As I returned back to Toronto after a 5-week hiatus, I picked through my mail excitedly eschewing the bills for more colourful and mysterious items. Like a kid, I love to get fun mail – magazines, letters, cards, etc… There was quite a bit to choose from that had arrived over the past 5 weeks but my eye was drawn to two items: a letter from Miriamu (my foster child) and a magazine from the organization through which I found her. In the magazine is an article about purchasing ethical jewellery – in particular, the elusive but much desired, diamond ring. Karen Stiller writes:
It was a dark and stormy night—really. We were standing on a beach in Nova Scotia when Brent opened up a little grey box and asked me to marry him. The ring was a tiny sapphire. No diamond in sight and I was relieved. Those were the days when apartheid breathed with a death rattle. I knew that many diamonds came from South Africa and I didn’t want one of those on my finger. I felt very strongly about it…back then.
But somewhere along the path of 18 years of marriage, I got an itch on my finger. I started to want a diamond. My husband started to want to buy me one. So, with the armchair knowledge that comes from watching Leonardo in Blood Diamond, we trotted off to our local jewellery store and chose a stunner. I asked one question, “Where does this diamond come from?” “Europe” was the answer. I was so enamoured by my glittering new friend that I wrapped up the conversation and had them wrap up the ring.
I think I took the easy way out. There was more to find out.
The reality is that there is always “more to find out”. This issue is really important to me so here are some tips to help us all dig a little. It’s all about being an informed consumer right?
- Ask questions. “Where does this diamond come from?”, “Do you have certification to prove it?”, “How can I be sure this piece does not include jewels from conflict zones?” and “Does your company have a policy on ethical jewellery?”
- Look closer to home. If you decide to go with Canadian diamonds, don’t assume that solves the problem. There are still potential social and environmental impacts. Ask questions and investigate.
- Consider alternatives. Precious stones can be a nice substitute for diamonds. The ones with the lowest negative impacts include citrine, garnet, quartz, and sapphire. Some people are going for really different materials – like wooden wedding bands.
- Make something old, new again. Use recycled gold from jewellery, watches, etc… for wedding bands or engagement rings. Purchase antique jewellery. These metals and stones have already been mined. Therefore, eliminating any future environmental and ethical issues.
- Use available resources. There is lots of information out there already compiled just for you. Use it!