Planning to Pop the Question on Valentine's Day?
Make sure the symbol of your love is a symbol of how you live your lives together.
A friend of mine got engaged on Valentine's Day last year. Engaged in word anyway, she spent a couple months finding the ring that would make it official. The delay wasn't due to her being picky or her significant other not being willing to cough up the cash! Instead, she was trying to find an eco-friendly, conflict-free ring. Huh, I thought that stuff only mattered with GMO-free food, and eating vegan, and all that stuff. Now I know, if you care about the environment and want to be certain you're not supporting inhumane treatment of workers or indigenous peoples, do what my friend Sarah did. Eco-friendly is about more than eating organic, shopping local and buying fair trade coffee pods.
Blood Diamonds vs. Conflict-Free Diamonds
While less than 1% of diamonds on the market today are truly "blood diamonds", I didn't realize that that before 2000 and the Kimberley Process Certification Program, the money paid for a diamond ring may have helped fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa. Those were literally "blood diamonds" because funds generated were used by certain groups to fund military action in opposition to the government in power. Nothing romantic or Valentine's Day sentimental about that! Thankfully, controls in place as a result of that certification program certify that rough stones being imported or exported are clear of being involved in this type of activity.
Of course, most people don't purchase rough-cut diamonds for an engagement ring, but most stores and companies in the U.S. provide certification clearly stating that the ring you purchase is "conflict-free".
Eco-Friendly Stones and Metals
If you consider yourself environmentally conscious, there's more to be concerned with. Mining practices for both stones and metals can carry conflict of another type: environmental destruction, child labor, inhumane or exploitative working conditions or extreme poverty. Look for ethical diamonds and metals where actual sources can be documented and have been determined to be managed in ethical ways. Or take advantage of some engagement ring alternatives:
- Recycled diamonds and metals
- Alternative, locally sourced stones (beyond diamonds)
- Redesign of family pieces
- Alternative metals
It can get confusing: eco-friendly, green gold, eco-gold), ethical, recycled, and the one we try to avoid, dirty gold. Amalena has a great chart explaining these terms.
Bottom line, if you want to live a life that is mindful of the earth and its occupants, you need to do your research before buying an engagement ring. There are many options available, from using recycled gold and stones, to having a family heirloom redesigned, or purchasing certified eco/ethical certified jewelry. In any case, make certain that the symbol of your commitment represents who you and your significant other are as a couple.
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