At the recent State of the Art Jewelry Summit, climate change emerged as the biggest issue facing jewelry companies today. The industry can and should act now, said Melanie Grant, executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), which cohosted the event at Harvard University along with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
But while plenty of companies are talking the talk, consumers often need to cut through greenwashing to find ones that walk the walk as well. Fortunately, a number of companies are finding innovative ways to make their businesses eco-friendly and ethical, whether in the mining phase, further down the supply chain, or via the materials themselves.
Mining companies are becoming more mindful of their impact, looking to offset their carbon footprint and give back to local communities.
In July, De Beers reached a new deal with the Botswana government on their joint mining venture, Debswana, to channel more diamond wealth back into the country. It included a 10-year sales agreement and a 25-year extension to Debswana mining licenses.
Meanwhile, Fuli Gemstones intends to make its peridot mine near the Changbai Mountains in China the first zero-waste, zero-carbon facility of its kind, breaking new ground in by-product reuse.
“We believe in natural innovation combined with positive change,” says Fuli chief marketing officer Pia Tonna. “Our target is to aim for zero waste, utilizing the industrial-grade olivine and volcanic basalt which will be removed during the peridot mining process. While mineral-rich basalt has many uses in farming, industry and construction — and will be incorporated into our mine buildings — we’re particularly excited about olivine, which can absorb its own mass of carbon dioxide when crushed and distributed, as it reacts with CO2 to form carbonate minerals. The potential applications to counter climate change through carbon sequestration are thrilling and set Fuli on the right path for net zero.”
Technology has a vital role to play in climate compliance. Diamond-equipment manufacturer Sarine Technologies has developed CarbonVERO, a system that records the energy consumption and carbon footprint of individual diamonds. A collaborative effort with diamond supplier Andre Messika and climate consultancies, CarbonVERO gathers raw data from mining companies and other third parties in the diamond pipeline.
Since it’s integrated into Sarine’s Diamond Journey traceability program, the data can then become part of an accurate and comprehensive report tracking the stone from the mine through manufacturing. “By leveraging our involvement in the planning and manufacturing of over 100 million diamonds annually, we possess the unique capability to track diamonds across their entire life cycle,” says Tzafrir Engelhard, Sarine’s vice president of business development.
“We believe that our solution will not only provide valuable insights into the environmental impact of diamond production, but also empower the diamond jewelry market to make informed decisions and implement sustainable practices within our industry.”
The right materials
While many companies claim to use recycled gold — not an innovation per se, as jewelers have always reused precious metals — British brand Lylie is taking it a step further. Lylie is the only jewelry company in the UK to work exclusively with urban-mined metals, including e-waste, dental waste and medical X-rays.
Meanwhile, in Paris, Boucheron’s latest high-jewelry collection has received rave reviews for its uplifting aesthetic and innovative materials. One notable example is its Tie the Knot hair adornment.
“Besides creative director Claire Choisne’s ambition to get an ultra-light effect for the Tie the Knot hair jewel — [which we did by] using magnesium, a first in high jewelry — she also wanted a bold and vibrant red,” says Boucheron CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne. To achieve that hue, “we used bio-acetate made from wood paste and cotton fibers.”
‘A clear strategy’
The growing concern about the jewelry industry’s environmental and social impact — along with the new generation of responsible consumers — has made sustainability more of a priority than ever.
To that end, GIA has been joining forces with other groups to boost environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices in the jewelry world. Besides its role in the State of the Art Jewelry Summit, it has collaborated on climate education with Axa Climate School, partnered with eBay to advance the circular economy, and helped empower mining communities through PACT, Mercury Free Mining, and Diamonds Do Good. It is also a member of the Watch and Jewelry Initiative 2030, which is working to make the industry as a whole more sustainable.
In June, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) issued a set of voluntary disclosure guidelines to help hold companies accountable. Since these standards set the stage for potential legislation in countries around the world, now is the time for jewelers to prepare.
“Having a clear sustainability strategy is a must for any business,” says Pritesh Patel, senior vice president and chief operations officer at GIA.
“As an industry, we must collectively change our mind-set, taking into account the impact of everything we do and working to reduce those impacts on the environment and society.”
Main image: The Tie the Knot hair jewel from Boucheron’s More Is More collection. (Boucheron)
This article is from GIA’s Spotlight on Sustainability special report. View other articles here.