When shopping for an engagement ring, it’s important to look beyond the sparkle and consider where the piece came from, how many hands it passed through, and the damage it may have caused to people and environment along the way.
Here, we’ve presented our tips for shopping consciously, and suggested the best brands that are making sustainable wedding rings for eco conscious and ethical shoppers.
What exactly are sustainable engagement rings, and why do they matter?
An engagement ring is something very special – it’s a celebration of your love and commitment to another person.
However, you don’t want your joy to be clouded with the knowledge (or even the suspicion) that your precious ring comes not only with its visible price tag, but also a cost to planet and people involved in its production. Unfortunately, mining for diamonds, other gemstones, as well as gold and other metals, is typically incredibly environmentally-destructive.
One of the reasons that natural diamonds are seen as so valuable is that they are rare. However, this rarity makes them very difficult – and damaging – to mine.
To find just one carat of diamond, miners need to sift through around 250 tons of earth, leading to soil erosion, deforestation, and ultimately destroying ecosystems and driving plants and animals toward extinction.
This intensive process also uses an incredible amount of resources and produces harmful pollutants: diamond mining consumes 126 gallons of water, uses 538.5 million joules of energy, and produces over 125 pounds of carbon emissions per carat, along with other hazardous materials.
This is true not only of diamond mining, but also gold, precious metals, and gemstones. For example, traditional gold mining can produce 20 tons of toxic waste to make just one gold ring.
Mining precious metals and gemstones also generally involves high costs to humans, with common practices including unsafe working conditions, child labor, and even modern slavery. According to the Global Slavery Index, gold mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Peru are some of the sectors involving the highest slave labor risks today.
The risks are particularly high in diamond mining, due to the high value of this mineral combined with the fact many of the world’s diamond reserves are located in under-developed countries, where regulations are lax and the disadvantaged local population is vulnerable to abuse.
Furthermore, the profits from diamond mining all too often go to corrupt governments, criminal organizations, or local militia groups. The so-called blood diamond trade has played a major part in funding conflicts in Africa in particular: in the Sierra Leone civil war alone, which was largely driven by diamond money, 120,000 people died between 1991 and 2002.
With increasing consumer concern about where their jewelry comes from and how it is made, there are now a range of sustainable engagement rings available which incorporate raw materials such as lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals.
Some of the best sustainable engagement rings to consider
When shopping for responsible engagement rings, you’ll often see rings described as either sustainable, ethical, or both. Though these terms are related, they actually mean something quite different:
- Ethical relates to how workers were treated during the extraction of raw materials and production of the ring itself, ensuring fair labor practices, free from forced and child labor.
- Sustainable means that the ring was produced without damaging people or the planet, with responsible processes at all stages.
Therefore, our top picks for the best sustainable engagement rings mean you can rest assured that your stunning engagement ring doesn’t come with a human or environmental cost.
1. Valley Rose
You’ll set yourself apart with one of the truly unique sustainable engagement rings from Valley Rose. Created by Northern California-based designer Brittany Groshong, the brand’s pieces are hand-made using the lost-wax casting technique.
This is a way to craft sustainable engagement rings and other jewelry which uses an original hand-carved wax model for each item. This means that no two pieces are exactly the same!
Inspired by the beauty and mystery of the cosmos, their designs feature settings reminiscent of constellations and other-worldly stones like galaxy diamonds.
Valley Rose only uses ethical and sustainable materials of the highest quality, such as Fairmined gold and ethically-sourced gemstones. Their diamonds are either recycled or certified sustainably-grown.
2. Aether Diamonds
Aether’s innovative and sustainable diamonds are created from carbon that is captured from the atmosphere. The process takes a few weeks and involves taking the captured CO2 and putting it through hydrocarbon synthesis in a reactor that is powered by clean energy.
Therefore, not only are their diamonds made without the negative impacts of mining, but they actually help to combat climate change!
The certified B corp company also minimizes the emissions they generate through their manufacturing and other processes, and aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2023. Their designs range from classic to modern, with innovative rings in various settings.
If you don’t like any of their sustainable engagement rings set pieces, you can have them make you your own customized design.
In addition to making diamond engagement and wedding rings, Aether also makes stunning necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Holden offers stunning sustainable engagement rings that are custom-made to order. Not only does this mean you can design a unique piece that is perfect for you or your partner, but this is also more sustainable, as there’s no excess inventory going to waste.
The brand only uses lab-grown diamonds and 100% recycled gold to create unique and gender-neutral designs.
Holden is Climate Neutral Certified, demonstrating that they offset 100% of the emissions generated in the production of their products.
The brand also offers free shipping, resizing, and returns. Furthermore, they recycle any returned inventory, melting it down to make new pieces and donate 1% of all sales to The Trevor Project, a non-profit that provides crisis support to LGBTQ young people.
