A sustainable environment, sand dunes and sea-grass.

What is Ethical & Sustainable Jewellery?

In recent years, shoppers have become more aware of the consequences of their purchasing decisions, knowing that each product they buy has a particular impact on the planet and on the lives of others.

In particular, embracing sustainability and reducing environmental harm has become a top priority for shoppers over the last couple of years – especially in the wake of COP26 – and this has influenced how people shop for fashion and jewellery.


Sustainable jewellery on model


What is ethical jewellery?


Ethical jewellery takes this a step further, prioritising sustainability in addition to a number of other ethical considerations.

This means making sure that all processes involved with making and distributing jewellery aren’t causing harm, whether to people or to the planet, and also includes ensuring that all of the people involved with the process are treated and compensated fairly.


What is sustainable jewellery?


By definition, sustainability is the process of meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs – and sustainable jewellery is created with this goal in mind.

In practice, this means using resources responsibly – opting for renewable or recycled materials, rather than finite materials, where possible – and minimising the use of fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions and therefore protect against climate change.

In the jewellery world, this means opting for local, handmade jewellery made from sustainable materials.


What are the most sustainable metals used in jewellery?


The most important factor in determining the sustainability of a piece of jewellery is whether the materials used have been recycled – this is because recycling makes use of resources that are already in circulation rather than depleting new, unused materials that deprive future generations.

Are gold and silver sustainable?

Although these precious metals are some of the most popular materials to use in jewellery, gold and silver are not always sustainable.

The mining industry – a.k.a. the industry responsible for the extraction of gold, silver, tin, and other elements, uses a huge amount of energy and water to extract the precious metals, and can also create toxic chemicals as a by-product of the mining process that will cause harm to the environment and local ecosystems.

Some mining schemes do follow strict guidelines in order to achieve certifications for environmental responsibility and ethical conduct within their business activity. Knowing that a maker has sourced their base metal from one such scheme isn't always apparent, but never feel bad about asking as any jewellery brand with a focus on ethics should really know.

If you must buy gold and silver jewellery, then buying secondhand or vintage gold and silver jewellery is by far the most sustainable option.


Raw pieces of mined metal


What are the most sustainable materials used to make jewellery?


As mentioned previously, the most sustainable jewellery is made from recycled metal. However, not all metals are widely (or easily) recycled, with enough of the recycled metal in circulation to have a significant place in the jewellery industry.


So which metals are sustainable? Here are our top 3...


1. Pewter


Made from tin – and trace amounts of other metals such as copper – pewter is an alloy widely used in the 17th and 18th centuries, including in items of jewellery.

Today, it’s commonly used in electrical products so there’s a ton available to be recycled, and its a pretty hardy substance against wear and tear, while echoing the aesthetic of silver.


2. Steel


Steel is widely recycled, however its largely used in building and manufacturing rather than in decorative items such as jewellery, as normal steel isn’t a particularly attractive metal.

Having said this, stainless steel is sometimes used by jewellers – especially bangles – as the finish of the stainless steel metal can resemble silver. Steel also has the added benefit of being very strong and damage-resistant.


3. Copper


Copper is another widely recycled metal, uses less energy to produce and is comparatively inexpensive, making it a great choice for the sustainable shopper, and the rose-orange colour of the metal can result in beautiful pieces of jewellery.

The only downside is that – of all the metals – copper is pretty soft, so is easily scratched and damaged compared to hardier materials such as steel and pewter.


Why is handmade jewellery more sustainable?


There are numerous reasons to buy handmade jewellery: often handmade pieces are more unique and full of character, their purchase supports local economies rather than faceless brands and the jewellery is often made with more care to a higher standard.

However, the top reason for many to buy handmade jewellery is because you can be more sure that the jewellery is ethically made and sustainable.

With that being said, here are the top 3 ways that handmade jewellery is typically more sustainable.


1. Higher Quality


Handmade jewellery isn’t mindlessly made in a factory, which are built to produce jewellery as quickly as possible for the smallest cost, making the jewellery more susceptible to breaking or being damaged.

Instead, the jewellery is crafted by hand to last, improving the jewellery’s sustainability as it’ll last for longer, and the owner won’t need to throw away their broken jewellery and buy a replacement.


2. Shopping Locally


When you buy handmade jewellery, it’s often from a local seller, rather than big brands who source their materials and deliver all over the world.

For this reason, buying handmade jewellery from small businesses reduces your carbon footprint, since less fuel is used to both source materials and deliver the jewellery to its new owners.


3. Less Energy Used in Production


Since each item of jewellery is handmade, less energy is used in their production, as machines aren’t responsible for assembling the jewellery.

This reduces the carbon footprint associated with the production of jewellery, with fewer non-renewable resources being used up to supply this energy.


Blue bird necklace, ethical & sustainable jewellery


Why is KOA Jewellery so sustainable?


Made with the environment in mind, KOA Jewellery is hand-made using pewter. Wherever possible, we have always used pewter with a tin content originating from discarded electrical goods.

When this isn't possible, we only work with a trusted supplier that recognizes the impact that their business activity has on the environment and natural resources. They are compliant with the RBA code of conduct which ensures that business operations are environmentally-responsible and conducted ethically.

In every facet of the design process – and at every level of business – KOA jewellery minimises its impact on the environment and ensures that all associated procedures are as ethical and sustainable as possible.

From the materials we use to create our jewellery, to the recyclable packaging and delivery methods we employ to get our jewellery to our customers, our number one priority is sustainability.


See our full collection here.