Q. Is all jewellery
suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans?
In the past years, VeggieGlobal has become proactively involved
in investigating greenwashing within the jewellery industry. Therefore,
you will find a detailed answer below as to what should truthfuly
define jewellery as "vegan" or not. This page also contains
more useful information along with our solutions
via a unique collaborative project to create the world's first
"bio-vegan" goldsmith environment.
coral, leather and even more controversially elephant hair are
all used in the jewellery industry.
Along with this, there are many aspects of the jewellery making
process which involves the use of tools and supplements derived
from animals. The environmental impact linked to jewellery crafting,
and thus the displacement of animal life, must also be considered
before a vegetarian buys a piece of jewellery which may superficially
appear to be veg*n friendly.
natural and cultivated pearls are harvested from mussels, oysters
or scallops. All such clams (bivalve molluscs) are killed to retrieve
the pearl. Even some imitation pearls can be made from coral or
conch - both which are sea creatures.
elephant hair jewellery has traditionally been harvested from
the ground around trees where elephants have rubbed their bottoms
on the tree-trunks, there is a considerable risk that the hair
has also come from poached elephants. You can read the VeggieGlobal
/ Looking-Glass exclusive report about the ethical risks of using
or wearing elephant hair jewellery here.
Although not directly animal related,
a lot of amber for jewellery is extracted from the Baltic region
in a manner that's very harmful to the environment. Apart from
the mining process itself, the sea in the locality of the mining
process is heavily polluted by millions of tons of waste, destroying
sea-life in its wake. The destruction caused by one of the largest
amber mines has been measured as "one of the biggest culprits
in the environmental crime of anthropogenic suspended material
explusion", according to a report by the Trade and Environment
As you may know, VeggieGlobal regularly reminds its visitors that
detrimental effects to the ocean is a major cause of planetary
deterioration. When buying amber products make sure it has come
from traditional gathering methods and ethically processed for
use as jewellery.
The mining of gems and precious
metals is now commonly known to be associated with human rights
issues ... but dig deeper and the environmental cost to the earth
caused by any form of gem and precious metal extraction (fairtrade
or not) continues to cause a ecological catastrophe which is cumulatively
destroying once pristine environments and causing massive displacement
of wildlife habitats; a combined area easily the size of two large
European countries. Is it worth it ... all for the sake of vanity?
Greenwashing the Gold Rush
Ethical jewellery craft should,
you would think, be defined by the responsible use of recycled
precious metals, and not by promoting the continual extraction
of raw materials and the subsequent environmental disruption it
causes. To describe any form of new-mined gold in jewellery as
sustainable and green is contradictory and misleading, and perhaps
the most blatant example of greenwashing to date. Gold mining
by nature is not an ethical practice. This also applies to "fair-trade
or "fair-mined" gold, platinum and silver which should also not
be termed as "green" either. Mining disrupts and destroys essential
life-sustaining, interdependent ecosystems by displacing previously
untouched environments containing fragile flora and fauna, right
down to the micro-biological level. Mining is detrimental to the
ecology of our planet, and there is no form of raw extraction
for the jewellery industry that can genuinely claim to the contrary.
As from 2011, Fair-trade's new undertaking increased the demand
for mined gold as many "ethical" jewellers (and even standard
jewellers), who were originally only sourcing ecologically-friendly
recycled gold have jumped on the fair-trade bandwagon and are
now clamoring for Fair-mined gold, platinum and silver instead.
(The surge in demand for such "fair-trade" precious
metals is considerably more than what is available.) Subsequently,
the amount that is mined is set to rise dramatically ... a major
drawback for earth's ecology and for those environmental organisations
whose aim is to save it.
To summarize: Recycling gold is an environmentally friendly practice.
It can comfortably be termed as an ethical process because disruption
to our fragile, natural environments has effectively been eliminated
from the procedure of refining pure gold for use in the jewellery
industry. Mining gold is a practice which destroys or displaces
the long-established natural ecology of the areas where it is
extracted, and therefore offers no environmental benefit.
As far as responsible vegans and veggies are concerned, we clearly
advise you to avoid new-mined gold and always opt for recycled
when buying jewellery. Mining always devastates the ecology of
the land, and displaces and destroys life. If you don't condone
the decimation of wildlife for the sake of vanity then recycled
gold and silver is your only natural choice. If any jeweller attempts
to convince you otherwise you are being "greenwashed".
