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What is an ethical engagement ring?

6 min read

What is an ethical engagement ring?

Demand for ethical engagement rings is at an all-time high. But what is  an ‘ethical engagement ring’? For those who wish to better understand the options available to them, this blog explores the margins of an ethical engagement ring in nuanced terms, referencing the materials and methods we’ve chosen to ensure our engagement rings tell stories to feel proud of.



What makes an engagement ring ethical?

Damir's bespoke engagement ring, crafted in platinum using filigree-inspired techniques, conflict-free natural diamonds and a traceable fair-traded cushion-cut sapphire
Damir’s bespoke engagement ring, crafted in the UK from recycled platinum, a 7.05ct cushion-cut sapphire and 1.24ct of conflict-free diamonds

An ethical engagement ring is one that’s been created with care; paying heed to its impact on both the planet and the human beings who inhabit it.

The notion of ‘ethics’ is complex and multifaceted, and we believe there is no such thing as absolute perfection - but it ispossible to design, manufacture and purchase jewellery with compassion, consideration and positive intention. In simple terms, any engagement ring that embodies those qualities is an ethical engagement ring.

Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ definition of an ethical engagement ring, adopting a framework can help you to define some personal criteria, ensuring that your forever jewel aligns with yourvision of the world. Here at Lebrusan Studio, for example, every decision we make is informed by the Doughnut Economics framework, which concerns itself with the symbiotic relationship between Earth’s social and planetary boundaries. Humanity’s challenge in the 21st century is to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials – food, housing, healthcare and political voice – while simultaneously safeguarding Planet Earth’s life-supporting systems from excess collective pressure. These systems, on which we all fundamentally depend, include a stable climate, fertile soils and a protective ozone layer. An ideal world is a world wherein we exist comfortably within these boundaries; within the Doughnut. You can learn more about this outlook here.

Thanks to the dedicated ethical jewellery movement of the past two decades, we have access to more knowledge, certification schemes and innovative materials than ever before. Now, we’ll talk you through them...


An ethical engagement ring may champion recycled materials

Alex's bespoke solitaire engagement ring, crafted in 18ct recycled yellow gold and set with a pear-shaped antique old-cut diamond
Alex’s bespoke engagement ring, crafted new from exclusively old materials: 18ct recycled yellow gold and a 0.96ct recycled old-cut diamond

We have reached a state of climate emergency, and it is crucial that we slow the rate at which we’re expending our planet’s finite natural resources. By far the jewellery industry’s greatest carbon emissions are those generated through mining and mineral processing. A few years back, a study revealed that mining in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest alone equated to an area twice the size of Paris, responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to those of 250,000 cars per year.

For every piece of jewellery, roughly 95% of its carbon footprint is in the extraction and production of its metal alone. We know, however, that platinum and gold are eternally renewable sources, capable of being recycled again and again and again without any degradation in quality. In fact, all gold ever mined since the beginning of human history is still here with us above the Earth’s surface. Making use of this abundant resource is a straightforward means of minimising the demand for further mining.

Lenny's bespoke half-halo emerald engagement ring, created by repurposing an heirloom cocktail ring

Lenny’s bespoke engagement ring, created by repurposing an old cocktail ring inherited from his grandmother

Likewise, there are a multitude of diamonds and gemstones already in circulation, ready to be reclaimed. For every carat of natural diamond, an estimated 6,000lbs of mineral waste is created and 250 tonnes of earth shifted. For context, 116 million carats were mined in 2021; that's 29 billion tonnes of earth displaced in one year. What’s more, repeatedly drilling holes into the ground in search of new diamonds is the consumption of a finite resource; with a recent analysis by Bain finding that that a number of diamond mines will be fully depleted by 2030.

If your ethical standpoint prioritises Planet Earth’s limitations above all, your ethical engagement ring is one that makes use of the precious metals and gemstones already above-ground, significantly reducing its impact on the environment in the process.

If you’re sitting on a jewellery box of relics collecting dust, you may even wish to create a new engagement ring by way of remodelling the old.




An ethical engagement ring may champion traceable artisanal materials

Steve's bespoke trilogy engagement ring, crafted in the UK using traceable Fairmined Eco Gold and a trilogy of conflict-free artisanal diamonds
Steve’s bespoke trilogy engagement ring, crafted using artisanal Ocean Diamonds and 18ct Fairmined Ecological Gold

Of course, environmentalism is only one half of the ethical equation. We know that jewellery also has the power to redistribute wealth and autonomy more fairly, grant people a voice, and ensure that legacies may continue to be passed on from one generation to the next.

