Some of you may tear up at DeBeers commercials, and some of you may gag, but few would argue that engagement and wedding rings are a romantic gesture with deep symbolism. Whether you are the type who goes for flaunting traditional bling, or a non-traditionalist who got engaged with a soda can pop-top, there is something beautifully symbolic about the tradition of exchanging rings to symbolize a long-lasting commitment to your partner. And with the ring so begins Inhabitat’s Green Wedding Series. A number of the Inhabitat writers have gotten hitched with green weddings recently, and having just come through the process – we’ve got a lot of information to share on how to make your wedding day as green as they come. Let’s start by taking a green look at one of the most enduring modern wedding traditions: the ring…
Wedding rings are traditional. Even the staunchest non-traditionalists have wedding rings. For some they are a status symbol, but for an environmentalist, eco-friendly wedding rings can show commitment to sustainability, protection of the environment, fair trade and conservation of the earth’s resources. The ring you choose for yourself and your fiance says a lot about you. Women are getting raped, kids are getting their hands hacked off, and people are getting killed all over the diamond trade in war-torn African nations like Sierra Leone, Angola and Congo. Without getting into too much depth about the moral issues and gritty details of it all, watch Blood Diamond and you’ll get the glimpse of why it’s important to buy your rings responsibly.
For both women and men’s rings, you’ll want to look for conflict-free diamonds and gems, and recycled metals. And while diamonds are a girl’s best friend, not every girl wants a diamond, and there are many gemstones out there that are just as beautiful and not as tainted. Cultured diamonds and gemstones are the most ecologically friendly gems, since they are not mined out of the earth, but grown in a lab. They are also significantly less expensive than geologically-grown gems, which has definite appeal in today’s economy.
The most well-known jewelers offering up conflict free gems and recycled metal are greenKarat (more unique settings), Brilliant Earth (more traditional settings) and Ingle & Rhode in the UK. All three can custom design your rings or reuse your old jewelry to create something new. Another great resource for ready-to-wear jewelry is at Elizabeta Jewelry, which carries rings from 8 different eco-conscious jewelers – all conflict free and made with recycled metals.
Rings made by independent jewelers can be found at Etsy.com, where there are many amazing artisans making eco-friendly rings – using recycled metals, conflict free diamonds, even polished wood. Some other fantastic artisans using recycled metal and conflict free gems include Dawes Design, Sarah Pelis, and Kirsten Muenster (for beautiful rings sans gems).
Besides buying a ring that is already made, find a local jeweler whose style you like and have them custom make one. It’s possible they already source recycled metal and conflict free gems. If not, suggest they source from Hoover & Strong, which carries the Harmony Line of recycled metal and conflict free gems. Hoover & Strong is a very well-known name in the jewelry business and any reputable jeweler in the States should know them. Most jewelers can also melt down your own jewelry to make new pieces. For those who live in the New York area, go to New York Wedding Ring Workshop, and make your own.
If you are so lucky to receive a piece of jewelry that was handed down to you – use it. If the style is not right, you can always have it reworked into something that is more you. Having a piece your family’s heirloom is special, not to mention cheaper than buying something brand new. Antique jewelry bought at an estate sale or antique shop is another environmentally responsible option. There are many reputable online antique jewelers as well as shops all over the country bursting with antique jewelry. To make sure you’re getting the best in quality, do your research, speak with jewelers, and ask lots of questions.
As for me, when my husband Matt, asked me to marry me back in 2007 (we had a long engagement), he asked me at the top of a 3 pitch climb outside of St. George, UT in Snow Canyon. The ring he gave me was his mother’s engagement ring. I was so thrilled he asked me and a little out of breath from the climb, but right away I loved that the ring had been previously worn and loved.
Then a few months before the wedding I was given permission by both Matt and his mother to do what I wanted with it, and I decided to have it reworked into something a little different and more my style. We chose Alix Railton of Happy Dragon Designs, who is local jeweler in Park City, to help us create our rings. We reused the diamond, and the metal from the engagement ring plus a little more recycled metal from Hoover & Strong, so that way we both have a bit of his mom’s ring. We created a new engagement ring plus the wedding band and added some pale peridot gems (because green is my favorite color). Matt’s ring is a copy of one he liked from a store, that the jeweler recreated. So what do our rings say about us? I think they say that we care about our past, but we’re going into the future with a bit of our own style.
My sweetie and I got engaged with a cultured sapphire engagement ring that we designed together, working with GreenKarat. Actually, my dude popped the question with a fabulous laser-cut $10 acrylic ‘diamond ring’ by Alissia Melka Teichroew, but then after we were properly engaged we decided to design a longer lasting piece of eco-friendly jewelry using GreenKarat.
The process of working with GreenKarat was incredibly fun and rewarding. Greenkarat will allow you to custom-design just about anything using a wide range of cultured gems, recycled or conflict-free gems, and recycled metals. I knew I wanted to purchase a lab-grown gem because I am all-too-aware of the devastating environmental and cultural impact that mining can have. Though diamonds are the traditional ‘engagement ring’ gem, I opted for cultured sapphire rather than a diamond because I prefer the deep blue hue of sapphires to the light colors of diamonds (cultured diamonds are typically yellow, light blue or pink, although clear is also an option.) We were able to chose the cut and set of the gem, and then we got a recycled platinum band to match.
Not only do I love my ring, but I loved the whole process of designing a custom eco ring and working with GreenKarat. The company was even nice enough to resize my ring when it was too big the first time around, so they come with high recommendations from me. It’s also great to be able to look at my gorgeous ring and know that it perfectly reflects my environmental values and beliefs, as well as my commitment to my relationship. I can’t recommend GreenKarat and the process of designing your own eco ring more highly!
*Bridgette’s Thoughts on Weddings – Weddings are not consumptive, wasteful, excessive, or environmental nightmares, if done correctly. Weddings are a great way to infuse money into the local economy in a sustainable manner without using up a lot of resources, not to mention they’re a heck of a lot of fun. Throughout our wedding planning this last spring, our mantra was local, organic, recycled, handmade, renewable. Now repeat after me – Local, Organic, Recycled, Handmade, Renewable. If you consider these 5 principles when making your decisions, you’ll end up with a fabulously green and responsible party.