5 Sustainable Engagement Rings That Outshine Conflict Diamonds Any Day

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"Warning: this article will make you swoon at gorgeous jewelry. Read at your own risk (and send it to your loved one if they need a little push in the right direction)."

With Valentine’s Day freshly behind us, it’s officially time for Facebook engagement announcement season. We all know engagement rings are so much more than just an accessory; they all have a story. And when you’re proposed to with a sustainable engagement ring, you have an even better story to tell.

The gleam of a ring can outshine the inconvenient truth about diamonds. Ethically acquiring diamonds, a highly sought-after gem, can become an afterthought when suppliers need to meet demand. This can lead to soil erosion, as well as dust and water pollution.

Besides the environmental damage that diamond mining causes, it can become a liability for workers and those living in war zones, as diamonds are often sold to fund war efforts. Diamonds mined to carry out rebel movements—called conflict diamonds or blood diamonds—are more common than you may think. According to CBS, these diamonds make up between 4 and 15 percent of the total diamond trade. However, a product of unsafe working conditions and land pollution doesn’t have to be placed on your finger when you get engaged. 

Sustainable engagement rings are often more affordable than the real deal, not to mention just as pretty. Even celebrities are often spotted wearing the diamond’s more sustainable sisters. Just look at Lady Gaga, Zoë Kravitz, Emma Watson, and Penélope Cruz, who are all fans of lab-grown diamonds. Here are five sustainable engagement rings that will make you want to go the eco-friendly route, too.

1. Ethically-Mined Diamonds

sustainable engagement rings
Photo: Taylor & Hart

Take some time with your partner to talk about where you want to get your diamond from. Opt for businesses that have nothing to hide. A lot of retailers go beyond the Kimberley Process (an international agreement created in hopes of minimizing the production of blood diamonds) and get certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council. In addition, take a look at websites like Taylor & Hart (shown above) and Brilliant Earth, both of which have ethically-mined and lab-grown diamonds.

2. Lab-Grown Diamonds

Now, these are cool. Scientists are able to create larger and larger genuine-looking diamonds through just one sliver of a diamond. And no one will ever be able to tell the difference. Lab-grown diamonds will also save you money, as lab-grown options can cost 30% less than mined alternatives.

FYI: A common lab-grown diamond alternative is a ring made from moissanite, which actually sparkles more. This differs from other lab-grown alternatives because they also contain silica in addition to carbon. A moissanite ring is your best bet if you want your stone to look as close to a diamond as possible.

Our top picks for lab-grown diamonds:

3. Gemstone Rings

If you’ve never been one to color inside the lines, why not opt for a gorgeous, ethical gemstone engagement ring? Sapphire and ruby hold up nearly as well as diamonds, and their luscious deep color add a vintage touch to any outfit. Kate Middleton’s own engagement ring has a sapphire in it, and who are we to question the Duchess of Cambridge’s taste?

These gemstones come from smaller mines than diamonds, so they have less of an impact on the planet. Keep an eye out for fair trade businesses as well. And if you and your partner are into zodiac signs, this is a great chance to get your birthstone.

4. Secondhand Engagement Rings

This is maybe the most sustainable ring you can get proposed to with. Why perpetuate the creation cycle of engagement rings when so many already exist? 

Here are some great places to buy gorgeous secondhand engagement rings if your grandma is holding onto hers:

  • Etsy has vintage and vintage-style rings from $16 to $6,000.
  • Estate sales could have a buried treasure you’d cherish forever.
  • Tradesy, an online luxury secondhand marketplace, has a whole section dedicated to engagement rings (gemstone or diamond—take your pick!).
  • The Real Real authenticates secondhand big-name products and can save you big bucks on your ring.

5. Tattoo Engagement Rings

Til death do us part, right? With a tattoo engagement ring, you’ll never have to worry about the size or misplacing it. Tattoos make a beautiful, bold statement perfect for anyone who needs to work with their hands or can’t be bothered with jewelry. However, ring finger tattoos tend to fade quickly, so expect to get touch-ups every so often.

Put a (Sustainable) Ring on It

From making your big day a microwedding to getting engaged with a secondhand ring, even something as traditional as marriage can be innovated to practice your sustainable tactics. And once you do it, your friends and family are sure to follow suit.

Curious about a zero waste lifestyle? Want to know what the “circular economy” really means? Subscribe to Brightly’s top-rated podcast, Good Together. Every 30-minute episode features daily, actionable tips to help you live your life more sustainably.

Warning: this article will make you swoon at gorgeous jewelry. Read at your own risk (and send it to your loved one if they need a little push in the right direction).

This post may contain affiliate links. Brightly will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links.

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