Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Making Your Jewellery Box More Sustainable: Where To Start

There’s little I love more in this life than a snazzy earring. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I the sentiment still counts. Just like clothes, jewellery is a means of expressing yourself, adding a little flair to an outfit. To me, jewellery can also help make or break an outfit, and it’s part of the fun of getting dressed each day! 

Like the fashion industry, the jewellery industry has a notorious lack of transparency, often includes materials that are damaging to the environment (plastics, plastics everywhere), and sketchy ethics, in both high end and high street brands. But just like fashion, there are ways we can make more ethical and sustainable choices. If you're looking into higher end jewellery, it is also important to look into brands' transparency as well as if their practises of obtaining materials for their products (materials such as gems and gold etc.) are sustainable and if they treat their workers. There are ways of doing this relatively easily. For example, for brands selling products containing gold, you can check to see if they are Fairtrade certified

 It is important to add the caveat that everything come with layers of privilege, and there are some ethical jewellery companies which are super expensive and inaccessible, but many unethical jewellery companies are also super expensive and inaccessible, so it’s about looking into companies when you’re able and asking yourself the questions you would with clothes: do I really need this? Will I wear it at least 30 times? Do I already have something which functions in the same way? If the answer to the first 2 questions are no, you maybe don’t need the item you’re thinking of buying. It’s all about your own judgement and doing whatever you can to make a difference and show companies and workers that you care. 


Like with anything else, going secondhand is a great way to acquire your jewellery in a way that is both ethical and sustainable, as well as getting items more cheaply. Some of my favourite items are secondhand – I love imagining their past lives before they came to belong to me. 

There are lots of ways to find jewellery secondhand. For example, I bought this necklace in a market in Skibbereen, Ireland, just over 2 years ago and I still wear it all the time. 

This pair of red beads are also secondhand, and is probably the closest thing I have to a family heirloom as it used to belong to my great-grandmother. I wear it with basically anything black and white striped and as a combo with red lipstick. Can you tell I like the colour red at all?

You can also keep an eye out in charity shops, on sites and apps like Depop and eBay, and you can also swap with friends! I was given the necklace below by a friend who no longer wore it and knew that I liked it. Just like a clothes swap, jewellery swaps can be great as a means of clearing out your desks/boxes/wherever you keep your jewellery, and ensuring that your space is filled by items you really love and use.

New from small businesses

Let’s be real, just like some clothes, there are some types of jewellery you may not want to uy secondhand, like earrings for example. It’ll depend on individual people, but I know I prefer having earrings that are new rather than secondhand. And it’s important that we support creators and we should all be doing the most we can to support small businesses, particularly those with an ethical and sustainable ethos, and owned by women of colour and other marginalized people. When looking for new jewellery, I try to ensure that they are as local as possible to reduce the impacts of shipping, so I prioritise sellers based in the UK, and sometimes from mainland Europe.

There are lots of ways to find these businesses, particularly online. Instagram, for example, is absolutely full of independent jewellery sellers. You can find absolutely anything on there, and many small businesses use it as a platform to share their products even if it’s not the main platform they sell on, so it can be a great place to start if you just want a browse rather than anything specific. I bought these keyhole earrings from Pomsha at the beginning of lockdown, with the proceeds going to Covid aid in Syria. They also do lots of other cool designs, including others in aid of other causes.

There are also lots of small businesses selling new jewellery on places like Depop. I found the below pairs of earrings (silver-look moon and compasses) on Depop sold by an independent seller in Cornwall called Soleil Store

You can also find new ethical jewellery in real life too. These can include events, markets, etc. For example, I bought what is now one of my favourite necklaces at an event to hear several people speak about their experience as Palestinians. One of the speakers runs a small cooperative called Women in Hebron, which aims to empower Palestinian women by selling the items they create, like this one, and they sold some of their products at the end of the event.

Other honourable mentions include Tatty Devine, Han Makes, Felt Fancy, Zo Jewellery, SM Jewellery and Yassieuwu. If you have any recommendations, please comment below!


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it gain, the most sustainable way of consuming anything is to use and love what you already have. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of old stud earrings I haven’t worn in ages, but I’ve recently been going through them all and trying to wear and appreciate them all more than I did when they were out of sight. 

If you know me or have seen any pictures of me online (for example in an OOTD post) you’ll know that I wear one pair of earrings a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean most days. They’re my favourite pair, and I’ve had them for so long that I can’t actually remember where I got them from, which is a frustrating answer for anyone who ever asks me about them.

I also still wear this pair of rose studs, which were the first pair of earrings I bought after I got my ears pierced over a decade ago. They may be old, but they still feel like they fit my style. 

Repurpose and Repair

Sometimes things get broken, or you may have an old item that you find you don’t particularly like anymore, so rather than throwing something out we can repair (if you’re able to do it yourself great, or if you’re able to get someone else to do it for you, also great). It doesn’t have to be perfect, and will be different for each item you have. You can also use that opportunity to change an item, and make it even better. For example, when the chain of a sentimental necklace broke, I put the charm onto a chain I was given as a present and which I liked but didn’t really fit with many of my outfits. It as a great way for me to continue wearing the sentimental necklace and to make sure I was using that other chain!

You can also repurpose other items so that they become jewellery. For example, when some friends of mine got drink charms in our crackers at our annual Christmas dinner, we found we wouldn’t really use them for their intended purpose and then used them instead as Christmas earrings. Yes, it may sound a bit weird, but it worked and we still wear them!

If you liked this post you might like: A Guide to Eco-Friendly Toiletries


  1. The accessories are so beautiful and ethical!


  2. I love your collection of jewelry, especially those wooden swirl earrings.
    Most of my jewelry comes from thrift shops, or places that donate to worthy women's charities, but I love wondering at the stories behind used pieces.

    Jaya |

    1. They're my favourites too! I always find it fascinating thinking of the backstories behind secondhand items.

      Jemima x

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