Nature and Environment

Because at 160,000 years, the party is just getting started.

Eco-friendly Weddings Series No. 1: Green Engagement Rings and Green Wedding Rings

6/18/2010 3:30:00 PM

Tags: Eco-friendly weddings, green engagement rings, green wedding rings

Weddings — especially typical American weddings — have gotten more and more extravagant in recent years. Things that were once rare luxuries, such as limousines and expensive favors, are now the norm. Weddings have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, and while brides and grooms spend their time debating open bars and tiaras, is anybody wondering how all of these decisions are affecting the environment?

In this blog series, I’ll guide you through eight wedding elements — starting with rings, and making stops for invitations and food — that are both easy and fun to incorporate using sustainable materials and methods. After all, your big day is the perfect opportunity to consider the big picture. Plan an eco-friendly wedding, and say “I do” to a greener perspective on wedded bliss.

Eco engagement rings and eco wedding rings 

Diamond ringWhen you think about giving your wedding a green makeover, the rings probably aren’t the first things that pop into your head. High-end jewelry, however, comes with its own set of problems. Those big, bright diamonds that most brides would give their left legs for have big costs in addition to those incurred at the jewelry store.

Problem: Diamond mining and trading in Africa is notoriously dirty and violent (you may have heard the terms “conflict diamond” or “blood diamond” before). The sale of diamonds — in certain locations during certain time periods — has been used by rebels to fund violence in war-torn regions, mostly in central and western Africa. Though the U.S. government has taken steps to assure that conflict diamonds don’t reach our shores (read the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s take on conflict diamonds to learn more), it remains difficult to know whether a diamond purchased from a large company is truly conflict-free. Let’s not forget that diamond mining is also detrimental to the environment, creating toxic runoff and stripping the land.

Solution: If you’re set on a diamond ring, go vintage. Buy your rings pre-worn and you won’t be participating in a corrupt industry. If the look of the diamond is important to you but the industry turns you off, consider imitation diamonds (my sister’s engagement ring contains a diamond simulant solitaire from Diamond Nexus Labs that is simply breathtaking). If faking it isn’t your bag, consider stepping outside the box and selecting a different gemstone such as your birth stone.

When and if you decide to buy a diamond from a large-chain jeweler, try to do a little bit of research before your purchase. You can sometimes find information about their policy on conflict diamonds right on their websites. If not, call or stop in and talk to somebody who works at the store. Your questions about conflict diamonds shouldn’t surprise anybody — this is a topic that has affected the diamond industry in a big way.

Problem: Gold mining harms the planet as well. Today, most mining is done by creating huge open-pit mines and chemically separating gold fragments from other materials. What’s left behind are huge scars in the earth and the potential for cyanide spills (The Environmental Literacy Council), which could leach into ground water and harm surrounding animals. Keep in mind that, while gold has been the most common media target, the mining of other metals harms the earth as well. All of this for a piece of jewelry?

Solution: Once again, vintage jewelry offers a great solution to this problem. You’ll have all the sparkle with none of the guilt. Another option is purchasing rings from Brilliant Earth, an organization that uses only recycled metals in its jewelry (and ethical gemstones, too!). If you’re up for something different, ditch metal altogether and purchase wooden rings. The idea may sound hokey, but these rings are absolutely gorgeous. Touch Wood Rings sells handcrafted wooden rings that will give you at least as many style points as those commonly worn diamonds. Be sure to talk with these companies and artisans beforehand about their sustainability efforts and avoidance of endangered exotic trees.

Finally, be creative with your resources. Don’t turn up your nose at a family heirloom. If your grandmother passed down a ring that just isn’t your style, go to a jeweler and see what they can do. At the very least, they should be able to find you a brand new setting for the rock your grandma gave you. They may even be able to melt down the setting and turn it into something you love.

The same goes for all family heirlooms. Just because your ancestors had a different sense of style than you doesn’t mean that their gifts are worthless. If your mother’s old, chunky gold bracelet has been sitting in a drawer for years with no chance of being worn again in the near future, take it to the jeweler and see if they can use part of it to fashion wedding bands. A little innovation can go a long way, and your mother and grandmother would probably prefer their treasures to be worn and enjoyed in whatever form rather than hiding in the dark corner of a dresser drawer.

Never forget the fact that this is your wedding, which means that you get to make the rules. If you’ve never been much of a jewelry-wearer, why should you feel pressured to purchase an expensive ring? Remember, the ring doesn’t make the marriage. You can even find another material way to solidify your vows. Plant a tree together and watch it grow in the years to come. If you’re a daring couple, forget the jewelry and get matching tattoos. The important thing to remember is that your wedding and your marriage belong to the both of you. Don’t be afraid to make them unique.


Lindsey Siegele is the Senior Web Editor at Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

Photo by iStockPhoto/Leigh Schindler. 



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Post a comment below.

 

arabellebrusan
9/18/2013 8:47:25 AM
I had looked into different jewelry companies--Premier Designs Jewelry included--and actually chose Cookie Lee Jewelry, instead. I actually don't have too much experience with Premier, but would recommend definitely looking at other companies in order to be sure it's the right one for you (each company has different profit percentages, hostess programs, and career paths.) Just be sure you are 100% excited about the company you choose www.arabellebrusan.com Best of luck to you!

Ana_1
7/30/2010 7:48:02 PM
Wood wedding rings are also eco-friendly and much more "earthy." And, much cheaper. You can use almost any type of wood plus it's possible to have stones inlaid in the ring. They are also much cheaper - I just bought one for $217 to replace my gold ring.

Jessica Butler
7/21/2010 2:48:32 AM
I'm getting my ring from GreenKarat.com . They specialize in recycled jewelry. I've been collecting gold from friends and family members, and will send it in to be melted down and made into my ring. This way, I can carry my loved ones around with me wherever I go.

Zach_4
7/19/2010 3:29:05 PM
Diamond Nexus Labs is really a scam, do research about them online before buying. A stone from them shattered and they wouldn't replace it. Did my research and found out it was just an overpriced cubic zirconium. If you want a good conflict and mining free alternative to a diamond look into Moissonite. They are beautiful and much stronger.

Lady Aelina
7/7/2010 10:50:07 PM
There are now also conflict free diamonds. These are certified diamonds that were properly mined. But, I love your idea of going vintage. We did that and I have an unique set that tells a story of our uniqueness. My engagement ring is my birthstone from the 1940's. It is perfect! Our wedding bands are also costumed made using older wedding bands. I also used recycled invites that had wild flower seeds in-bedded inside. Five years later I have friends who still have wild flowers blooming in their yard. I didn't want "dead flowers" at my wedding either. I had my wedding in my Grandmother's home and I had the opportunity to sow wildflowers, nasturtiums, and other bright flowers around the site. Which to this day continue to bloom. If that isn't possible why not potted plants? They can also serve as thank you gifts at the tables. My wedding bouquet was made by a friend of mine who used roses from her garden and broccoli and coffee flowers from my Dad's garden. For my cake I actually had cup cakes made. They are the perfect size for the guests and it does limit the amount of waste. We also used Green plates and cups. They actually looked pretty with everything. My guests were so surprised to find them biodegradable and still hold their dinner. Tacky? Well, tackiness is in the eye of the beholder. It is possible to do a green celebration of any kind. One just needs to be open minded and creative!










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