4. Lebrusan Studio
Lebrusan Studio was founded by artist, jewelry designer, and leading ethical jewelry advocate Arabel Lebrusan. Their sustainable engagement rings reflect her passion for her Spanish cultural heritage and fine detail, as well as collaboration with a range of talented London jewelry makers.
Lebrusan’s designs are elegant and whimsical, and range from classic diamond solitaires to nature-inspired colored gemstone settings.
The brand’s commitment to ethical and sustainable practices is reflected in their many certifications and memberships, including Fairtrade Gold and the Fair Luxury campaign group.
They not only seek to lead by example through practices like using fair trade and sustainably-mined diamonds, gemstones, and gold, as well as recycled gold and platinum, but they also aim to drive change in the industry through educating consumers and jewelry brands, and encouraging discourse on how we can make jewelry more ethical and sustainable.
Vrai strives to make jewelry that is not only high-quality, but also good for people and the planet. The brand strictly follows ethical labor practices and is committed to transparency, using lab-grown diamonds to avoid the negative impacts of mining, and their production processes are carefully controlled to generate zero carbon emissions.
Their diamonds are grown in the USA by Diamond Foundry and the final pieces of jewelry are also made in the USA.
Vrai’s designs are simple, elegant and unique. You can choose between over 50 sustainable engagement rings with white or black diamonds, as well as a range of stone sizes and styles such as stacking rings.
They also give back to a range of causes, including Equality Now, No Kid Hungry, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
This Brooklyn-based brand makes most of their jewelry by hand in the USA, with designs by some of the industry’s leading artists, including Erstwhile, Kataoka, and Gillian Conroy. The brand uses only fair-trade and recycled gold as well as recycled and conflict-free gemstones.
Catbird is driven by values of sustainability, using majority recycled materials and making all their pieces in Brooklyn with a minimal carbon footprint. Their line of sustainable engagement rings includes a range of different styles, from sleek modern designs to vintage-inspired pieces, so you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes!
The company gives back through the Catbird Giving Fund, which gives a minimum of 1% of the brand’s total sales to a range of nonprofits throughout the USA.
Miadonna is another manufacturer that uses only ethical and sustainable raw materials such as lab-grown diamonds and recycled metals in their sustainable engagement rings. Along with chemically-identical diamonds grown in the lab, they also offer their own patented Diamond Hybrid simulant, which looks like a diamond for a fraction of the cost.
Their designs are simple, elegant, and many have a vintage flair. Along with diamond solitaires and clusters, you’ll also find stunning lab-grown gemstones such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and alexandrite.
Many of their pieces are customizable, allowing you to create your dream engagement ring.
If you’re not sure what you want your ring to look like, you can take advantage of Miadonna’s in-home service where they’ll send you up to four sample styles and then return them for free within seven days using the shipping label provided.
Mejuri’s jewelry is made from recycled metals with conflict-free diamonds or ethically-sourced gemstones under fair labor practices. For their gold pieces, 80% of the gold is recycled and the rest is certified responsible.
Their sustainable engagement rings are not only made to the highest standards of quality, their pieces are very reasonably-priced and accessible for all budgets. Along with ethical and sustainable policies, Mejuri has an Empowerment Fund dedicated to supporting nonbinary people and BIPOC women.
9. Aurate New York
Aurate’s mission is to provide high-quality, sustainable, and ethical jewelry at an affordable price.
Their sustainable engagement rings come in a range of styles, shapes, and settings in platinum, yellow, white, or rose gold. You can choose between lab-grown or ethically-sourced natural diamonds, and all their pieces are made in the USA.
They go even further than the Kimberley Process, the industry standard for diamond traceability, tracking each natural diamond they use from the mine all the way to their New York workshop to make sure every process is ethical and sustainable. Every ring you buy comes with a certificate of authenticity for extra peace of mind.
Aurate New York also supports a range of charitable organizations, including She Should Run and Mastery Charter.
Fenton is a B Corp Certified company that makes sustainable engagement rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets from responsibly-sourced raw materials using transparent, ethical, and sustainable processes. They seek to make pieces that have their roots in nature and are made to celebrate love to a high standard so that can be handed down through the generations and become family heirlooms.
Fenton aims to empower consumers and encourage diversity by recognizing that love and relationships don’t always look the same, and we all have our own distinct needs and desires. Along with a large collection of classic, elegant designs, they also make bespoke pieces (you can work with brand to create your own unique ring).
The company is built on 10 ‘responsible sourcing pillars’ that ensure their pieces are ethical and sustainable. These pillars include ethical mining practices, safe, fair, and equal working conditions, avoiding child labor, and actively protecting the local environment.
11. De Beers
De Beers is not only one of the world’s most famous manufacturers of diamond jewelry, but they’re also committed to doing so in a fair, safe, and sustainable way. They’re involved in the diamond sourcing process from the ground up, ensuring that each and every stone is conflict free, ethical, and responsibly sourced.
The brand manages a 200,000 hectare conservation area in southern Africa and works to minimize their water usage across all operations. They also say they’re moving towards becoming carbon neutral.
