It’s been a while since I’ve shared any stories on my website as I have had a crazy whirlwind few months, but here’s a story I’ve wanted to share for a very long time now so it seems about right I get on with it!
20 months ago I got engaged in a wonderful, magical, truly bohemian setting and, about 5 months after, we finally picked up our engagement ring. Now you may be wondering why it took so long for us to get one and this reason is twofold. The first reason is that the proposal was not planned so there was no ring presented at the time, but the second reason is that we then designed our ring together and went with an entirely ethical choice that fitted with our lifestyle, our beliefs and our morals. This story, though long overdue, is going to explain a little about why we did that and exactly what we chose…‘The sad fact is — mining is a very “dirty” business and the production of one beautiful gold ring will generate five tons of environmental waste, contaminating water and lands which endangers the health and lives of humans and animals’ – HOOVER & STRONG
I’ve always been a lover of everything ethical. Ever since I can remember it has been a set of morals and beliefs installed in me from childhood. It’s not to be ‘fashionable’ or to make a point about anything, I just always think that if there’s a way of doing something that is less damaging than any other alternative then why wouldn’t you choose to do it that way? For me, it’s just a basic way of life.
When my lovely man proposed to me in Cornwall on 20th July 2012 it was a total surprise…to both of us! We were having an amazing time and he suddenly had a crazy compulsion! We had no ring and quickly afterwards popped into a local jeweller who handmade everything and bought a simple silver band to act as an engagement ring until we figured out what we were going to do ‘properly’. To be fair I think I would have been happy to have this ring as my permanent engagement ring in many ways as it felt so special! But the real deal was to end up being even more wonderful!
When the question was popped, we were on our way from Cornwall to Devon on a mini road-trip, with our final destination being Croyde in North Devon for one final week of surfing and sun. We were truly lucky, it was the hottest few weeks of the year and we got one hell of a road trip! When we arrived in Devon we were meeting up with my family as we’d all rented a house for the week to have a full week of beach madness – naturally this turned into a week of crazy happiness as we were now celebrating our engagement! I’d forever been a fan of an ethical jeweller, April Doubleday, who I knew was in Devon, so when it was suggested that we look her up I didn’t hesitate. As it turned out, she was about a 20 minute drive away from where we were staying so we arranged to go and see her and have a chat about what we might want as an engagement ring.
We had quite clear ideas of what we wanted but it was great to be able to go over them with somebody who could make it a reality. I didn’t want anything too traditional, but at the same time I didn’t want to ignore it completely. I absolutely love the sea, it’s the place where I’m happiest, so I knew I wanted a ring that would reflect that and combine tradition with modern creative. I knew that April used the energy of the coastline, sea and rock formations as her main inspiration, along with a passion for social and environmental responsibility so we felt certain she was ‘meant to be’, and as soon as we met her we both knew for sure we wanted her to be the one to make it! We discussed ideas over tea and it became clear quite quickly that I knew exactly what I wanted! I’m an active person so I didn’t want anything that would catch or get in the way and I like simplicity with delicate detail. We decided it would be lovely to have a wave-inspired design and more than one colour stone, and rather aptly my mans birthstone is diamond while mine is aquamarine, so that double-ticked the tradition and ocean inspiration box all in one go! The final design ideas came very quickly to us; we chose to have a silver-coloured ring with a smooth bezel set diamond and a wave design around the entire shank, with aquamarines dotted above and below each peak of the waves. Once it was all drawn up and confirmed we left April to source the stones for us.
Diamond is the hardest substance known to man and is known for balance, clarity and abundance. It’s also said to enhance relationships and increase inner strength. Many diamonds are still questionably sourced with even conflict-free diamonds often being cut and polished by children in sweatshop conditions for an extremely inadequate wage, but in choosing an ethically produced ring my diamond is completely traceable and laser-inscribed. April found me a beautiful VVS1 diamond from the Ekati Diamond Mine in Canada which is owned by the Dominion Diamond Corporation, a company committed to operating in a sustainable manner.
The Dominion Diamond Corporation is a Canadian diamond mining company with ownership interests in two major producing diamond mines, situated approximately 200km south of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories. They work under strict regulations imposed by the government of the Northwest Territories and maintain a high standard of environmental stewardship throughout all phases of their operations while ensuring that all aspects of their business – including diamond mining and the sale of rough diamonds – reflect the highest standards of conduct. Once mined my diamond was then cut and polished in ethical conditions at the Surat Diamond Workers Cooperative in Gujarat, India. At this cooperative the workers receive fair wages, calculated on fair trade principles, and all employees are entitled to paid holiday, sick leave and healthcare.
My aquamarines were a little more difficult to source but April was great and really took the time to find something that would fit with our wishes. My aquamarines are hand-sourced from Trigem Designs who specialise in fair trade gems. They are closely tracked from mine to market to ensure that each gem is handled according to strict protocols. These include environmental protection, fair labour practices at all stages, and a tight chain of custody that eliminates the possibility of treated or synthetic gems from being introduced into the supply chain. The program also includes promotion of cultural diversity, public education and accountability. My ring contains 7 aquamarine stones and because they are all hand-sourced no two are exactly the same shade, in fact one is almost a transparent blue shade! However for me, this only adds to the uniqueness of my ring.“A March born shall always be
Soothed by Aqua, gem of sea
This mermaid’s treasured stone you wear
Will bring happiness, love, affection and care.”
Finally it was time to select the material that binds it all together. We had selected platinum as it was the strongest option and felt like a total luxury, plus I’ve never been a ‘gold’ girl. All of April’s platinum is usually sourced from a fair-trade mine, however because of the sustainable mining techniques used it is not always readily available. At the time we were having our ring made there was no new wave of platinum being released which meant we would be waiting for quite some time so in the meantime April suggested we could consider recycled platinum. In making our decision we learnt an interesting fact; that platinum is in fact so rare that if all the platinum in the world was poured into one Olympic-sized swimming pool it would barely be deep enough to cover your ankles! And so, with that fact in our minds, we decided that recycled was the way to go as it was even more environmentally friendly that the fair trade mined platinum. April sourced our platinum from Hoover & Strong, a company who have been established for over 100 years and specialise in recycled precious metals. It looks no different to brand new platinum and I would highly recommend it for anybody wanting to choose an ethical route.
Once all the components were available April took to hand-crafting our ring, and it was so worth the wait! We now have a beautiful recycled platinum ring with fair trade, traceable stones. The ring also has a Hallmark, Quality Label and Certificate from the Jeweltree Foundation, an organisation that guarantees supply chain transparency, social responsible practices in mining, polishing and manufacturing and ecological sustainable mining sites with third-party verification. It also guarantees support for small fair trade initiatives in third world countries. I can even go to the Jeweltree Foundation website and type my certificate number in to bring up all the details of my ring; what it is, where it all came from and how it was made.
Wearing my ring now feels like a constant privilege, not just because of what it represents to me personally, but because of what it represents on a much larger scale. I feel proud to know that I’m wearing something that has caused minimal damage to the earth and to the people in it and I would urge everybody to consider doing something similar next time they have any jewellery to purchase, be it an engagement ring or otherwise!
– Worth noting that since 31st December 2013 I am actually married too! That story (and it’s ethics!) to follow soon…
Love & Light