Ethical Engagement Rings
Ensuring all of our rings are ethically made is how we work towards a better future, together.
Ethical sourcing should be the first step in creating any piece of jewellery. We believe it’s the right thing. We know it’s the right thing. Using sustainable materials and creating ethical business partnerships is the way forward not just for Taylor & Hart but for our peers across the jewellery supply chain, and our customers should expect nothing less.
To help you understand the strides we’ve taken and those we hope to accomplish, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to our ethical and sustainable policies and how they’ll impact your experience creating a ring with us.
We believe that transparency is the bedrock of sustainable design, so read on for a behind the scenes look at how your ethical engagement ring goes from dream to reality in a matter of weeks.
Ethical engagement rings
Ethical wedding rings
Take a look at our sustainably crafted wedding bands, that can be crafted with either Fairtrade or recycled metals.
We devote so much time to picking the cut, colour, clarity, and carat of our diamond—so why shouldn’t we be scrutinous when it comes to the origin of our gemstone? This is why we’re opening up our business practices to show you how we do things at Taylor & Hart, and to ensure you have peace of mind when purchasing from us.
What is an ethical engagement ring?
Your ring is the embodiment of something magical. Handcrafted from diamonds, gemstones, and precious metals, it represents the loving bond you’ve built with your partner. As jewellers, we believe that using sustainable materials makes a ring all the more meaningful, not just for us but for the person who wears and loves it everyday.
This is what we mean by an “ethically sourced” ring. It’s a piece of jewellery that’s been crafted with materials specially chosen for their provenance and origin, qualities that are determined against a set of ethical standards. It means that the gemstones and metals used in your ring come from conflict-free economies, have had a minimal impact on the environment, and have been mined or created by people benefiting from fair and safe working conditions.
Our Supply Chain
The journey of your engagement ring
As each of our engagement rings are one of a kind, each has its own journey. Given the unique requirements of an individual ring, the supply chain we use to craft that ring varies depending on design and gemstone specifications. We utilise an extensive network of gemstone suppliers, manufacturers, and artisans around the globe to craft your ring but we always aim to be as transparent as possible throughout the process.
Our designers work with customers to find the perfect diamond or gemstone for their engagement ring, using our selective network of diamond and gemstone suppliers to find ‘the one’.
Countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Canada, and Botswana produce a large portion of the world’s rough mined diamonds and generally we seek out supply that has originated from these regions as they have a good reputation within the industry of having ethical and fair business relationships.
Next, the rough diamonds are grouped and auctioned off to diamond polishing companies, mainly located in India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. As these diamonds travel the world, the Kimberley Process, and companies such as Diamond Time Lapse and Canadamark, aim to track their progress with the goal of ensuring conflict diamonds never get into the supply chain.
For coloured gemstones such as emeralds, sapphires and rubies, we ensure we only work with the most reputable suppliers and artisanal miners. Our suppliers have healthy reputations to maintain when it comes to sourcing processes and transparency. We continue to nurture our relationships with them to ensure our ethical values are upheld.
Following your consultation, your ring’s journey begins in London. Our design consultants and in-house CAD team work together to translate a designer’s final sketch into a technical design file, ready for 3D printing.
The finished 3D render of your ring is sent to our 3D printing and casting partners in China, Thailand or India. They’re all world-leading jewellery manufacturer with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. With some of the best goldsmiths and setters in the industry, our rings are brought to life with a high level of craftsmanship.
In addition to these workshops abroad, we have our own in-house workshop in London where every ring is either hand finished or made from scratch. Our London workshop is where we craft our more complex bespoke engagement rings, overseeing every aspect of the product development process. Alongside those intricate bespoke pieces, every ring we manufacture is hand finished in London. Our brilliant team takes care of the final polish, all engravings, and importantly completes our quality control audit to ensure we’re proud of every ring that leaves our workshop.
At the end of the manufacturing process, every single ring gets sent to the Assay Office to be hallmarked. Hallmarking refers to a physical mark applied to a piece of jewellery that signifies the metal’s fineness and purity. The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office has been testing and hallmarking precious metal since 1300, and is the oldest form of consumer protection in the UK.
