Sustainable jewelry
JULIAN WALTER

Written by JULIAN WALTER – Marketing Specialist at ExJewel (GERMANY, INDIA)

A pair of heart-shaped gold studs equals about 31kgs of CO2 emissions – that is about 200km ride with a compact-class car! The same product in platinum triples the carbon footprint, however, silver studs only produce around 1.2kgs of carbon emissions. This statistic reveals the surprisingly high carbon footprint of the jewelry, mainly due to its carbon-intensive production cycle. 

The carbon impact of jewelry

The Diamond Producers Association (DPA), released a research report, entitled The Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of Large-Scale Diamond Mining, on the socio-economic and environmental benefits and impacts on local communities, employees and the environment by the mining activities of its own members.
by Professional Jeweller & IDEX Online

Starting with clearing the land to access valuable gemstones, diamonds and precious metals often go along with the destruction of ecosystems, especially with open-cut mines. What follows is actually mining the stones and metals, which again generates carbon. Clearing and mining accounts, that is the acquisition of the raw material, account for about 95% of the overall carbon footprint. The production process itself, that is forming the raw material to jewelry, accounts for only about 5% of the carbon footprint. 

The example above gives a hint that the carbon footprint of jewelry depends on the raw material that is used. Silver is thereby of the precious metals by far the one with the lowest carbon footprint: one tonne of silver produces 520 tonnes of CO2, for gold the ratio is 1:38,100 and for platinum, it is 1:77,000. 

Carbon savings through technology can be huge 

CIRO Jewelry Angelina CIROLIT ring green. * Dazzling green faceted 18×13 mm CIROLIT stone. * White CIROLIT stones. * Sterling silver.

Although the overall footprint of the jewelry industry is relatively small compared to e.g. the energy sector, however, if one truly wants to reduce climate change one has optimized across every sector. There are two broad ways two reduce the carbon footprint of jewelry, even in the short-term: either by reducing the overall consumption of newly produced jewelry or by recycling existing jewelry.

One can reduce the consumption of newly produced jewelry by more efficiently allocating existing jewelry to consumers. Consumers thereby rely on the offerings by retailers, and the portfolio of retailers again order from producers. However, technology can add another variable into the equation: retailers do not only have to buy from jewelry producers and by doing that increasing the carbon footprint but can also buy and sell existing jewelry on a platform with other merchants, thus very effectively reducing carbon emissions.

The Paris-based Startup “ExJewel” is about to provide a technical solution to retailers and merchants with a platform launch at the beginning of 2020, that allows not only to almost instantly digitally assess the prices of their jewelry inventory, but also establishes a digital marketplace in a B2B context. “I witnessed the enormous extent of the environmental impact of stone and metal mining during my travels in South-East Asia, Africa and the US, often also due to very lash environmental standards. Jewelry in all of its forms are extensively produced, however, its allocation is often inefficient, also because of limited digitalization. What we need is a more efficient allocation through platform technology” says founder Stephane Boghossian. 

read more on ExJewel’s sustainability report

Buying used jewelry also falls in the consumer trend of “slow fashion”, that is appreciating the value of already existing jewelry and resisting the often poor quality, short-living and environmentally dubious products of the “fast fashion” industry. As the current fires in Australia, one of largest metal producers in the world, show: a trend to more environmentally conscious consumption across all sectors is long overdue and requires not only a change in the consumer mindset but also the technology to implement it. 

Sources: 

Usapein, Parnuwat & Tongcumpou, Chantra. (2016). Greenhouse Gas Emission in Jewelry Industry: A Case Study of Silver Flat Ring. Applied Environmental Research. 38. 11-17. 10.14456/aer.2016.2.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-carbon-cost-your-jewellery-benn-harvey-walker/