VeggieGlobal's Solution for Jewellery
and our sister site Looking-Glass has been researching the ethical
/ eco jewellery hyperbole spreading across the internet
for some years now and have discovered a myriad of jewellery web
sites claiming to be "responsible". But scratching beneath
the sparkly, galvanized surface, we have found an
astonishing number of
pseudo-ethical claims in jewellery making practices; riddled with
contradictions, half-truths or plain lies. With no proper regulation
of how a jewellery seller, goldsmith or their suppliers can use
the term "ethical", they lavish the customer with marketing
while keeping quite about the bulk of their business practice,
which can prove to be so unethical it would be even impossible
to "green" it up however much they try to spin it.
VeggieGlobal felt that if no jewellery business was able to provide
a genuine ethical service to jewellery lovers with real environmental
concerns, we would (in a non-profit capacity) initiate the world's
first bio-vegan goldsmith atelier. The result is a unique ethical
collaboration between VeggieGlobal's philosophy and goldsmith
The Laibach Principles embrace the true meaning of "environmentally
friendly" goldsmithing by eliminating every unethical aspect
of the making process down to fine details that most wouldn't
even have considered - and all without any compromise in quality.
With Atelier Laibaich
we have also pioneered the world's first truly cruelty-free bio-vegan
goldsmith standard designer jewellery; a sincere and
highly advanced ethical approach,
ultra-fine quality bespoke, sculptural jewellery based
on unique principles. All Laibach jewellery is made in a vegan
work environment with no animal-derived materials or work tools...
and of course nothing newly-mined - only recycled precious metals,
with 15% of profits donated to wildlife protection, renaturing
projects and land-care education in developing countries.
"The reality is that all raw extraction of stones and
metals leave environmental scars and displaces / destroys habitats
and ecosystems wherever and however it takes place. There is absolutely
no process which can genuinely claim to the contrary" ...
"the only way in which ecological full-proofing can be achieved
is if gold and precious stone extraction ceases completely"
is just one example of how Kerstin Laibach's bio-vegan goldsmith
environment was developed; For
researched and finally sourced a polishing paste made without
animal derivatives. Until then no jewellery maker had ever considered
this aspect that their polishing paste and other workbench materials
may not adhere to vegan principles. Jewellery workshops have always
used paste with animal fats to polish their finished jewellery
- even those claiming to make vegan jewellery. Laibach became
the first goldsmith to aquire and use this paste and recently
one or two other makers are now following this initiative. Laibach
has also created felt-free natural plant fibre polishing wheels/buffs
- another vegan jewellery first.
As a general rule of thumb based
on the principles VeggieGlobal has established for bio-vegan jewellery
and of which goldsmith Kerstin Laibach uniquely offers, a jewellery
piece should be considered not suitable for vegans if it does
not adhere to the Laibach Principles checklist as goverened by
acclaim for Kerstin
Laibach's jewellery collections growing, she is often commented
as the world's most ethical goldsmith. ... but Laibach (and VeggieGlobal)
considers "gold" and ethical" an uncomfortable combination of
words in the same sentence and it should be pointed out that gold
will only become ethically stable when it is no longer mined at
You can see Kerstin Laibach's specific
collection of veg*n inscribed jewellery here.
After our extensive
research into greenwashing associated with ethical and vegan jewellery,
Atelier Laibach clearly proves to be genuinely sustainable and
cruelty-free, with an unprecedented array of ecological
the meantime, there's a shameful number of "ethical"
jewellery makers who urgently need to fix their moral compass;
self-proclaimed as leading exponents and pioneers, but actually
using new-mined gold and gems, animal derivatives and non-biodegradable
materials. We've observed that in the world of unscrupulous jewellery
marketing, it's frighteningly
easy to mesmerize
customers, not just with sparkle, but also words like "pure",
"organic"... and of course "green".
Useful external link on amber extraction:
is Bio-Vegan (or organic-vegan) Jewellery?
This is a term created by VeggieGlobal and ethical goldsmith Kerstin
food, bio-vegan describes a vegan who only eats organic foods
- nothing chemically sprayed, artificially fertilized or GM modified.
this term for Laibach jewellery, it means that (as well as being
free of animal derivatives in the jewellery and the tools used
to make it) everything that Kerstin Laibach makes is biologically
earth-friendly, so that if ever disposed, the parts it is made
of will not cause detriment to the environment as there is no
chemical residue in the pieces - no plastic parts etc. It also
means that additional solutions Laibach may have to use when making
her pieces are over 95% organic (95% being in compliance with
organic certifications as well as The NOVA Key)