Conflict diamonds, or ‘blood diamonds’, refer to diamonds that are mined and sold in order to directly fund a conflict, such as a war or insurgency. Conflict diamonds fall within the larger category of ‘conflict resources’ (natural resources that are extracted in order to fund violence) found across the globe.
At Taylor & Hart we take every precaution to filter out any diamonds that have been in contact with conflict from our supply chain. We’re also committed to supporting and developing standards and initiatives that would see these practices eradicated completely throughout the world.
We also like to think ‘beyond conflict diamonds’, meaning that our human rights commitments extend beyond conflict funding. Any diamond that we believe has been produced in unfair working conditions of any sort will be filtered out of our diamond supply. For example, we actively seek out to exclude diamonds from Zimbabwe, Angola and Russia as well as countries whose labour rights do not currently meet our ethical standards for fair working conditions.
Following the civil war in Sierra Leone, a war which brought global attention to the human cost of diamonds as a conflict resource, governments, charities, and the diamond industry united to create the Kimberley Process.
This trade regime enforces a thorough certification scheme over mined diamonds in an attempt to prevent the diamond trade from directly or indirectly financing conflict.
The Kimberley Process has 54 members representing 81 participating countries and it has successfully reduced the conflict trade to less than 1% in the global diamond industry.
While it has made and continues to make huge strides in cleaning up the diamond trade, the Kimberley Process isn’t perfect. We believe there’s more than can be done.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2003, wherein governments conduct safeguarding screenings on all exports of rough diamonds in order to verify them as ‘conflict free’.
Our Safeguarding Initiative
The main shortcoming of the Kimberley Process is that it’s a voluntary scheme. No state can be forced to take up the Kimberley Process and there are diamond-producing countries who have declined this safeguarding standard.
Plus, conflict diamonds continue to enter the trade even from participating countries due to the lack of regular and independent monitoring. Without external auditing of a country’s performance on eliminating the trade of conflict diamonds—meaning expert, unbiased reviews of a country’s national control systems at pre-established intervals—the Kimberley Process isn’t going to be enough.
To remedy this, we are aiming to develop a branded in-house auditing process for our suppliers by 2022. We don’t want to have to rely on third party auditing to ensure that our diamond and gemstone supply is truly ethical. Human Rights Watch claims that a major shortcoming of many key-players in the jewellery industry is an over-dependance on legacy organisations with flawed systems of audits. By creating a system of due diligence ourselves, we will have a better level of quality control over our products.
Diamond Time Lapse Diamonds
To help filter out natural diamonds that have not been produced according to our own set of sustainable and ethical standards, we’ve focused on working with only the best suppliers in the world. We’re proud to offer diamonds sourced by Diamond Time Lapse, the world’s most secure diamond provenance programme.
Diamond Time Lapse offers a novel approach to getting diamonds from the mine to the consumer. Using cutting edge technology, each diamond’s journey is documented in real time and in extraordinary detail. They’re able to provide a full timeline of where your diamond was mined, where it was cut and polished, and what employee handled it at each stage of the process. This provides full transparency and accountability over where a diamond has come from and what businesses it has financed.
Not only is the technology used by Diamond Time Lapse innovative, it’s also user-friendly and accessible. All you need is your diamond’s origin report number and polished carat weight to look up it’s full provenance report at any time from their database.
We offer Canadamark diamonds for those who are passionate about knowing the exact origin and history of their conflict-free diamond. Originating from just south of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a Canadamark diamond is rare due to the scarcity of rough diamond from the region.
Canadamark diamonds receive an additional certificate and laser inscription from the Canadamark organisation which assures the integrity of the supply chain of Canadian diamonds from mine to retailer. Each diamond we receive through this supplier is guaranteed to be responsibly mined in Canada, untreated, traceable from mine to market, and up to specific quality standards.
The Canadamark hallmark programme supports local communities by investing in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and training for their employees. You can browse our range of CanadaMark diamonds here.
Lab-grown diamonds—also known as ‘synthetic diamonds’ or ‘cultured diamonds’—are made in laboratories through two methods: a very small diamond ‘seed’ is either set in carbon and exposed to high pressure and temperatures or it is put in a chamber of superheated gas which causes the seed to replicate and grow. The result is a full sized diamond that’s physically and molecularly identical to a natural diamond mined from the earth.
