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Your Complete Sustainable Jewelry Buying Guide: Tips, Labels & 15 Top Brands

Last updated on August 31, 2022
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Diamonds are forever, and unfortunately, their environmental impact is too. Like the fashion industry, the jewelry industry has a large carbon footprint and high environmental costs. But as the slow fashion movement comes for our clothes, our jewelry is also starting to get a sustainable, ethical upgrade.

Here's how to find gems and jewels that are better for the planet and its people, and 15 companies to check out for your next stylish statement piece.

Quick list.

Best variety
AurateGo to review
Most transparent
CatbirdGo to review
Best recycled materials
Bayou With LoveGo to review
Best traceability
Bario NealGo to review
Best lab grown
KimaiGo to review
Best colored stones
MociunGo to review
Best rare materials
Monique PéanGo to review
Best statement rings
Pamela LoveGo to review
Best for customized pieces
IdylGo to review
Best talismans
PyrrhaGo to review

How we picked:

Materials:

Our list features jewelry made from recycled, vintage, and lab-grown materials that don't contribute to extractive mining.

Transparency:

We know that the jewelry industry can be shady, so we're celebrating brands that are transparent about their production practices.

Price:

Whether you're looking to splurge on a lifetime piece or save on some fun accessories, we've got an option for you.

Beauty:

And of course, everything on our list is guaranteed to *ring* in the compliments.

Our picks for the best sustainable jewelry of 2022:

Pros

  • Uses recycled and vintage materials
  • Unique designs

Cons

  • Pricey
Price point: $80–$6,000
Materials: Conflict-free stonesUpcycled stonesRecycled metals

Pamela Love counts astronomy, astrology, and alchemy as her design influences, and it comes through in her mystical collections. Her extensive jewelry line is made from recycled metal and conflict-free or upcycled stones. The NYC-based company collaborates with makers around the world and partners with artisan entrepreneurs in Afghanistan.

Best metal: Anndra Neen

Pros

  • Handcrafted
  • One-of-kind designs

Cons

  • Metal designs won't appeal to everyone
Price point: $85–$225
Materials: Metals

Anndra Neen's chunky metal earrings, cuffs, rings, and necklaces are great for everyday wear. Every piece is handcrafted by artisans in Mexico City, and the brand's founders, Phoebe and Annette Stephens, travel there every two months to oversee production and ensure transparency. Anndra Neen uses metals and not stones (which tend to be harder to trace) across its designs.

Best variety: Aurate

Pros

  • Recycled gold
  • Conflict-free diamonds
  • Large selection at various price points

Cons

  • Certain styles are pricey
Price point: $65–$1,200
Materials: Conflict-free stonesRecycled metals

Aurate is a larger brand that sells every type of gold jewelry under the sun, from second-skin necklaces to high-end statement pieces. The common thread? All their gold is recycled, and all their diamonds are certified conflict-free by the Kimberly Process. (More on that below.)

Most transparent: Catbird

Pros

  • Uses recycled and conflict-free materials
  • Transparent factory

Cons

  • Certain styles are pricey
Price point: $14–$13,000
Materials: Conflict-free stonesUpcycled stonesMetalsRecycled metals

Brooklyn-based jeweler Catbird gives public tours of its production factory every month (you can't get more transparent than that). They sell a variety of jewelry, engagement rings, and accessories made from recycled, ethically sourced, and conflict-free materials.

Best recycled materials: Bayou With Love

Pros

  • Uses recycled metals from old tech and carbon-neutral diamonds
  • Colorful and unique designs

Cons

  • Pricey
Price point: $187–$20,000+
Materials: Conflict-free stonesRecycled metals

Founded by actress and environmentalist Nikki Reed, Bayou With Love partners will Dell to make jewelry out of discarded technology. (Yep, e-waste can make for some killer earrings.) Most of their diamonds are from Diamond Foundry, a carbon-neutral producer. Bayou sells earrings, accessories, rings, and necklaces, and Laura Jones of The Frontlash loves their colorful designs that are unique yet totally timeless.

Best traceability: Bario Neal

Pros

  • Use mostly recycled materials, with some Fairmined metal and traceable gems
  • Offer custom and personalized pieces
  • Responsive customer service

Cons

  • Mostly wedding rings; selection is otherwise limited
Price point: $67–$5,000
Materials: Conflict-free stonesRecycled metals

Sustainable stylist Cassandra Dittmer looks to Bario Neal as a leader in sustainable sourcing. The Philadelphia-based custom jeweler works primarily with recycled materials, and any new metal they use is Fairmined while new gems are traceable. Founders Anna Bario and Page Neal are both very involved in the ethical jewelry business and serve as founding members of the Ethical Metalsmiths Jewelers Directory and the Ethical Sourcing Consortium. They specialize in rings (engagement and otherwise) but make lovely necklaces, bracelets, and custom pieces too.

