What is "Responsible Sourcing" when it comes to Jewelry?

Hi there! If you are like me then you are most certainly a lover of gems and jewelry. You find magic in their color and natural beauty, and you admire the craftsmanship of something handmade. You don't want a lot of meaningless "stuff" in your life! You would much rather have fewer, more meaningful possessions that speak to you, express your unique style and values, and that bring you lasting doses of joy!

I think it's so important as a maker of "things," to uphold the highest standards of craftsmanship and responsibility, to think about the journey of each finished piece from the hands of miners to your personal collection, so you can be worry-free. 

So what does "responsibility" really mean? It's a term that gets thrown around a lot when jewelry is being marketed to the consumer. It's a term that seems vague and is used too often to "greenwash" products to make them sound more appealing. So I want to detail for you exactly what I mean when I say this about my jewelry.

First, let's talk about Gems. No matter how you spin it, gems are a finite resource. That's why it's not just *nice* to consider the source of the jewelry we wear, it is imperative. Gem extraction can change lives and economies. It is such a large industry. When done through the proper channels, it can actually contribute to replenishing and conserving the environment, and provide people and communities with stability and wealth.

There are two main pillars in responsible sourcing: Ethical and environmental. Ethical responsibility means that all mining is done by adult artisanal miners, in clean and safe working conditions, who are paid fairly for their production through government-regulated channels and where the sale of said gems does not fund conflict or violence. Environmental Responsibility means sourcing only gems that minimize harm to the earth. There are four ways that I source responsibly in regard to the environment:

1. By seeking out gems that come from regions and countries with clear regulations for Environmental Conservation - like the US, Sri Lanka, or Brazil (just to name a few), where mining operations must adhere to strict rules that govern wastewater, land rehab and deforestation.

Cruzeiro Mine GIA

Area Surrounding the Cruzeiro Tourmaline Mines in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Courtesy of GIA

Cruzeiro mine tourmaline courtesy of GIA

Beatrice Neves, owning family member of Cruzeiro Mine, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Image Source: GIA: Expedition to the Cruzeiro Tourmaline Mine, Minas Gerais, Brazil

2. By seeking out gems and semi-precious stones that can be sourced without destructive mining in the traditional sense - like Australian Opals, which are mined in opal fields, or shallow pits or tunnels no deeper than 20 - 30 meters. Or agates and jaspers, which can be found in riverbeds or among surface vegetation, respectively. 

Sapphire Gravel from Riverbed in Sri Lanka

3. By using lab-created gems with consideration for the form of energy used in their production. And cultured pearls - which come from pearl farms that when no longer productive can be converted into rice paddies

4. By using recycled and heirloom diamonds and gems whenever possible.

Ultimately I have the intention of giving each gem and each piece I create the longevity to be passed on as an heirloom for generations. 

Dendrite Agate Fairmined and Recycled Ethical Gold Jewelry Jennifer Hillyer Jewelry

Dendrite Agate Pendant, which you can Shop Here

There is, however, no gem type that can be categorically deemed "ethical" or "environmentally sound." It takes having conversations, digging into the supply chain, and developing relationships with dealers who can tell you how, where, and when a stone was sourced. 

When it comes to sourcing ethical and environmentally sound gold and silver, many of the same considerations apply. Recycled gold is almost ubiquitous now in the industry and easily sourced. I think it is therefore important when sourcing any newly mined material, to actively support artisanal, mercury-free, fair-trade and fair-mined precious metals, which is why when I can't find recycled gold, I use gold that is certified fairmined.

I encourage you to check out the Dewdrop Collection, my newest responsibly sourced collection, inspired by water. And click here to read more about our brand Ethos.