Many of our customers come to us requesting a lab created diamond because of their reputation of affordability and sustainability. But it’s important to note that both lab-grown and natural diamonds have the power to do good in the world, and both have their shortcomings.
The great thing about growing a diamond in the controlled setting of a lab is that there’s very little material waste generated in the process. Plus it leaves the earth undisturbed by mining. Diamond-producing labs are also easily monitored for good working conditions and provide a comparatively transparent diamond supply chain for jewellers like us.
However, while some laboratories use solar energy to produce the diamonds, some labs burn an incredible amount of fuel and energy to create the diamonds. Due to the high emissions of certain producers, lab-grown diamonds can have a comparable climate impact on the earth as diamond mining. As such, it’s difficult to say outright that either type of diamond is more ethical or sustainable than the other. We like to give our customers the upsides and the downsides of both lab-grown and natural diamonds so that you can make a choice that feels right for you.
Faced with the industry-wide challenge of finding the most energy efficient way to produce quality diamonds at scale, over the next two years we’ll be transitioning towards exclusively offering lab-grown diamonds produced with mostly if not only renewable energy.
By introducing low-emission diamonds at Taylor & Hart, we’ll be both meeting our customers’ demand for lab-grown diamonds while also playing our part to drive the jewellery industry towards adopting low-emission materials across the board. Green energy lab-grown diamonds are an emerging product, but we’re already seeing businesses ramp-up production in harmony with consumer interest and we’re excited to be growing with suppliers who share our commitment to sustainability.
Should I choose a lab grown diamond or an earth-grown diamond?
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a lab grown diamond is that they’re more affordable. A 0.50ct lab grown diamond can be approximately 40% cheaper than a natural diamond of the same size and quality, while a 1ct lab grown diamond can be as much as 70% cheaper than a natural counterpart. This can have a big effect on what you’re able to achieve with your lab grown diamond ring design while remaining within your price point.
While the savings are great, there is something to bear in mind. Lab grown diamonds may not maintain their market value in the future in the same way a natural diamond might. Many see purchasing a diamond as an investment, as something that will retain a monetary value while increasing in sentimental value.
While your lab grown diamond will only become more emotionally valuable to you with each passing day, the reality is the industry forecasts that in a few decades lab grown diamonds will cost just 10% of earth-mined diamonds, which will deflate the value of all existing lab grown diamonds.
Ethically sourced gemstones
Our Taylor & Hart team is proud to host our own in-house Senior Gemstone Buyer, Maneesha Humphrey. Maneesha lives in Sri Lanka where she started her own gemstone exporting business back in 2015 with an all-women team—the first of its kind in the country. As one of the only female gemstone dealers in Sri Lanka, Maneesha has worked hard to carve a path in the industry, building up her confidence, experience, and skills in a field that has traditionally been dominated by men.
Maneesha works in the famous Ratnapura region, the heart of the gemstone market in Sri Lanka. Ratnapura is a Sanskrit word for “the city of gems”, which is fitting in a country where over 25% of the total land mass is able to yield precious gemstones.
In Ratnapura, sapphire mining is still conducted in many traditional ways, relying far less on mass production infrastructure compared to other sapphire regions making it known for its sustainability.
In Sri Lankan culture, gemstones are seen as gifts from the gods and mining areas are considered sacred. Maneesha has shared with us first hand the ways that workers perform prayers and rituals before beginning work, as a way of paying their respects to the environment.
Our commitment to ethical gemstone sourcing also extends to the rubies we offer. Seeing as all Taylor & Hart rings are crafted with a ruby hidden within the band, ensuring all our Signature Ruby gemstones come with a certificate of origin will go a long way towards promoting ethical sourcing and supporting local economies and environments.
In 2021 we made the exciting choice to partner with Greenland Ruby to source our Signature Rubies from their Aappaluttoq mine site. Not only will this mine be fully restored to its natural state at the end of its lifecycle, but the majority-Greenlandic workforce have guaranteed protections and working conditions according to Greenland’s strict legal standard. Greenland Ruby
Greenland Ruby also ensures all their gemstones are traceable from mine-to-market. This is a major step in ensuring our supply chain is genuinely transparent and traceable, a factor which the UN has stated is a primary way to eliminate environmental and social abuses from our industry.