Best clay: BR Design Co.

Pros

  • Handmade
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Limited styles (earrings only)
Price point: $24–$34
Materials: Clay

Not a diamond fan? BR Design Co. is a Charleston-based company that specializes in traditional clay jewelry. Founded by two sisters that learned the craft from their mother, they sell handmade earrings that are lightweight, beautifully shaped, and affordable.

Best gold: Futura

Pros

  • Uses Fairmined Ecological gold

Cons

  • Limited styles (gold only)
Price point: $1,250–$17,500
Materials: Metals

Jones is a fan of Futura's timeless styles made from Fairmined Ecological gold. The more rigorous of the two Fairmined standards, ecological gold is mined without the use of toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide. Futura gets theirs from one of three certified mines and turns it into a small collection of classic, streamlined pieces any minimalist would love to wear for life.

Best upcycled: Karo Koru

Pros

  • Made from reclaimed materials
  • Handmade

Cons

  • Limited styles
Price point: $82–$198
Materials: Recycled metalsUpcycled beads

Pandemic-born company Karo Koru specializes in colorful necklaces and bracelets. Made from upcycled beads, pearls, and glassware sourced from estate sales and vintage jewelers, each piece is an arts-and-crafts project, elevated. The founder, Karo, handmakes every piece in her Los Angeles home and sends them out in recycled packaging.

Best lab grown: Kimai

Pros

  • Offer styles for men and women
  • Lab-grown diamonds are easier on the Earth

Cons

  • Lab diamonds have a limited resale value and are not as unique
Price point: $225–$2,750
Materials: Recycled metalsLab diamonds

Another top pick of Dittmer's, Kimai combines lab diamonds and 18-carat recycled gold into delicate, elegant pieces for everyone. The female-founded company is based in Antwerp, Belgium, but ships across the U.S.

Best earrings: Melissa Joy Manning

Pros

  • Made from recycled metals and responsibly sourced stones
  • USA-made

Cons

  • Limited refund policy
Price point: $40–$10,100
Materials: Conflict-free stonesRecycled metals

Designer Melissa Joy Manning specializes in heirloom pieces, designed to be passed down through generations. Each one is made to order in California using recycled metals and responsibly sourced stones, purchased from domestic sources when possible.

Best colored stones: Mociun

Pros

  • Unique, one-of-a-kind designs
  • Also sells home goods

Cons

  • Not all stones are traceable
Price point: $170–$90,000+
Materials: Conflict-free stonesMetals

Mociun's jewelry and engagement rings are a feast for the eyes, often featuring intricate, and colorful diamonds and gemstones. Every piece is designed by founder Caitlin Mociun and produced by New York City-based jewelers. Mociun also sells a colorful array of home goods and a curated vintage collection full of whimsy picks (egg-shaped locket or fencer charm, anyone?).

Best rare materials: Monique Péan

Pros

  • Uses rare materials
  • Designs are one-of-a-kind

Cons

  • Expensive
Price point: $2,000+
Materials: Upcycled stonesMetalsRecycled metalsRare materials

Monique Péan approaches jewelry with an artist's eye, and poking through her site feels more like visiting a gallery or natural history museum. Her collections feature rare materials like fossilized dinosaur bones and recycled platinum in intricate designs. They, unsurprisingly, come at a high price tag, but Jones says if you can afford them, these forever pieces are well worth it.

Best statement rings: Pamela Love

Pros

  • Whimsical designs
  • Wide variety and selection

Cons

  • Limited refund policy
Price point: $80–$6,000
Materials: Conflict-free stonesUpcycled stonesRecycled metals

Pamela Love counts astronomy, astrology, and alchemy as her design influences, and it comes through in her mystical collections. Her extensive jewelry line is made from recycled metal and conflict-free or upcycled stones. The NYC-based company collaborates with makers around the world and partners with artisan entrepreneurs in Afghanistan.

Best for customized pieces: Idyl

Pros

  • Modular design
  • Jewelry can be changed over time

Cons

  • Pieces aren't as unique
Price point: $245-$795
Materials: MetalsLab diamonds

Idyl takes a modular approach and lets customers choose their gold base shape and then build their own earrings or necklace from there using lab diamond add-ons. This allows for a mix-and-match approach and leads to jewelry that grows with you over time.

Best talismans: Pyrrha

Pros

  • Designs imbued with meaning
  • B Corp certified company

Cons

  • Spiritual designs won't appeal to everyone
Price point: $195-$3,695
Materials: Recycled metals

As a certified B Corp, Pyrrha prioritizes sustainability across its entire supply chain. The company's talisman-style jewelry is made from 100% recycled metals engraved with antique wax seals that symbolize intentions like personal growth, protection, and healing.

