“Which do you think is better: To make a mess and have to clean it up, or avoid making the mess in the first place?”
If you’ve seen this phrase before: “First, do no harm.”; it was probably something to do with the medical profession.
The Hippocratic Oath taken by medical professionals includes the promise to “abstain from doing harm”. This is basically a reminder to medical practitioners to avoid doing stuff that might make things worse for their patient.
This is good advice in most walks of life, not just if you’re a medico.
To put it in plain English … Which is better: To make a mess and have to clean it up, or to avoid making the mess in the first place?
Most people will say (when there’s a choice), the smart thing to do is not make the mess. Right?
What’s this got to do with jewellery?
Well, suppose for a moment we’re all medical practitioners and the planet Earth (including all the people on it) is our patient.
What’s better for our patient – do harm and then try to fix it, or do no harm in the first place?
We think the answer’s pretty obvious and our stance at Ethical Jewellery Australia (EJA) has always been, right from our humble beginnings in 2007, to do little or no harm in the first instance.
What does ‘do no harm’ mean when it comes to jewellery?
The reality is it’s truer to say ‘do less harm’.
The simple fact is, no matter how you approach it, there’s no way to make jewellery without making at least some mess.
Making and selling jewellery is always going to have some negative affects – at the very least consuming resources and generating greenhouse gases.
“Harm” of some kind is unavoidable if you want to own jewellery, but you do have a choice when it comes to how much harm.
Short of not making jewellery (which would be a bit silly in our line of business), the things we do specifically to minimise harm include:
- Using recycled precious metals almost exclusively*. Recycled gold produces around 200 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than does mined gold(1). Likewise, recycled platinum and palladium generate only 1% of the emissions mined platinum group metals do(2);
- Sourcing mined diamonds very selectively from producers (such as Argyle from Western Australia) who ensure traceability, no exploitation of workers throughout the supply chain and are rigorous in their environmental protection and mine-site rehabilitation actions;
- Offering ‘vintage’ and post-consumer diamonds from secure sources – another excellent form of recycling;
- Offering lab-grown diamonds, again from carefully selected suppliers who actively work to minimise their carbon footprint;
- Sourcing natural gemstones that are traceable and of Fair Trade origin;
- Offering responsibly sourced lab-grown gemstones when traceable or Fair Trade options aren’t available; and
- Using ring boxes made with sustainable materials.
Will buying ethically produced jewellery make a difference?
The answer to this is: Individually, not much. But collectively, a lot.
As we explored in an earlier blog post about recycled vs mined precious metals, a simple yellow gold men’s wedding ring will contribute approximately 2kgs worth of greenhouse gas emissions if it’s made with recycled gold. But if made with mined gold, the CO2 contribution is more like 380kgs.
Weight-wise that’s something like 2 litres of milk vs 4 or 5 people. Picture that in your head!
We all do a lot of little things in our everyday lives to help preserve the planet. Like sorting the recyclables to go into the bin, choosing ‘greener’ suppliers, buying locally-made when there’s a choice, taking your own bags when we go shopping and so on.
Individual actions like these don’t achieve much on their own, but when we all make the effort, we can make a difference.
It’s not as ‘sexy’ as making good
What inspired me to write this post was an article I read recently by the US author, Anand Giridharadas, titled “America’s elites say they’re ‘changing the world.’ What they’re really doing is ruling it.”
The takeaway for me from this article was that for many in business (and in Government too I suspect), it’s far easier to do good, often unrelated things after the fact than it is to not make a mess in the first place.
Smoke and mirrors?
How many organisations out there tick the ‘corporate responsibility box’ by loudly contributing to some charity or sponsoring some unrelated foundation to “do their bit”, rather than address the unsexy negative contributions their organisations make every day?
We think it’s a lot – and worse still, many don’t even bother to try and make good.
By the way, did you notice how many ads were on TV promoting various bank-sponsored rescue helicopter services and philanthropic foundations once the findings of the Banking Royal Commission hit the headlines?
Not to diminish good works
This is not to diminish the charitable contributions many for-profit organisations make. They’re valuable and important. It’s just that they should be ‘as well as’, not ‘instead of’.
A lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to “do no harm” up front. It can often be tricky to find ethical suppliers, and the jewellery industry is no different.
Nonetheless we think it’s better to go that extra mile and avoiding creating a problem in the first place.
In fact, we think the effort is not only worth it, it’s mission critical.
It might not be very sexy, and it certainly doesn’t get us much free PR, but that’s not why we do it.
*We say ‘almost exclusively’ because, on occasion we will use Fair-mined gold when a customer requests it. But Fair-mined gold is the only exception.
- Recycled Precious Metals – Why they’re our first preference (Part 1) – gold
- Recycled Precious Metals – Why they’re our first preference (Part 2) – the platinum group metals
Ethical Jewellery Australia is an online engagement and wedding ring specialist. Every ring is custom designed and made to order.
We take our customers through the whole process from design to sourcing and finally to manufacturing.
Likewise, we only every use ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones. You can choose from Argyle, recycled, vintage and lab-grown diamonds, Australian, US, Fair Trade, recycled and lab-grown coloured gemstones.
By the way, we offer an Australia-wide service.
If you would like to learn how to start your engagement ring design adventure, get in touch today.
If you would like to learn more about designing an engagement ring, download a copy of our free 70+ page design guide.
About the Author: Benn Harvey-Walker
Benn is a Co-founder of Ethical Jewellery Australia and a keen student of ethical and sustainability issues in the jewellery world. He has a long history in sales and marketing and began working with EJA full time in early 2018.
Benn co-authored the original Engagement Ring Design Guide in 2014 and edited the 2nd Edition in 2018. He is also the principle author of the upcoming wedding and commitment ring design guide.
His main responsibilities at EJA are business development and sales process management. Benn also creates technical drawings for our ring designs.