A traditional wedding ring is symbolic of a commitment that is pure, unblemished, and lasting. However, this idyllic view of a wedding ring can become soiled when unraveling its origins. Most consumers don't know that gold mining has become one of the dirtiest businesses in the world, with the production of one gold ring leaving 20 tons of mine waste. Gold mining practices can obliterate natural areas, poison drinking water, pollute the air, hurt workers, and endanger or displace communities. Of course, no consumer intends to contribute to the negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of gold mining, but the notion of letting go of a luxurious ring for a recycled gold substitute seems a little lackluster. Fortunately, many jewelry stores have begun to specialize in ecologically responsible jewelry, creating a competitive market for "green rings" and eco friendly jewelry substitutes. Christine Lennon notes this growing market in her article entitled "The New Gold Standard" in TIME Magazine's April 2009 issue:
These environmental commitments aren't exclusive to small, independent jewelers. In fact, major brands like Cartier and Tiffany & Co. were among the founders of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) in 2005. "It is our duty to provide our clients with creations that are beautiful, desirable ... and responsibly made, be it ethically, socially or environmentally," says Pamela Caillens, the corporate-responsibility director at Cartier. "As times change, so do society's expectations."
We should applaud these major companies for setting such a positive example in the jewelry retail industry, while simultaneously allowing consumers to have the option to choose a cleaner wedding ring alternative.