How can you tell if jewelry is sustainable?

When shopping for sustainable pieces, you'll want to think about their entire lifespan: what materials they're made of, where and how those materials were extracted, who touched them, and what will happen to them after you're done with them.

It's a lot to consider, but Dittmer and Jones helped us break it down into five criteria to look for:

1.

It uses recycled metals and stones.

Precious metals like gold and silver are endlessly recyclable, meaning they can be reused again and again without losing their quality. Certain diamonds and gems can also be repurposed into new pieces.

Jewelry that is made from recycled material is almost guaranteed to be lower in impact than a brand-new piece since it doesn't contribute to extractive mining. One recent lifestyle assessment on recycled gold1, for example, found that it was 300 times better than primary production in terms of its energy demand and global warming potential.

While most jewelry companies source their recycled material from within the jewelry supply chain, some are now using materials from other industries like tech (think computer parts and circuit boards).

2.

It has a transparent supply chain.

While gold and silver markets tend to be more straightforward, diamonds and gems can pass through a lot of hands before they get to your wardrobe. So if you're buying new, Dittmer says it's essential to look for pieces that have fully traceable supply chains and are certified conflict-free—meaning they weren't sold by rebel groups to fund military activity and violence.

This can be a tricky business, but shopping from local artisans tends to be the most transparent choice. When expanding your search outward, some certification programs verify the supply chain of jewels that have been imported to the U.S. (more on those below).

3.

It uses low-impact processing.

Once metals and gems are mined, they need to be cut, processed, and styled into wearable pieces, which requires a lot of energy and potentially some hazardous chemicals. When shopping for a piece, look for companies that use low-impact processing, run on renewable power, or offset their emissions.

4.

It's lab-grown.

Lab-grown diamonds are manufactured in the high-heat conditions of a laboratory so you don't need to worry about their sourcing. (That being said, these gems can also put jewelry workers around the world out of a job—there are always trade-offs!)

First created in the 1950s, the stones mimic true gems very well, and large jewelers are taking notice: Pandora, for example, just launched its own lab-grown collection.

"I have not worked with any pieces personally, but from my research, it appears the process is often able to avoid social and environmental conflicts, lessen harsh community impacts, decrease energy and resources usage, improve quality, and is often more affordable," says Dittmer. "Overall they appear to have great value, and I would love to see more companies explore and expand this movement."

5.

It's made to last and priced fairly.

Jones says that when shopping for sustainable jewelry, opting for quality over quantity is always a smart move. Whether you're going with recycled, new, or lab-grown pieces, invest in ones that are well made and timeless.

While those plastic throwaways you see in the checkout aisle might be more affordable at first, their price per wear is probably comparable to more expensive pieces that will last you a lifetime.

Labels to look for.

The complicated supply chains and global nature of the jewelry business mean that certifications and labels can be difficult to monitor, and Dittmer says that different countries will often have their own standards in place.

However, these are a few well-known labels and processes that seek to certify ethical and sustainable jewelry in the U.S. They're not perfect, but they do add some much-needed transparency to the industry and can help guide your search:

  • Fair Trade Certified: This is one seal that Dittmer says is well-respected in the industry. Fairtrade International seeks to certify products that empower workers with standards that prioritize equitable pay and safe, legal working conditions.
  • The Kimberly Process (for diamonds): This international certification scheme works with countries around the world to phase out conflict diamonds.
  • Fairmined (for metals): This standard certifies gold, silver, and platinum that come from small-scale mining communities that use sustainable extraction practices. Reduced chemical use and native ecosystem rehabilitation are a few of the things they look for.
  • Gemological Institute of America (for gemstones): This nonprofit evaluates and grades diamonds, stones, and pearls based on authenticity and quality. It can ensure that the piece you're buying is real, but it doesn't say much about its environmental impact.

Silver or gold?

According to a 2019 life-cycle analysis2 on the two most popular precious metals, silver tends to have a lower environmental impact than gold (though they both contribute more to climate change than materials like zinc and copper).

Gold pieces require more fossil fuels and electricity to create and tend to lead to chemical runoff that can damage natural ecosystems. So if you're going to go for the gold, just make sure it's recycled.

The takeaway.

Certain jewelry can come with a hefty environmental footprint, but shopping for pieces made from recycled, responsibly sourced, or lab-created materials can help reduce the impact of your bling. Toss any of these 15 sustainable jewelry brands along with our top picks for ethical underwear and vegan purses on your wishlist.

Meet The Experts

Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."