My wife and I are thinking about renewing our vows this Christmas, and I want to buy her a ring that represents the love we've shared for the past 20 years. I know she'd never want to own a diamond that caused harm to someone else. Are there any I could buy without a guilty conscience? -- Marc N., San Diego, CA
A diamond ring is a beautiful symbol of love and fidelity. It can also be the product of exploited workers, environmental degradation, armed conflicts, and human-rights abuses. One of the biggest concerns about diamond mining is that it's associated with labor exploitation. The International Labour Organization has said that miners (including children) often work in cramped and unsafe conditions without the proper tools. Environmentally, mining can alter local ecosystems, harming wildlife and depriving communities of natural resources. And the dust from mines can cause respiratory diseases in workers and residents of nearby communities. Then there's the concern that diamonds could have funded some of the fiercest armed conflicts in the world. Amnesty International has even expressed concerns over possible links between diamonds and money laundering by groups like Al Qaeda. Fortunately, you can buy responsibly mined diamonds. To ensure that the ring you buy will be a symbol of your everlasting love and your commitment to a just and sustainable future, try one of these options:
Seek out companies like GreenKarat (greenkarat.com), Leber Jeweler Inc. (leberjeweler.com), and Sumiche Jewelry Co. (sumiche.com), all independent jewelers selling conflict-free diamonds traceable from mine to point of sale, many in recycled or responsibly mined metal settings.
Buy a used ring, so no new mining is required. Many antiques shops offer lovely vintage rings, or you can check auction sites like eBay.com.
Jewelers of America (jewelers.org) has developed a "Social, Ethical, and Environmental Framework" that its members are expected to use to guide their business practices. Be sure to ask your jeweler whether he or she has adopted these principles.
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Text by Tracey Fernandez Rysavy