Serious challenges like climate change, wildfires, hurricanes, and viral pandemics continue to challenge all of us to live more responsibly, wisely, and sustainably. Amidst such sweeping winds of change, the global jewelry industry has also been (and will continue to be) pushed to adapt and evolve.
The younger generations of Americans are more acutely aware of and up for these challenges and changes than anyone. And as Millennials and Gen Z continue to amass and grow their purchasing power (along with their desire for “ethically sourced” diamonds), they are driving real changes in a traditionally stubborn and Old School industry.
“Sustainable consumption and behavior change is increasing,” said Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) Executive Director Iris Van der Veken in a recent interview with Natural Diamonds. “Consumers worldwide feel growing concern about the state of the planet. This sentiment is especially true among Millennials and Gen Z, who are ‘voting with their wallet’ and choosing brands whose values align with their own. In the jewelry industry, where buying decisions are driven by emotion, it is especially important for businesses to be highly attuned to the voice of the consumer…Many RJC members are leading the way, embracing the use of recycled metals and more sustainable materials, and educating their customers to make conscious purchasing choices.”
It’s clear that sustaining business as the world continues to evolve means shifting towards more sustainable practices. Following is a closer look at some jewelry brands who are leading the way and setting the pace.
Clean Origin: Ethically Sourced, Lab-Grown Diamonds
When talk turns to lab-grown, “sustainable” diamonds, the name Clean Origin is very likely to come up. Much has been written and talked about regarding Clean Origin since its strong debut in 2017. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company, whose tagline is “Diamonds Without Compromise,” was created by industry veterans with over 100 years of combined professional experience in the field, including CEO Alexander Weindling and CMO Ryan Bonifacino (formerly of Alex and Ani). Its advisory board is headed by former Signet Jewelers CEO Terry Burman.
Clean Origin makes no secret about either its ethical focus nor its target audience — the fast-growing and typically lab-growing Millennial and Gen Z diamond buyers, most of whom prefer to purchase their “bling” online. Many of those younger consumers have been drawn to Clean Origin’s “ethical wedding band” collection. The company offers more than 200 different engagement rings and 50-plus wedding rings, and even allows consumers to build their own custom-created ring via their feature- and info-rich website. All Clean Origin rings (and overall jewelry pieces) are made from recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds, and the company also offers strong consumer incentives such as free shipping, complimentary ring resizing, a 100-day return policy, and a lifetime manufacturers’ warranty.
Brilliant Earth: Free of Conflict. Full of Joy.
Clean Origin isn’t the only ethical, sustainable jewelry maker who’s also making a big name while making some sizable waves in an historically old school and staid industry. There’s also Brilliant Earth, whose tagline proclaims, “Joyful jewelry. Just for you.” The San Francisco-based company has been around a little bit longer, beginning with its 2005 launch by co-founders and co-CEOs Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg.
Brilliant Earth cites its mission as “cultivating a more transparent, sustainable and compassionate jewelry industry.” The company also claims it “couldn’t find a standard that met ours, (so) we created a new one.” This bold new standard began with the creation of a rigorous protocol for sourcing diamonds, and the company’s Beyond Conflict Free™ Diamonds are selected for their “ethical and environmentally responsible origins.” The company is also a certified and audited member of the Responsible Jewelry Council, and it strives to utilize 100% recycled precious metals to minimize its footprint while diminishing the negative impacts of metal mining. At Brilliant Earth, sustainability is truly the name of the game.
Brilliant Earth also recently launched its largest-to-date collection of signature styles, which features 41 designs of both bridal and daily pieces — made from lab-grown and natural diamonds, as well as recycled gold. Prices for pieces in the collection range from $175 for a small diamond pendant set in sterling silver all the way up to $6,990 for a 2.3-carat white-gold-and-diamond necklace set.
Although Brilliant Earth operates nine in-person showrooms across the country, they started as an online-only operation. The COVID-19 pandemic further reinforced their commitment to online sales — along with virtual shopping appointments, which have predictably been a huge hit with Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Gerstein said in a recent interview that the company is seeing a surge in “self-gifting” of its jewelry since the pandemic first settled in, and is now shipping to 70 countries worldwide.
Also Brilliant: Jewelry Insurance from Zillion
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