skulls.
Lots of their pieces are customisable in terms of size (for rings) and different pendants and charms. They can vary hugely in price, from around £25 to up to £200, depending on the item – and more for their engagement and wedding pieces, which also incorporate the cool, edgy vibe of the rest of the collection.
The brand uses ethical suppliers to ensure all the stones and materials are conflict-free and sustainable, as well as making sure working conditions are up to scratch. They also use recycled silver where possible. In addition, a lot of their products are charity collaborations, which donate a portion of the profits to a charitable cause.
If you’re looking for products at a high street price point, Just Trade is your best option. They have items for around £10, although the majority are priced between around £15 and £40. They offer a selection of dainty jewellery which can seamlessly mix in with any collection, as well as bolder pieces such as their long unicorn pendant, which function as a conversation starter.
Founder Laura Cave manages to offer all this, while also using the brand for good. Just Trade works with eight groups of artisans in a collaborative design process in Peru, Ecuador, India and Vietnam, where they aim to improve the opportunities in impoverished communities, by training people with valuable skills and offering a fair wage and a ethical working conditions.
If you’re looking for a more upmarket option, this could be the one for you. There’s a selection of products for under £300 including rings, earrings and necklaces, while the main collection has items ranging up to 18 carat gold. It also offers custom pieces such as engagement rings, gemstone rings and engraving.
Lebrusan herself designs the pieces, and works with artisans in small Spanish towns to manufacture her items. All the metals and stones are sustainably and ethically sourced, avoiding harsh chemicals and destructive traditional methods. She was one of the first UK jewellers to embrace Fairtrade Gold 15 years ago when she launched, and has built the brand with a conscience ever since.
While dainty gold and silver jewellery is great for every day, a statement piece can never go amiss in an accessory collection. Sue Gregor creates incredible, colourful acrylic items including earrings, necklackes and cuffs that make any outfit look unique and stylish.
The acrylic is made from 100 per cent recyclable materials to create a light, contemporary feel while remaining environmentally responsible. Gregor herself designs the collections and each piece is individually handmade, using real flowers and leaves to create the designs which are rooted in the timeless beauty of nature.
Magazines can often feel like one of those unnecessarily wasteful products, using natural resources to create a single-use item which will end up in the bin. Quazi design utilises discarded magazines to create an original style of bead which is transformed into a range of jewellery. It’s incredible how many different types of products can come out of a magazine, and at incredibly competitive prices, with most products priced between £10-£20
Doron Shaltiel founded the company in 2009 in Swaziland, where the products are still manufactured today under ethical working conditions in an attempt to create sustainably designed products while creating employment and bringing skills to local communities.
So Just Shop works directly with women-led artisans in 35 of the most vulnerable communities in the world to design and manufacture each product ethically, with a completely transparent supply chain. Their mission is to empower women through sustainable economic development by building design and technological solutions to overcome barriers to international trade. Their products are all created in the most environmentally responsible way possible.
Most of the pieces have a dainty gold base with subtle stones or pendants. There’s a broad range of styles and most items are priced between £25-£50, although some, using gold or gemstones, are a little pricier.
Sakala means “whole, the end reaches the beginning”, in Sanskrit and this reflects the holistic, circular ethos behind Sakala. The brand only uses natural, sustainable stones which are hand-selected in India. They pay meaningful wages to their craftspeople in Goa and keep the production process simple and small to ensure quality in every item. Around 10 per cent of all profits are channelled back into the communities of India, Nepal and Sussex through a small NGO that works with education projects to improve the lives of local women and children.
They currently produce pendants (including these great yoga-pose ones), rings and earrings. Most of them are very affordable, between around £15 and £35, although they do offer higher-ticket items too, many of which are customisable and use precious stones. Our order arrived with a little card that tells you how the profits are being used, which is a nice touch.
The co-founders of Sancho’s wanted to create an antidote to the fast fashion industry, after seeing first-hand the devastating effects it can have on developing countries. They made it their mission to source their materials from Ethiopia in an ethical, sustainable way, as well as creating a marketspace for other ethical brands, which are sold on their website.
Their jewellery is manufactured in Peru by Hope Jewellery, a project that provides part-time fairly paid work for women. The collection features colourful geometric styles mixed with gold, in earrings and necklaces which are high quality and on-trend. At a high-street price point but with a great story, they’re a great mid-range option.
The verdict: Ethical and sustainable jewellery brands
If you’re looking for an all-round piece of jewellery which will last well and look stylish for years, Emma Aitchison is the brand for you. For more fashion-led, affordable pieces, Just Trade, Sancho’s and So Just Shop fill the gap perfectly, offering ethical products at a high-street price. If you’re in the mood to splurge a little on more of a statement piece, Sue Gregor has got you covered.
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