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Jewelry shopping can be intimidating. That’s why we started Ask Holden, our blog where we answer your FAQs, break down scary industry lingo, and guide you in finding the perfect piece of jewelry.
What does it mean to have a sustainable and ethical engagement?
We’re constantly looking for ways to lessen our environmental footprint here at Holden, and today, we’re breaking down the materials that go into our rings. We talk about the harm mined diamonds and precious metals have historically caused and our approach to lessening our own environmental impact.
Sustainability is a hard subject to talk about with complete authority, and it's important to acknowledge before we begin that there’s nuance within all these topics. This article is just skimming the surface of our perspective. Sustainability is also a work in progress, so we don’t feel comfortable calling ourselves a “sustainable ring company/end of conversation/no further questions.” Instead, we think of ourselves as a company that’s part of an ever-improving process to be as sustainable as we can be. We’re committed to transparency throughout that journey.
The concern of diamond mining is twofold - its impact on the earth and its impact on its communities. What does an environmentally conscious diamond look like?
The Ethical Concerns of Diamond Mining
There’s a long history of exploiting workers in the diamond mining industry. Because diamonds are so valuable, they have been used to fund rebel insurgents in several key African mining countries for many years. The term “blood diamond” originates from this reality.
One way the jewelry industry has attempted to make the mining and selling of diamonds more ethical is through The Kimberley Process. This organization was created to ensure that no diamonds in the market were used to fund rebel organizations trying to overthrow the government.
The Kimberley Process has been successful in decreasing the circulation of diamonds used to fund rebel armies. That being said, it doesn’t limit the circulation of diamonds that fund government-sanctioned violence, abuse of workers, or dangerous working environments. Even if a diamond is certified through The Kimberley Process, it’s difficult to ensure that any mined diamonds are in fact fully conflict-free diamonds. The Kimberley Process simply isn’t enough.
The Environmental Concerns of Diamond Mining
One of the ways in which diamonds can be extracted from the earth is through pit mining: heavy machinery blows a massive pit into the earth. That same machinery is later used to extract diamonds from the rubble.
The other two most common types of diamond mining, alluvial and marine, involve water. In alluvial mining, riverbeds and banks are panned for diamonds. During marine mining, a vacuum cleaner-like machine finds diamonds by sucking up sediment from the ocean floor.
Once diamonds have been mined, the ore extraction process must occur (in order to find the diamonds in the rough, as they say). This takes additional energy and can lead to more environmental destruction.
Holden's Approach to Diamonds
It’s extremely difficult to ensure that mined diamonds are both sustainably and ethically sourced, so we choose to work only with lab grown diamonds. These lab created diamonds are grown rather than mined, so they have less of an environmental impact. As part of our commitment to transparency, we do want to note that lab-grown diamonds, like all things we wear, take energy to create. While they are a more sustainable option than mined diamonds, there is always an environmental cost of some kind.
Another benefit of lab-grown diamonds is their traceability. By working with lab diamonds, we can trace each diamond from its source and thus avoid the circulation of a blood diamond. Lab-grown diamonds are defined by the Gemological Institute of America and the Federal Trade Commission as real diamonds. They are made of pure carbon and are chemically and physically identical to mined diamonds. To learn more about how our diamonds are grown, check out our blog post on lab-grown diamonds.
Precious metal mining scars the earth, contaminates drinking water, and poisons wildlife. Particles from unearthed and crushed rock impact air quality and release sulfides. These sulfides combine with water to create sulfuric acid, which causes acid drainage that seeps into streams, rivers, and drinking water. Acid drainage is up to 200 times more acidic than acid rain, and we’re still seeing acid drainage from 2000 year old Ancient Roman mines today.
Holden's Approach to Metals
At Holden, we make our rings using recycled precious metals. Currently 100% of our gold is SCS-Certified recycled, and at least 90% of our platinum is recycled. We’re working with our manufacturers to move that number to 100% as soon as possible. Recycled gold and platinum are a more ethical choice for engagement rings and wedding bands. We work with recycled metal of the highest quality, meaning the rings you wear have a lower environmental impact without sacrificing quality.
As part of our efforts to make our business more eco-friendly, we’re also careful not to waste any materials. Because we make every ring custom to order, we hold no excess inventory, meaning none of our rings sit on shelves or go to waste. We also melt down all returns to use in future rings, ensuring that every resource we use is guaranteed to end up on someone’s finger.
Additionally, we became Climate Neutral Certified in 2021, meaning we measure and offset 100% of our carbon emissions.
This article is the first of a series we’ll be doing about our commitment to environmental transparency. If you’d like to learn more about our efforts, we update our sustainability page regularly. We were also recently featured by The Fascination, which showcases e-commerce brands with a sustainability focus.