When it’s time to buy an engagement ring, here’s how to get it right and how to shop the best in ethical diamonds.
Buying an engagement ring can be overwhelming. There are so many selections and so many price ranges to choose from. And today’s shoppers want something else with their purchase: a commitment to ethical practices, whether that’s responsibly sourced, conflict-free, or lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals. Ethos caught up with several engagement ring experts. Here’s everything they think you need to know about buying ethical engagement rings.
Engagement ring dos and don’ts
First things first. Engagement rings are serious business. This isn’t like buying a Valentine’s Day box of chocolates.
“Purchasing an engagement ring is one of the most important decisions of someone’s life,” Raphi Mahgerefteh, founder and CEO of jewelry brand Allurez tells Ethos. There’s pressure to get it right and if you don’t know your future fiancé’s style preferences, that can create some barriers to buying and also disappointment for you fiancé.
Mahgerefteh says the most important factor to consider is your fiancé’s style and taste. “They might like a traditional diamond solitaire ring, they might like a unique blue sapphire and halo ring, a lab-grown infinity ring, or a black diamond ring,” he says.
According to Inna Kushnirski, Bridal Merchandiser at Gabriel & Co., paying attention to the four Cs of the center diamond is also important (color, clarity, cut, and carat). She says your best bet is purchasing your engagement ring from a trusted jeweler “who will guide you every step of the way.”
That helps to make the process as comfortable and stress-free as possible. In this day and age, a little Google research can help you find a trusted jeweler that stands behind their quality and reputation through warranties and servicing.
Michael Modugno, S.V.P. of Product Development for Adrianna Papell Diamond Collection Available exclusively at Kay Jewelers, says the most important place to start is with identifying your price range. That will give you more of an accurate picture of your options.
Modugno also says a vast majority—96 percent—of women say they want to be involved in the ring selection. Kushnirski agrees. She says the biggest misconception is that one person should do the shopping all on their own. “Ring selection should really be built on the [other person’s] personality and lifestyle, and the budget should reflect what they feel comfortable spending,” she says.
What makes an engagement ring ethical?
Ethical sourcing means a few things, but most often it refers to the way in which the diamond was mined or produced, and who had ownership of the diamond before it was manufactured into jewelry.
“Ethical mining practices include providing safe working conditions and appropriate wages,” says Modugno. “Ethical ownership refers to whether the diamonds had been previously used to fund illegal activity. All legitimate retailers will offer verification of this from their suppliers.”
The most ethical engagement rings are the ones passed down through generations—if you’re lucky enough to have one in the family.
But even if there isn’t a family heirloom piece, buying vintage or from a resale platform can be an equally good option, too. Vintage boosts the circular economy, reduces the demand for new products, and can be a more affordable option as well.
Today, consumers can also shop lab-grown diamonds that never came out of a mine. They’re identical to mined diamonds in every way except they’re produced in labs. According to Brilliant Earth, one of the leading lab-grown diamond sellers, lab-grown diamonds are created in environments where technological processes mimic natural conditions to produce the diamonds.
Like mined diamonds, lab-grown diamonds are made of carbon atoms and deliver the same crystal structure. Experts can’t often tell them apart.
The Kimberly Process
When shopping for an engagement ring, you’ll likely hear about the Kimberly Process. It’s a certification program that was launched in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the supply chain.
The Kimberly Process helped increase transparency in the diamond industry and was able to reduce the control of rebel groups or their allies used to fund conflicts against legitimate governments.
As a result of the coalition between governments, NGOs, and the global diamond industry, conflict diamonds have been drastically reduced. Today, more than 99 percent of the world’s diamonds are conflict-free.
But that doesn’t mean that all mined diamonds are ethical. Recent investigations have found child labor is still rampant in the mining industry. Investigations by the group Swedwatch found that the Kimberly Process was often obscuring human rights abuses in the industry.
“The KPCS is outdated and does not cover most human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction today,” Therese Sjöström, a researcher at Swedwatch told Reuters in 2016. Issues are still ongoing. The United Nations declared 2021 the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, due in large part to children working in diamond mines to this day.
Buying an ethical engagement ring
But a good jeweler will be able to help answer all questions about the ethics and sourcing.
“Choosing ethically sourced diamonds shows that the retailer and manufacturer care about the consumer, the workers, the manufacturing facilities, as well as the environment,” says Kushnirski.
She says Gabriel & Co is committed to promoting responsible and sustainable practices “so that every consumer who purchases our jewelry can trust that each piece is hand-crafted with love and an artisan flair to perfectly represent the important milestones in each person’s life.”
Mahgerefteh says Allurez has been a part of the Kimberley Process since its inception. “[W]e fully believe in ethically sourced, conflict-free diamonds,” he says. “It is imperative for consumers to make sure any company or brand they purchase diamonds from is a member.”
If you’ve found yourself a reputable jeweler, they’ll already be working with ethically sourced diamonds. They will be able to help guide you to making a purchase that matches your values.
“Consumers should also look for certificates of authenticity when making diamond purchases, third-party certifications and appraisals,” says Mahgerefteh.