5 Tips for Ethical Jewelry Buying This Holiday Season

Can I tell you a secret? Gifting is my favorite part of the holidays. And jewelry gifts to me have always been such meaningful and emotional gifts that carry stories and memories with them. I’ve loved fashion and jewelry since I was kid, but my passion for fair fashion and sustainability started in 2013. Since then, I’ve turned my passion for jewelry and fair fashion into a career and have been designing under the Enji name since 2014.  As a jewelry lover, fair fashion advocate, and Ethical Metalsmiths member, I really believe you vote with your dollar, so even with my love of holiday gift giving, I try to shop according to my values and buy gifts that do good. While it seems like a lot to think about and a lot of research, here are a few quick tips that will make it easy to buy amazing jewelry and shop your values this holiday season:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

If you’re shopping for jewelry gifts for your loved ones (or yourself), don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson or the jeweler where their gemstones come from or where the jewelry was made. Is it made from reclaimed precious metals or are they FairMined? Can their gemstones be traced back to the mine? Where was that lab grown diamond grown? Especially in fine jewelry, this is a question they should be able to answer. As a jeweler and designer, I’m giving you express permission to be a P.I.T.A. and ask all the questions. This will just encourage the industry to be more and more transparent and to take responsible actions when it comes to manufacturing and sourcing. Plus, if they do know the stories behind their jewelry and their gems, it can be a fun and eye opening to learn their stories and you can be assured your gifts only carry good karma.

2. Look for Quality:

This year ditch the generic and the disposable, get them a gift they’ll continue to love for years to come. Low quality fast fashion accessories often break or wear out in a matter of weeks or months. With jewelry quality can be tricky to spot, unless you’re like me and always carry a loupe in your purse (you can definitely borrow one in most jewelry stores though). One quick thing you can check for (no magnification required) is the seams. On bracelets and necklaces, check to see if the jump rings are soldered closed. If you can’t see an opening in the rings, chances are it’s built to last beyond this season. For pieces set with stones, look at the prongs, are they actually touching the gemstone and holding it in place? Do they look thin or worn out? Are the gemstones treated or filled? These signs will give you a quick idea of the quality of the piece, and high quality pieces, when taken care of, last for a lifetime.

3. Shop Local:

What could be better than getting your loved ones a truly unique gift that also boosts your local economy instead of buying something generic and mass produced? Check out local jewelry stores and designers on Small Business Saturday instead of rushing to mall jewelry stores on Black Friday. If fine jewelry isn’t in your budget this year, stop by a holiday market. Local makers and artisans often make one of a kind and and limited edition pieces, making it easy to find a really unique gift. They often also have local artists, restaurants, breweries, and musicians as part of the holiday market, so you can make a an afternoon of it and enjoy while you shop. San Diego Made Holidays Market, Made Market, Modern Artisan Marketplace, Renegade Market LA, and Unique LA are just a few you can find in Southern California.

4. If it seems “too cheap,” it probably is:

Just take this recent report from CBS News, where jewelry from retailers like Nordstrom Rack and Ross was found to contain over 3000% more cadmium than is safe to wear. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that harms not only the people who make this type of jewelry but also the people who wear it, and some of these pieces were found to be up to 90% pure cadmium. This saying goes for fine jewelry too, mass produced pieces often come with poor traceability and poor quality. And if it seems too cheap despite being gold or having precious stones, you have to question the quality and conditions under which the materials were sourced and the jewelry produced. So trust your gut, if it sounds too cheap, it probably is, and someone, somewhere is paying the true cost of that item.

5. Don’t forget who you’re shopping for:

Are they active and outdoorsy, or is brunch more their idea of the outdoors? Someone who is more active might prefer something more minimal and durable, versus dainty jewelry with fragile gems like opals. Either way, there is likely a responsibly made piece out there for that person on your list. Resources like the Ethical Metalsmiths designer and retailer directory or the Good on You app can help you find the right piece for you or your loved ones. (link both of those)


Shopping you values and crossing those gifts off your list doesn’t have to be a challenge. So tell us below, what are your plans for holiday gifting? Do you find it hard to shop your values, especially with all the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and what do you think would make it easier for you?