By Charlie Byrne in London
Buying an ethical engagement ring is a minefield, sometimes quite literally. While many brides and grooms don't even consider the ethical implications of buying gemstones, there can be serious consequences from fuelling mining in conflict-stricken areas. The standards of living and financial reward for local miners is often forgotten in the romance of such a special moment halfway around the world, but this must change.
The key to buying an ethical engagement ring is to purchase it from a designer or retailer with a proven record of using Fairtrade or Fairmined gold and ethically sourced materials. In recent years, the profile of such companies has risen dramatically, including Ingle & Rhode, which has a wide range of modern and classic designs, as well as Bario Neal and Brilliant Earth, which are both based in the US. There are many smaller, independent jewellers who are also committed to only working with ethically sourced materials, such as Monique Péan, Stephen Einhorn and Arabel Lebrusan.
It's worth working out which side of the fence you sit on where vintage rings are concerned. It's somewhat similar to the vintage fur debate, whereby the harm has already been done, but by recycling the design it is at least going to good use. With diamonds, an unethical source isn't visually obvious and so you wouldn't be perpetuating a trend for badly sourced stones.
Do be sure to pay attention to all the materials used in each piece. While your focus will probably lie with the stone's origin, the metals involved must also be Fairtrade or recycled in order for the piece to be entirely conscience curing.
Thankfully, many jewellers now only use Fairtrade gold, first introduced in 2011 to improve the lives of small-scale miners. Cred Jewellery, Godfrey Gardner and Jon Dibben all create engagement rings using gold that respects the environment and mining community, allowing you to enjoy your ethical engagement ring with the peace of mind that it hasn't come at a greater expense than that which you paid.