Demystifying Sustainable Jewelry Terms for Earth Day

Earth Day is a time to celebrate our beautiful planet and make conscious choices towards a more sustainable future. The jewelry industry can sometimes seem shrouded in mystery, with terms like "lab-grown" and "recycled gold" being used increasingly. But what do these phrases really mean, and are they all they're cracked up to be? Let's break down some popular sustainable jewelry terms to empower you to make informed choices that sparkle with both beauty and responsibility.


1. Lab-Grown Diamonds: Science Meets Sparkle

  • What it means: Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds, not cubic zirconia or moissanite. They are created in a controlled environment using advanced technology, mimicking the natural diamond formation process under extreme heat and pressure.
  • The good: Lab-grown diamonds boast the same physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds, offering exceptional brilliance and durability. They also potentially come with a significantly smaller environmental footprint, bypassing the environmental and social issues sometimes associated with traditional diamond mining.
  • The not-so-good: While lab grown diamonds are often marketed as "more sustainable," they can require massive amounts of energy and other resources to create. The true footprint of your stone will depend on the who you get the stone from- don't be afraid to ask questions! At Herzog, we stock aether diamonds because they're carbon negative. Sustainable lab grown might cost a little more than the alternative, but it will give you the peace of mind to know where your stones came from!

2. Recycled Gold: Giving Old Treasures New Life

  • What it means: Recycled gold is gold that's already been used in pre-existing jewelry, electronics, or other sources. The gold is then refined and purified to meet the same quality standards as newly mined gold.
  • The good: Choosing recycled gold significantly reduces the environmental impact of jewelry production. Mining for new gold can involve deforestation, water pollution, and habitat destruction, as well as contribute to social injustices. Gold, by nature, is quite easy to melt down, refine, and reuse. Lots of gold in the jewelry industry is recycled without being advertised. (For example, our 14k permanent bracelet chain is made from recycled gold!) Nearly a third of the world's gold supply has been repurposed at some point in it's life.
  • The not-so-good: The jewelry industry has always made it a point to reuse gold and even diamonds and gemstones as much as possible. While recycled gold is certainly a good thing, don't get caught up paying a premium for it. Also worth noting- use caution if someone tells you they can melt your gold down and turn it into something new. It's hard to guess the alloy the piece was created with and without proper refining, the finished metal can be porous and brittle. We recommend turning your old gold in for scrap value and putting that towards a new piece! We can even set your stones in it.

3. Sustainable Diamonds: A Balancing Act

  • What it means: The term "sustainable diamond" refers to diamonds mined with practices that minimize environmental and social impact. This can involve responsible mining techniques, fair labor conditions, and community development initiatives.
  • The good: Since the early 2000s, there has been a huge shift in the way wholesalers source natural diamonds and the ways they are mined. Nearly 100% of diamonds in the natural diamond market follow the guidelines set in place by the Kimberley Process. This means it's virtually impossible to purchase a "blood diamond." Further certifications and initiatives within the diamond industry offer a compromise for those who value mined diamonds but also want to make a more ethical choice.
  • The not-so-good: The term "sustainable diamond" can be loosely used, so independent certifications are crucial. Do your research to understand the specific sustainability practices behind a "sustainable diamond." The environmental impact of even sustainable mining can be significant compared to things like carbon negative lab-grown diamonds, and vice versa. Work with your jeweler to find the perfect stone that suits your sustainability preferences, budget, and taste. 

Empowering Your Sustainable Jewelry Journey

Understanding these terms is a great first step towards making sustainable choices in your jewelry purchases. Here are some additional tips:

  • Ask questions! Reputable jewelers should be knowledgeable and transparent about the origin of their materials.
  • Consider repurposing vintage jewelry. Vintage and estate jewelry offer a treasure trove of unique pieces with a built-in sustainable story. Our jewelers can size your pieces and get it looking good as new! We can even reset heirloom stones and offer credit for old gold.
  • Look for certifications. Organizations like the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) set standards for ethical sourcing practices.

By making informed choices, you can celebrate your personal style while supporting a more sustainable future for our planet. This Earth Day, let your jewelry choices not only shine but also reflect your values.