Greenland Ruby is also committed to supporting workers and the Greenlandic economy by providing a much needed alternative to the country’s dominant fishing industry. We feel good about participating in Greenland’s growing economy as the majority-Greenlandic workforce employed by Greenland Ruby have guaranteed protections and working conditions according to Greenland’s strict legal standard.
You can read more about our partnership with Greenland Ruby, and the story of your Signature Stone, here.
In addition to our standard metal selection, we’re able to offer both Fairtrade Certified gold and recycled gold and platinum to all of our customers. We believe that everyone can feel more connected to their rings knowing that they were made with a more equitable and sustainable future in mind.
Our long-term goal is to switch our entire gold supply to Fairmined Certified Gold. The Fairmined assurance label guarantees that our gold comes from responsibly managed small-scale and artisanal mining organisations. These producers must meet standards regarding safe and reduced handling of chemicals, water supply protection, and environmental reclamation following the lifecycle of a mine.
What is Fairtrade gold?
Fairtrade is a system of certification that implements and oversees a set of standards within the production and supply of commodities such as gold. This independent ethical certification system ensures workers at small-scale and artisanal gold mines benefit from labour rights, safe working conditions, and equal pay, while at the same time consumers benefit from high quality products that have been ethically produced.
Across the globe, an estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining to make a living and provide for their families. The Fairtrade movement ensures that the worker is guaranteed a fairtrade minimum price for their labour. Fairtrade Certified mines are evaluated by FLOCERT, a leading certifier for fair trade organisations globally. For every kilogram of fairtrade gold bought globally, $2000 is given to mining projects to reinvest into their communities.
Fairtrade works to make sure that working conditions, health and safety, chemical handling, the protection of the environment and child labour laws are all up to standard in the mines. Additionally, the agreement has high environmental standards, ensuring that mining’s impact on surrounding nature and ecosystems is kept to a minimum. Buyers of Fairtrade gold commit to spending a 15% Ecological Premium on their product, funds which are used by producers to offset the costs of non-toxic mining practices, forest restoration in areas of high biodiversity, and ecological recovery.
Recycling gold and platinum has been common practice ever since humans discovered the metals hundreds of years ago—in fact, only recently have we adopted the notion that precious metals lose their value or integrity through their re-use.
The reality is that recycling precious metal is relatively easy as gold and platinum are non-ferrous metals, meaning they don’t lose any of their physical or chemical properties during the refinement process. This is what makes fine jewellery truly sustainable: in theory, the raw materials of your ring could last thousands (or millions!) of years.
Based in Leicestershire, our recycled metal supplier works with 100% pre-owned or used metal, which goes through a fascinating process of refinement. The metal is separated back to its pure form and then re-alloyed before use. The recycled precious metal has the exact same chemical properties as “fresh metal” without needing to contain newly mined material.
Our supplier sources the metal from consumer goods and industrial waste. This scrap metal could come from jewellery, industrial residues, used electronic scrap, automotive and industrial catalysts, and fuel cells. During the scrap purchasing process they verify where the recycled gold has come from and what it has been used for to ensure that they’re not buying from conflict areas and that the material isn’t newly mined. But the great thing is that the origin of the source metal has no bearing on the purity of the metal once it’s been refined.
Today, there are still far fewer ethical choices for platinum compared to gold or silver. Because global demand for platinum is dominated by the tech manufacturing industry, jewellery producers like us account for only a small percentage of platinum consumption each year. Although our voice may be small, we will continue to campaign the platinum industry for Fairmined standards over the next two years. And while we wait for the tech industry to follow suit, we will be transitioning to using either recycled platinum or platinum produced with a green energy supplier by 2023.
Our action plan going forward
Going forward, our ultimate goal is to be 100% transparent about the jewellery we make which means that we’ll have to be able to source the provenance of all the materials we use. We want to leave a legacy of pioneering a higher standard for sustainability and ethics in the jewellery industry. If you want to keep up to date with our progress in this pursuit, we’ve created a sustainability report that outlines our goals for the next five years, which you can download below. We believe that love has no limits, and neither should standards in sustainability.