Who doesn’t love jewelry? Basically no one. Unfortunately though, jewelry and its production has a large chain of issues that do not often surface in people’s conversations.
“Oh, what a beautiful necklace Martha!”
“Thank you Rebecca, the gold used in it destroyed a huge piece of land… and a child actually mined it out instead of going to school!”
Sounds wrong, doesn’t it?
Luckily, as the Internet has spurred a rise in awareness and consumers are demanding more answers than ever before, ethical and environmentally aware brands have risen to the surface to give customers what they want… without the bloodshed. Starling Jewelry is one of these companies.
Based in LA, Starling is both ethically produced and transparently priced (total #goals when it comes to jewelry). The brand uses recycled metals and works with crafted artisans to deliver thoughtfully designed pieces.
One of the most important aspects of being a “conscious consumer” is knowing how to do research and asking the right questions.
“Sustainability is a broadly used term — it can mean lots of different things company to company,” says Chelsey Bartrum, founder of Starling. “You have to really dig in to see why a company is considering themselves sustainable. Is it because they use recycled metals or ethically sourced stones? If so, how are they verifying? Where is their manufacturing located? Have they seen the working conditions? And so on…”
In regards to jewelry, there are a couple of things that many consumers are just completely unaware of, and often when researching online it is difficult to differentiate between aspiration and reality.
One example Chelsey explains is through the Kimberley Process Certification. She argues that this certification should not be relied on as proof that diamonds are ethical. “The intentions of the Kimberley Process, created in 2000 are good, but it is in dire need of re-evaluation. It does not protect against human rights abuses for workers or support environmental laws in the community.” Therefore, Starling Jewelry only buys from certified traders selling recycled diamonds or only uses stones that have previously been set in a piece and taken apart.
Another commonly overlooked issue consumers should be aware of is that while companies may say their pieces are ‘Made in America’ they may actually just be assembled here — with the majority of the item being fabricated (cast, polished, and stones set) in mass quantity at factories abroad where issues like child labor and fair pay may not be properly addressed. The main reason why companies do this is cost: paying a fair wage and ensuring proper working conditions all come with a price tag.
By educating the public about the process, consumers will begin to understand that they are paying for more than just the product jewelers are producing.
One of Starling Jewelry’s coolest initiatives is a program that allows clients to create new pieces from old jewelry. The program makes use of unused fine jewelry by taking it apart and creating a new piece with the same materials. “Most everyone I speak to about recycling jewelry excitedly tells me ‘Oh, I have something at home just collecting dust!’ Usually it’s a piece they inherited or from an ex relationship,” explains Chelsey. “Cleaning out your jewelry box is a true win-win — it’s good for you and good for the environment.”
And, if all that wasn’t enough to sell you on some fine jewels, to make things even better Starling utilizes “a direct-to-you model,” which helps keep costs down. They’ve removed the usual inflated markup prices associated with fine jewelry and assign reasonable prices to their wares. “What I love about our pricing model is that we can be that super special first piece of fine jewelry that you save for,” Chelsey says with a smile, “Or a smart alternative for customers who want that sparkly stack of five colorful rings without having to overpay for high quality.”