Clearly, we all want to look our best, and jewellery is one of the best and most straightforward ways of putting the finishing touches to an outfit or style, or completely overhauling a look altogether. And yet, for all the ways in which jewellery can enrich our lives and help us to look our best, there can also be a dark side to it, as well.

Conflict diamonds are still a scourge on the diamond industry and come figuratively (and sometimes literally) soaked in human blood. We all know about the Hollywood movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but the issues it depicts aren’t fantastical – they’re real, and still relevant today. It’s perhaps more important than ever to be attentive to ethical considerations when shopping for your jewellery.

So, without further ado, here’s a quick guide to ensuring that your jewellery has been ethically sourced and produced.

1. Stick with trusted retailers, and look for certifications and marks of quality and ethical handling

The Kimberley Process (KP) is an internationally run system and mechanism for ensuring that diamonds are handled and produced ethically.

Generally speaking, the more trusted and “mainstream” a retailer is, the higher the likelihood is that they will abide by all the correct protocols, to ensure that their jewellery meets good ethical standards.

Nonetheless, you should certainly also be on the lookout for reassurances, certifications, and marks of quality that signal that your diamonds have been approved by the KP, and that any other items of jewellery have been handled ethically.

2. Be especially wary of items of jewellery coming from conflict zones

It’s simply a fact of life, regrettable as it is, that certain world regions are much worse and should be treated with a high degree of scepticism when it comes to the trade in unethically sourced diamonds and other items of jewellery.

Whenever you are shopping for jewellery, ensure that you get a good sense of where the jewellery originated from, and where it was produced and manufactured. Wherever possible, try and avoid items from known “conflict zones” or “blacklisted” areas.

For diamonds, some of the worst offending regions include:

  • Zimbabwe
  • Angola
  • DR Congo
  • Liberia
  • Ivory Coast

3. Shop locally

Wherever possible, opt for locally produced items of jewellery that don’t incorporate controversial materials.

“Shopping locally” has become very popular in recent times, in the sustainable living and broader ecological movements.

Among other things, when you shop locally, you reduce your carbon footprint and help to keep local businesses afloat.

In addition to this, though, items that are sourced and produced locally will typically be more clearly regulated and will be more transparent and accountable to you, the consumer.

If you source your jewellery locally – and especially if it doesn’t incorporate any controversial materials – it’s a safe bet that you will be able to avoid much of the worst potential for ethical abuse.

If you live in northern Europe, for example, buying locally produced jewellery that incorporates Baltic amber is unlikely to be connected to major ethical abuses.

Jacob Cobal is a freelance writer based in Edinburgh, UK. He has written extensively on a range of topics but mainly focuses on travel and lifestyle. He is passionate about ethical living in all its forms, especially veganism and sustainability. When he’s not writing he can usually be found walking his two chihuahuas in his local park.