Like many girls, I grew up buying cheap jewelry from Forever 21 or the next fast fashion store, and jewelry tarnishing within months was just collateral damage; by the time that happened, I was on to the next trend, anyway.
It’s only recently that I’ve tried to invest in longer lasting jewelry pieces as my tastes have changed to embrace more timeless styles and higher quality jewelry. Fine jewelry is, however, expensive. Luckily, there are fine jewelry brands that prioritize affordable pricing and ethical standards!
With the holidays coming up, I thought it’d be the perfect time to whip up this roundup of ethical fine jewelry brands that won’t break the bank* (plus a few gift ideas for fun!).
*Obviously, these prices can’t beat the extremely accessible price point of fast fashion jewelry, but these pieces are meant to last and were made ethically—so “affordable” is relative to traditional jewelry manufacturers that charge huge markups.
A note about “conflict-free” diamonds: It’s extremely difficult to trace and verify the source of diamonds and whether they are conflict-free and free from other abuses of human rights along the supply chain. The Kimberly Process, which determines if a diamond is conflict-free, is a very narrow definition that does not inspect all human rights violations, such as unethical labor practices. Therefore, I’m extremely skeptical of any “conflict-free” diamonds unless there is more information. For the brands in this post that sell diamonds, I’ve noted what I know about their diamonds and how ethical I think they are.
Disclosure: This post is not sponsored, but contains affiliate links. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider shopping through my links.
AUrate’s dainty gold pieces are handmade by master craftspeople in New York from 100% recycled gold. Ranging from gold vermeil to 14k and 18k solid gold pieces, there’s a style and price point for everyone. They also have a lifetime guarantee on their jewelry!
Ethics and sustainability: Mining is one of the worst things for the planet (and the people involved), so AUrate uses 100% recycled gold for their jewelry. They go beyond the Kimberly Process for diamonds, tracking diamonds every step of the way between the mines and their workshops. AUrate also works with sustainable, family-run pearl farms that treat their workers fairly. Lastly, they donate a book for every piece of gold sold to Mastery Charter to help kids across the U.S. learn to read!
Mejuri has taken over the millennial market with a storm of Instagram ads and influencer collaborations, but the hype isn’t without good reason. This direct-to-consumer brand aims to redefine luxury and empower women to buy their own jewelry at affordable prices. I love their delicate designs that complement any outfit and stay timeless. To sweeten their already reasonable prices, you can use my link to get a 10% discount!
Ethics and sustainability: Mejuri works with responsible jewelers; their Hong Kong jeweler is a member of the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) and their Canadian manufacturer is certified by the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (EICC – GeSI) as a “Conflict-Free” Smelter for all metals. However, they only provide limited information on their “conflict-free” diamonds; while their jewelers follow the Kimberly Process, this certification is difficult to trace and doesn’t cover all human rights violations. They also refused to tell me the sources of their diamonds…so….I probably won’t be buying any diamonds from them.
- Zodiac constellation necklace (such a great gift for a best friend or sister!)
- Moon tarot necklace
- Editor hoops (I totally want to buy these as a gift for myself!)
Catbird is a NYC-based jewelry brand and retailer. Their collections range from affordable to highly aspirational (as in, so expensive I could only aspire to buy that, lol), and it’s all gorgeous. I love their dainty pieces, which would be perfect gifts for a significant other.
Ethics and sustainability: They make their own line in their Brooklyn studio using recycled gold. Catbird also sells some diamond jewelry created from recycled vintage diamonds, which is a wonderful way of repurposing old jewelry! 1% of profits are donated to non-profits annually.
- Diamond Pinprick ring
- Baby Pearl Hoop earring
- Diamond Pinprick necklace (sorry, this isn’t super affordable but it’s so pretty!!)
Ever heard of an earring capsule? Me neither, until I discovered Jewels and Aces. This sustainable, minimal jewelry brand sells delicate earring studs and jackets meant for mixing and matching to create a variety of unique looks, without buying a bazillion different earrings. It’s really so clever that you should see it for yourself!
Ethics and sustainability: Jewels and Aces works with jewelers they know personally, who provide clean, safe working environments and fair wages. They use lab-created stones, so you know they’re definitely conflict-free. Their main refinery uses 100% recycled metals and they take care to properly treat the water used in casting so it doesn’t harm the ecosystem. I’m personally quite impressed at how much thought they have put into their environmental impact!
My friend and fellow eco-blogger Tiffany has started her own jewelry line! She makes the pieces in her bedroom and also revives unique vintage finds. I love her vintage-inspired style (and supporting a fellow WOC with her small business).
Ethics and sustainability: Tiffany either makes each piece herself in small batches or sources vintage jewelry to give it a new life.
- Pe’a Gold and Pearls Starfish necklace
- Gold Wave Hoops with Vegan Faux Pearls
- Celestial Stardust Gold-Filled Hoops
GLDN offers dainty jewelry that celebrates femininity. Each style comes in different metals and quality, ranging from gold-filled to solid gold and sterling silver. I love that consumers get the chance to choose what fits our price range and needs! Gold-filled jewelry is also more resistant to tarnishing and rubbing off than gold-plated jewelry, while still affordable.
Ethics and sustainability: All jewelry is handmade in GLDN’s PNW-based studio (I love my local brands!). They source their materials from vendors they know and trust to maintain high standards, and they use 14k recycled gold. In addition, they recycle their scrap metal and any personalized jewelry that is returned or exchanged. 10% of profits are donated to causes GLDN cares about and they have a La Femme collection that donates 50-100% of profits to women’s empowerment and help for immigrant families.
Vrai only sells solid gold jewelry, placing their jewelry on the higher end of the price spectrum. The upside is that solid gold doesn’t tarnish and you basically never have to take it off, except to give it a polish once in a while to retain its shine. Their minimal and classic designs will make you look expensive, but without shelling out for traditional jewelry markup. In addition, they have an ethical engagement ring collection with above-ground diamonds.
Ethics and sustainability: Vrai only uses above-ground diamonds from Diamond Foundry grown with solar energy, which means they’re 100% verifiably conflict-free and way more sustainable! They also use 100% recycled gold in all of their gold jewelry, avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that come with mined gold.
I hope this gave you some holiday gift-spiration or just a couple ideas for treating yourself! Let me know your fave ethical jewelry brands!
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