Ethical Practices and Sustainable Jewelry Definitions
At Barbara Michelle Jacobs, we are driven to find where beauty, sustainability, and kindness meet. Until very recently, the entire supply chain of materials from mine to market has been opaque to consumers and to people who work within the jewelry industry, making jewelry shopping for the conscious customer and jewelry business owner challenge. Fortunately, this is changing.
As a small business, we’re in a unique position to offer a line of fine, handmade jewelry created with materials from trustworthy sources. We go to great lengths to see that our philosophy is applied to every aspect of jewelry design and creation. As part of this philosophy, we make our sources as transparent as possible.
Precious Metals (Gold and Silver)
95% of the metal we use is 100% recycled. Recycling precious metal side steps the ecological risk involved in mining new metal. Once metal is refined and recycled, it is indistinguishable from new metal. Unlike mining new metal, recycling and refining precious metals results in little to no waste. For more information on the metal recycling process, please see our page on recycled gold.
Our metals are recycled and refined by Hoover and Strong into Harmony Metals and by United Precious Metal Refining into Re-Defined products. Both sources provide SCS Certified Precious Metals. United Precious Metal Refining is also an EICC certified “Conflict-Free” Smelter. While some refiners mix newly mined metals with recycled metals, UPMR produces 100% recycled silver and gold. Our 950 platinum and palladium (5% ruthenium) is recycled as well.
Much of the remaining 5% of our precious metal purchases, accounting for solder and some findings is also recycled.
Please see product listings for specific information on a particular piece. Our diamonds are conflict-free and we aim to go beyond the Kimberley Process Certification System’s definition of conflict free. We also offer newly mined, pre-owned and vintage diamonds. Many are EGLUSA and GIA certified.
Sources of truly conflict-free international diamonds include: Australia, Canada,* Russia, Namibia/ Kalahari (The Kalahari Diamond is the world’s first verifiable Origin African Diamond!) Canadian and Russian diamonds are laser-inscribed with a tracking number that traces the stone back to its mine.
Antique diamonds, in the spirit of recycle-reuse-reduce, offer a sensible and charming alternative to newly mined diamonds. They can often be dated by cutting style and wear. If you are interested in ordering a custom piece featuring an antique diamond please contact us. For more information on antique diamonds, please see our page on the allure of vintage diamonds. Many antique or vintage diamonds may be certified pre-owned through the Jewel Tree Foundation .
Lab-created diamonds match the appearance, structure, and durability of naturally grown diamonds. Although they are man-made, they are real diamonds, unlike diamond simulants (imitations) like cubic zirconia (CZ) and Moissanite. Lab-grown stones are a sustainable option for the eco-conscious consumer. Upon request, we will create a piece with lab-created stones.
Diamonds .25 carat and smaller are kept in stock. Larger stones are selected and purchased especially for you.
Whenever possible, Barbara Michelle Jacobs sources fair trade stones. Although “fair trade” is not yet a well-defined term in the jewelry industry, we make every effort to verify that our sources promote worker well being while supporting the local economy and community. Please see item listings for more specific information. Upon request, we will source stones mined in the US.
Responsible sourcing is an important issue, and we are determined to keep raising the bar. If you have an idea or contact that can help us do a better job, we would love to hear it. We believe that jewelry should not come at high social and environmental costs.
Sustainable Jewelry Definitions
Rebels in countries such as Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Sierra Leone are known to sell “Blood” or “Conflict Diamonds” to fund their wars. The Kimberly Process Certification was developed to regulate the diamond trade to ensure that no conflict diamonds are sold in the legal diamond market. Unfortunately, while the resolution was well intended, it does not address human rights violations or the environmental impact of mining diamonds. With no tracking system in place, Kimberly conflict-free diamonds cannot always be traced to their mines of origin. Kimberly certified diamonds are therefore only a piece of the puzzle facing the jewelry industry.
Eco-friendly jewelers make every effort to ensure that each piece produced brings the least amount of harm to the environment and laborers involved in each step of the production process. Where possible, we support related organizations that actively promote environmental sustainability and worker well being. Eco-friendly jewelers also support industry transparency and seek sources with the same philosophy.
As we’ve noted, the jewelry industry is moving towards more sustainable and ethical practices, but universal industry standards have yet to be established. Therefore, each gem may have a slightly different story. Please see item listings for specific information on materials.
For information on selecting an eco-friendly engagement ring, please refer to this article.
Although there currently isn’t a universally established industry definition for “ethically sourced,” most eco-friendly jewelers describe ethically sourced materials as gems and metals that are sourced and processed (mined, cut, polished, recycled, etc.) with consideration for their environmental and social impact. “Ethically-sourced” can also refer to practices that support local communities.
“Fair Trade” refers to trade practices that support worker communities in developing countries by ensuring that workers are treated and paid fairly. Fair Trade also seeks to promote self-sufficient local economies and sustainable environmental practices.
Practices are sustainable when resources used are renewed at the rate (or faster than the rate) at which they are depleted. More broadly defined, sustainability means considering how our actions impact the bigger picture and making choices with future generations in mind.
Canadian Diamonds: Canadian diamonds are mined in Canada and guaranteed conflict-free. Canadian diamonds are laser-inscribed with a tracking number that traces stones back to their mine of origin and shows the stones’ rough and cut weights. The majority of Canadian diamonds are cut and polished in Africa or India.
Fair Trade Gems
Fair Trade Gems are closely monitored during each phase of the production process, and their chain of supply is visible. Following Fair Trade Gems protocol, these stones are sourced using practices that protect the environment, ensure safe conditions and fair pay for workers, and support cultural diversity and public education among local communities. Fair Trade Gems exclude synthetic and color-treated stones from the supply chain. While some jewelers may obtain a Fair Trade Gems registration, many eco-conscious jewelers work solely with ethically sourced stones but may not be registered as a Fair Trade Gems dealer.
Lab-created Diamonds and Gems
Lab-created, man-made, or lab-grown diamonds are often a more environmentally friendly and affordable option than natural diamonds. Unlike diamond imitations, like cubic zirconia (CZ), lab-created diamonds are identical in molecular structure to natural diamonds. They go through the same cutting process and are held to the same industry standards. To produce a diamond, diamond labs recreate the conditions in which a natural diamond would grow. Unlike natural diamonds, lab-created diamonds are not treated to enhance their color; their color will not change over time. Upon request, we will create a piece with lab-created stones.
Recycled Precious Metals
Recycled precious metals are pre-owned or reclaimed metals that have gone through a refining process, making them function and appear as good as newly mined metal. By choosing recycled precious metals, we side step the pollution and environmental degradation that accompanies the mining of new metal.