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GO LAB-GROWN

Lark & Berry Flora earrings with ruby sapphire drops.Arlokea

When consumers buy lab-grown over mined diamonds, they are making a far more responsible choice. Lab-grown options are typically produced with less waste, no land or animal displacement and the stones are conflict-free. Laura Chavez, owner of London-based Lark & Berry, which grows its own diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, says new advances in mean lab-grown gems can also be grown with 100-per-cent renewable energy. When it comes to quality, all diamonds – whether they are mined or grown – come in a range of colours, clarity and carats. “Lab-grown diamonds have the same certificates as their mined counterparts,” she says. “But they will go into deeper detail pointing out the quality of the cut, the fluorescence and where the inclusions [small irregularities] are on the diamond.”

REUSE, RECYCLE

ATTIC is a Toronto company that uses 100-per-cent recycled gold melted down at a local refinery whenever possible.Handout

Although mining gold can be carbon-intensive, one of the beautiful things about the metal is that it can be infinitely recycled and is long-lasting. All of which means it has a shelf life that is good for the planet. “People should always ask questions about where their jewellery is manufactured and where their gold comes from,” says Melissa Gobeil, co-founder of ATTIC, a Toronto company that uses 100-per-cent recycled gold melted down at a local refinery whenever possible. It also buys back client’s old gold and sends it to be refined to create new designs. “Some refineries sell certified 100-per-cent recycled gold, while others refine gold without the same third-party certifications,” she says. “Being able to have an open and transparent conversation with your jeweller will give you the confidence your values are aligned.”

SECOND LIFE

John Esposito says his company uses only fair-mined gold in all its pieces and primarily recycles sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, all of which are highly durable and sought-after in the resale market.Julie Riemersma/Malleable

Vintage gemstones retrieved from estate sales or auctions are good options for people who do not want newly mined pieces. However, if you go this route, John Esposito, owner of fine jeweller Malleable in Toronto, recommends only buying from a jeweller who has the credentials to properly assess the authenticity and quality of the gemstones. Esposito, a certified diamond grader with a diploma in gemology, says his company uses only fair-mined gold in all its pieces and primarily recycles sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, all of which are highly durable and sought-after in the resale market. “Customers should make sure they’re working with an expert who can tell them if a stone has withstood the test of time or has been badly damaged,” he says. “Opals and pearls, for instance, do not tend to age well.”

CREATIVE EXPRESSION

Joelle Cowie started Arlokea to use ethical jewellery to tackle social issues surrounding health, education and poverty.Handout

Independent artisans are often adept at creating beauty out of the most unusual things. Joelle Cowie, an entrepreneur in Toronto, started Arlokea to use ethical jewellery to tackle social issues surrounding health, education and poverty. In Ecuador, she buys pieces from women who make beautiful baubles with nuts harvested from the tagua palm tree. In Vietnam, she found women artists making earrings and necklaces with recycled bullhorn. In Ethiopia, there are female artisans who make beautiful pieces from discarded bullet casings. The jewellery is affordable, bold and empowers women in the communities in which they live. “For me, when I think about ethical or sustainable fashion, I think about the people behind the products,” she says. “All of the pieces we sell are made by workers who earn a fair wage.”

MINED IN CANADA

Today, Botswana, Russia and Canada are the world’s top three diamond-producing countries by value.Ekati mine

If you’re not ready to go the lab-grown route, the best way to ensure a mined diamond meets the highest possible environmental standards is to buy Canadian. Today, Botswana, Russia and Canada are the world’s top three diamond-producing countries by value. Of those, Canadian diamonds are recognized globally as the most ethically sourced because of this country’s stringent regulatory standards. Rory Moore, chief executive of Arctic Canadian DIamond Co. in Calgary, says diamonds extracted from his company’s Ekati mine, about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, all come with CanadaMark certification. The quality assurance program traces a stone’s origins from the miner to the manufacturer to the retailer and, finally, the consumer. “The unique benefit of this program is its transparency,” says Moore, whose company is also committed to training and mentoring Indigenous employees, which make up roughly one-third of its workforce.

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