What is sustainable jewelry?

What is sustainable jewelry?

What actually is sustainable jewelry? 

       Truth is there’s no one definition of sustainable jewelry. What one brand calls sustainable might be wildly different from what another brand considers sustainable. That unfortunately, leaves it up to the consumer to do their own research, define sustainability for themselves and decide how that matches up with each brand's definition. It hasn't been easy. 

At Starling we define sustainability as using recycled/reclaimed materials, making our pieces by hand in California paying fair wages, keeping our use of plastic and waste to a minimum both in packaging and in our daily office. We currently use 100% recycled yellow gold and 70% recycled rose gold and white gold (the pure gold is 100% recycled, the additive materials that make the gold 14k and rose or white colored are not 100% recycled - yet!). We use recycled white diamonds in as many pieces as possible depending on availability - roughly 50-60% of our pieces.

How do you prove jewelry is sustainable? 


       This is hard. For most companies, including Starling you are going based on the word of the company. Which I will be honest should not always be trusted. There can be a thin line between wanting to do well and actually doing well, especially for small brands that are very far removed from the sources of the materials. Saying “our diamonds adhere to the Kimberly Process” in our opinion is a copout. There are a lot of holes in the Kimberly Process still and although it’s a step in a good direction for the diamond industry, it by no means has solved the issues of smuggling and conflict stones. We also do not believe that lab-grown diamonds are always the answer, depending on the source they can also be problematic. But! We are happy to announce that Starling is now perusing 3rd party sustainability verification from the SCS Global Services. Hear more about the SCS and listen to Chelsey, founder of Starling and Stanley Vice President at SCS, chat about sustainability in jewelry and how the SCS new certification process is changing the industry. They are bring much needed transparency to the jewelry world and there will finally be a standard for sustainability that can be verified.  

Why is sustainable jewelry important?

      One gold ring requires miners to generate at least 20 tons of toxic waste (including poisons like cyanide) and the production of one gold necklace has the same global warming potential as burning 318 pounds of coal. To offset these emissions, we would have to recycle 480 aluminum cans. More than half of all gold mined goes to the production of jewelry. That means that changes within our own industry can have a major impact. Especially when you consider that producing recycled metals like gold, silver and platinum emits 99.5 percent less carbon than mining. And don’t worry, there’s plenty to go around -- about 85 percent of all the world’s gold is still in use or available for recycling.

Aerial view of Diavik Diamond Mine in British Columbia.

Diamond mines are some of the most environmentally destructive operations in existence. Not only does the physical process destroy the earth -- gouging scars down the middle of national parks so large they are visible from space -- the chemical process poisons it. Just last year, the US imported 2,152,343.74 carats of diamonds (equivalent to more than $331 million). For every one carat of those diamonds produced, around 57kgs of greenhouse gas emissions were released into the atmosphere. We would need to recycle 250 cans to offset the emissions of just one carat. We have a lot of recycling to do! 



Illegal gold mining in Peru's Amazon region.

Sustainable jewelry is important because our industry continues to support and profit from some of the most environmentally destructive practices on earth. While we can’t control how the world sources their stones and precious metals, change starts here with us. What we can do is change the narrative around sustainable jewelry, try to make things clearer for our customers and set the gold standard (both literally and figuratively) for the industry. Change starts right here, right now, with us and you! 


Shop some of our pieces using recycled stones below.

Back to blog