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Sapphires, are they an ethical choice?

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I’m Niki, the founder and designer of Enji Studio Jewelry. We’re a sustainable luxury jewelry brand based in beautiful north county San Diego.

at Enji we’re on a mission to bring you meaningful, modern, ethical design that shows off your style, honors the journey of your life, and reflects your values. We craft each piece for you in our Carlsbad studio bringing new life to recycled gold and silver and using only FairTrade and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones.

Enji was founded in 2014. We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing and giving back to the local and global community. We create our pieces for everyday wear.

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As creators and consumers, our choices now have a global impact. This is why we consider how things are made to be important and this to be part of our responsibility as a business and global citizen. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. This is why we make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fairtrade stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper and clothing.

Niki is a GIA Graduate Jeweler. She was awarded the 2016 Halstead Grant Award and 2014 Windgate Fellowship Award by the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design. She has exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and Europe and her work can be seen in the pages of Glamour UK, Basic, Evening Standard, National Jeweler, and more. To see her one of a kind art pieces and CV check out nikigrandics.com

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. We make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fair mined stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper.

As a member of Ethical Metalsmiths, we hope to be among the first movers bringing transparency and sustainable practices into the luxury fashion jewelry world. Ethical Metalsmiths and Fairmined gold and gems.  All our pieces are made in our studio in San Diego and we use low-impact, environmentally conscious studio practices to lessen our footprint. 

We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing, because it’s important. To us, to you, to the women and men who mined the stones we use to create our pieces. We also donate a portion of each sale to organizations that help empower women locally and globally and work to end domestic violence and human trafficking because that’s part of the future we want to see.

Ethical sustainable jewelry fairtrade fair trade fair-trade jewelry recycled gold recycled sterling silver San Diego Carlsbad ethical gemstones ethically sourced sustainable

Sapphires, are they an ethical choice?

Hilda Chang

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With Enji’s newly released sapphire rings and earrings, you might be wondering about the stone’s ethical background. Ever since princess Diana chose her stunning 12 karat sapphire wedding ring, the magnificent blue gemstone has been making a strong comeback in the jewelry industry. With the sapphire gaining popular momentum and emerging ecofriendly trends, there has been more demand for ethical sapphires than in previous years. But, where exactly do these little gemstones come from? Who produces ethical sapphires? Enji is here to explain it all.

 

Background

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Before we dive into sapphires, it is important to understand why the ethical and sustainable movement hit the gemstone industry and why it is important today.

As you may know, diamonds rose in popularity rapidly around 1938 due to a marketing campaign for diamond engagement rings. With this rapid rise in demand many companies sought out ways to decrease costs and raise profits. The term “blood diamond” first came into play during the bloody civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone, Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic, where diamonds mined under brutal conditions were being used to fund these conflicts. These inhumane practices gained more attention and lead to a public outcry for more sustainable and ethical diamond mining.

However, the slow changes in diamond regulations led consumers to decide to find more sustainable options to diamonds. Including lab created diamonds, colored gemstones, and synthetic stones. This movement also helped bring more awareness to sapphires as an ethical choice.

 

Ethical sapphires

Sapphires have an advantage that diamonds do not have and are in general more traceable than diamonds. Diamonds are difficult to trace back to their origin due to the many mines in existence and the routes they take around the world on their journey from a rough diamond to the polished and faceted ones you see in jewelry. This makes it almost impossible to know where that diamond came from and while only an estimated 1-5% of diamond in the supply chain actually fund wars and conflicts (making them actual “blood diamonds”), you still can’t be certain what conditions the stones were mined, transported, and cut under.

Sapphires, like many colored gemstones, on the other hand tend to come from small and independent family mines and therefore are easier to trace than diamonds. This means that with each sapphire purchase you likely support a local family and business. Supporting these small mines is crucial for stimulating their local economy.

It is also unpopular to create synthetic or lab created sapphires, so any sapphire you buy is most likely natural. Natural sapphires can also cost less since many lower quality sapphires can be enhanced by heat treatment.

This doesn’t mean that all sapphires are ethical as there is always a risk, but it is a step in the right direction.

 

Sapphire sources

Some of the most popular sources for sapphires are Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar. Sri Lanka is the preference of many ethical companies because this is where the government has the most control over gemstone regulation. This site to also has a strong preference because the sapphires are mined by family owned businesses or small companies.

The reason there are many small operations is largely since Sri Lanka favors small operations over large companies and automated machinery. GIA stated that “Mining licenses in Sri Lanka are regulated by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA). Of the more than 6,500 licenses issued in 2013, more than 6,000 were for pit-mining operations using traditional methods. The remainder went to river and mechanized mining,” this means that the large companies are not competing with small mines.

More smaller mines mean less large-scale mines that destroy and disrupt the land, surround communities, and fuel wars. With each license application miners must give a cash deposit. These deposits are returned when the mining is complete, and the land has been restored. Any deposit fees left behind are used to rehabilitate the land.

Another source that is preferred by jewelers is natural Montana mined sapphires. The sapphires from Montana are not your traditional mined gemstones. They are often collected from a river with little impact to the environment.

The reason the environmental impact is low is due to natural weathering processes. Unlike traditional mines where you must dig to reach sapphire deposits, Montana relies on alluvial deposit. Alluvial deposits happen when a large portion of sapphire is exposed to weather processes which break up the stone. These smaller portions end up in rivers, streams, and lakes when it rains. Any one mining for sapphires or minerals must adhere to the strict Montana guidelines. And to top it off, it supports local industry as most sapphires mined in Montana are also cut in the US, so they don’t have the same carbon footprint as stones that travel all around the world, from the mine, to the cutting facility, to the dealer, to the jeweler and then to you.

 

Sources:

https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/656293/Kate-Middleton-Princess-Diana-engagement-ring-Prince-Charles-William-Harry-Meghan-Markle

https://www.thenaturalsapphirecompany.com/blog/ethical-jewelry-what-does-it-really-mean

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/are-sapphires-the-new-ethical-gemstones_us_592b20e8e4b0a7b7b469cb99

https://www.gia.edu/gia-news-research-sri-lanka-mining-part1

https://www.greenlakejewelry.com/jewelryblog/natural-montana-sapphires-mine-to-market/