Their classic sustainable engagement rings include round, square, heart and marquise-shaped diamonds in a range of settings and a choice of platinum or white, yellow, and rose gold. These come with a relatively-high price tag, but are premium quality pieces guaranteed to last a life time.
De Beers also gives back to the communities across the globe where they work, from providing healthcare and education to employees and the local community to running entrepreneur programs to empower women, young people, and small business owners in Africa.
12. Taylor & Hart
Taylor & Hart’s sustainable engagement rings are made from either lab-grown or ethically-sourced diamonds, Fairtrade-certified gold, and sustainable and recycled metals.
This brand is all about bespoke pieces, and specializes in creating custom jewelry. Through a personal consultation, they’ll walk you through the process step by step to create an engagement ring that truly embodies you and your relationship.
Designs can include diamonds or other precious gemstones in a variety of cuts and settings – virtually whatever you like! They’ll also do this surprisingly quickly – your own customized ring can be ready in as little as four weeks.
13. Bario Neal
Bario Neal only uses gold that is recycled and Fairmined Certified, and all other raw materials are sustainable and traceable. They’re committed to sustainability and accountability, so they’ve published a Sustainability Report sharing the environmental impacts of their materials and processes, through to their workshops in Philadelphia, New York, and Vermont.
Along with a number of sustainable engagement rings with designs ranging from clusters of diamonds to enamel halo rings, the brand will also work with you to create your own unique, customized design. They’re also skilled in reworking heirloom materials for a truly special and sustainable result.
Bario Neal also gives back to a range of causes, most notably LGBTQ+ rights and global marriage equality.
14. Clean Origin
All of this US-based brand’s sustainable engagement rings are made from conflict-free, lab-created diamonds. Clean Origin’s extensive jewelry collection includes over 200 sustainable engagement rings and more than 50 wedding bands, in simple, elegant, and timeless designs, starting at very affordable price points. You can also have the brand design a custom piece for you according to your specifications.
You can be confident this brand’s pieces are built to last, as they come with a 100-day return policy and a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty. You’ll also enjoy free shipping and resizing, in case the ring doesn’t fit.
Kimai uses lab-grown diamonds made with the latest technology to create gems that are chemically and physically identical to their natural counterparts without the negative environmental impact. All of their diamonds come with a Certificate of Authentication issued by independent graders such as IGI.
Beyond the diamonds, Kimai carefully selects all of the materials they use to create their sustainable engagement rings, wedding bands, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.
All of their raw materials are fully traceable to ensure they are ethical and sustainable.
Kimai makes their final pieces in Antwerp, Belgium, allowing them to control the quality of production as well as the working environment to guarantee safe working conditions. They’ll also help you get more life out of your old jewelry by deep cleaning, repairing, resizing, and redesigning services.
The brand also supports a range of social causes, most recently selling hoodies with all profits going to Save the Children Ukraine.
If you want to stay away from conflict diamonds, one option is to avoid large diamonds altogether and go for a different stone. Milan-based jewelry makers Pomellato offer a range of stunning, modern sustainable engagement rings featuring precious stones. Their pieces include gems such as emerald, sapphire, blue topaz, amethyst, citrine, and quartz – with some in settings with responsibly-sourced diamonds.
The brand is committed to sustainable sourcing and manufacturing processes, which they monitor through their Environmental Profit & Loss account, published annually through the Kering Group. They also have a Responsible Jewellery Council Certification and their gold is certified 100% responsibly sourced under the Kering RESPONSIBLE Gold Framework.
Pomellato is committed to the goldsmith tradition, supporting the artisans they work with through extensive training and by encouraging innovation, which can be seen in their unique, high-quality products.
Alighieri is the brainchild of Zambian-born UK artist Rosh Mahtani, who sculpts each wax talisman mold for their sustainable engagement rings, chokers, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The molds are then cast in bronze, sterling silver, or solid gold in London.
Their pieces are truly unique and full of personality, with hand-crafted designs from off-center solitaires to eternity bands.
Alighieri emphasizes local production, with the entire process, from design to casting and final assembly and finishing, completed in the UK. They use only responsibly and ethically-sourced metals, gemstones and diamonds, as well as recycling and reusing all metal waste.
Final thoughts on sustainable engagement rings
Unfair labor practices, unsafe working conditions, and environmental destruction are too often features of the modern jewelry industry. Thankfully, rising awareness of these issues means that more brands are now offering sustainable engagement rings that feature responsibly-sourced materials like lab-grown diamonds, and are made using ethical and sustainable processes.
If you’re looking for a sustainable engagement ring, remember that going vintage is another option. You can browse sites like Omneque, Hancocks, Bentley & Skinner and Symbolic & Chase to find stunning second-hand pieces, and have them resized to fit if necessary.
Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful ring without worrying about the negative impacts it had on people or the environment before it ended up on your finger.
If you’ve found this article helpful, take a look at our other guides to sustainable products, including handbags, swimwear and organic face masks.