The world is home to roughly 40 million artisanal and small-scale (ASM) miners who work independently from mining companies and rely on minerals for a legitimate source of income. If your definition of an ethical engagement ring is one that plays an active role in supporting these miners and their communities, choose precious materials that can be traced back to artisanal roots, helping to drive demand for transparency in doing so.

In the context of metals, third party certification schemes like Fairmined and Fairtrade Gold guarantee ethical ASM origins, assuring us that the gold in question has been extracted via best practise principles, taking safe working conditions, environmental sustainability, just wages and fair trading opportunities seriously. We pay premiums for the privilege of enjoying these metals; funds which are invested directly back into the miners and their communities via education, healthcare, environmental projects and resources like electricity and clean running water.

Our ready to wear Fancy Athena solitaire engagement ring, crafted in the UK using Fairtrade Gold and a pear-cut sapphire of traceable and fair-traded Sri Lankan origin
Our ready-to-wear Fancy Athena engagement ring, crafted using 18ct Fairtrade Gold and a 0.94ct pear-cut sapphire of traceable Sri Lankan origin

You might also wish to maximise the positive socioeconomic impact of your engagement ring by choosing a diamond or gemstone that you know to be mined responsibly. We currently source our artisanal diamonds from Ocean Diamonds, a company that employs professional career divers in South Africa and Namibia to retrieve diamonds from the coastal seabed. The divers' knowledge of the ocean means they know exactly where to discover the diamonds, avoiding unnecessary disturbance. Once brought to the surface with minimal trace, each diamond is passed on to a skilled local artisan for cutting and polishing. These diamonds actively contribute to positive change in their area of origin, supporting the local diving and diamond production industries in southern Africa.

Likewise, the majority of our coloured gemstones are sourced from small-scale mines that prioritise health and safety, preservation of the environment surrounding the mine site, and relationships with local traders and stone-cutters.



An ethical engagement ring is crafted by people who care, for people who care

Amanda's bespoke engagement ring, crafted in the UK using hand-engraving techniques, sustainable recycled gold and our client's own vintage reclaimed diamonds
Amanda’s bespoke engagement ring, crafted in the UK using 18ct recycled gold and her own reclaimed diamonds

Craft is a language that enables a person to make their mark on the world, channelling history, passion and technique from one generation to the next. For myriad societies, jewellery craft is what the UN would call an ‘intangible cultural heritage’; a relic just as valuable as buildings, monuments and artefacts. When traditional craftsmanship is championed in the present-day, an invaluable flame is kept alight. Maintained is a sense of belonging, as people are afforded a tactile connection to their history – an insight into their heritage.

Great Britain boasts a tremendous history of jewellery craft. From diamond polishers removing minute flaws to diamond mounters setting stones into platinum on a microscopic scale and hand-engravers etching intricate motifs into gold, the people behind our engagement rings maintain centuries of tradition. To bring our engagement ring designs to life we have chosen to commission small family-run workshops - each specialising in a unique craft – so we can contribute to the continuation of these traditions.

What’s more, with the majority of our manufacturing processes taking place within a 150m2  radius and the A-to-B transportation of our jewels mostly carried out on foot, manufacturing locally to our base at the London Diamond Bourse enables us to minimise the manufacturing mileage and carbon footprint of each and every engagement ring.

Our engagement rings are not mass-produced overseas, but made to order on our doorstep. This means that each unique jewel is crafted with love and its lucky new wearer in mind, ensuring minimal surplus and long-term love affairs.



If you have enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about ethical jewellery, make sure you sign up below to receive our newsletter and tell a friend about our services. Don’t forget to give us a call or drop us an email if you need further advice.
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Love, Arabel & Team
Ruby McGonigle
Ruby McGonigle

Ruby McGonigle is a copywriter and digital marketing professional with over five years of jewellery industry experience. After graduating with a BA in Linguistics, she combined her passions for written word and all things sparkly by joining the Lebrusan Studio team as in-house wordsmith and content creator. Among bi-monthly blog posts, notable examples of Ruby's work include a think-piece on the ‘natural diamonds vs. lab-grown diamonds’ debate, a probe into why traceable and third party certified ASM gold is so important, and an investigation of why platinum is no longer more expensive than gold.