As if buying a diamond wasn't tough enough on your wallet -- there's also your conscience to consider. Though outcry about "blood diamonds" (ones whose trade yields profits for warfare in unsettled regions) and environmentally poor mining practices has led many jewelers to adopt higher standards, it's still smart to do some homework.
Gilt Without the Guilt
Recycled gold is melted down and re-refined, making it the same quality as a newly mined metal. Many gold mines are open-pit mines, which can be devastating to the environment -- would you believe that it takes at least 30 tons of rock to make one gold ring? Shop from jewelers like greenKarat (greenKarat.com
), who use recycled gold. For a list of retailers who support responsible gold mining, go to NoDirtyGold.org
Save the energy that would have gone into mining and creating new pieces by opting for vintage jewelry -- retro styles are still super hot, so this one isn't even remotely a compromise!
Know Your Stones
Look for a ring that meets the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme provisions -- a guarantee that you're not purchasing a "blood diamond." Ask your jeweler about the origins of the stone, and if those places participate in this international agreement (for more, KimberleyProcess.com). A safe bet: Go with designers like Erica Courtney, who uses only conflict-free stones, or Tiffany & Co., whose suppliers use environmentally sound, conflict-free mining.
Find a Green-friendly Jeweler
The Earthwise Jewelry Collection from Leber Jeweler Inc. uses Canadian-mined diamonds and fair-labor colored gemstones (LeberJeweler.com).
If the thought of buying a diamond makes you uneasy despite fair trade regulations, consider a ring with a moissanite stone. Made from silicon carbonite -- a rare and naturally occurring substance -- moissanite can also be manufactured in a lab. This completely earth-friendly and conflict-free gemstone is less expensive and more durable than the traditional diamond. Visit Moissanite.com for details.
Another option is Adia diamonds, which are identical to natural diamonds, but produced in a European lab rather than mined. While some stones (like cubic zirconia) look a lot like diamonds, they actually have different chemical compositions, while Adia diamonds have the exact structure, density, and composition of naturally occurring diamonds. This is an especially intriguing option if you're looking for a yellow diamond, since they don't take as long to produce as white diamonds, and therefore cost less. AdiaDiamonds.com
Consider wood. Yes, wood! This is for the true green heart. If you still want your piece to sparkle, artist Gustav Reyes' designs include braided silver and eco-friendly diamonds set in a wooden base. Visit SimplyWoodRings.com for additional details.