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Don't believe (all) the hype!

Just because a jeweler uses the words natural, organic, recycled, handmade or green somewhere in the description of the product does not automatically make the entire piece environmentally sound. Beware of green washing! A truly eco-friendly jeweler will tell you where each and every single component came from. They should never just label a product in its entirety as eco-friendly without actually identifying whether or not all the parts come from reliable sources.

1. Fair Trade. One of the most understated aspects of conscious consumerism is the concept of Fair Trade. In your search for ethical jewelry, you must make it a priority to understand how the materials that were used in the jewelry came to be put together. Pricing may be a bit higher with Fair Trade companies (naturally, because they are paying people their true worth) and they want you to know why! If a company has no literature or content regarding their Fair Trade policies, they are likely getting their jewelry or materials from underpaid, overworked factory labor.

2. Recycled metals. Jewelry should be made with as close to 100% recycled metals as possible. Metal mining is the leading toxic polluter in the United States and one of the top reasons our drinking water has been contaminated with mercury and heavy metals. There is plenty of silver and gold already in circulation, including chains and findings, (which take up the most material in a piece of jewelry) so there is no excuse not to reuse or recycle it.

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3. Choose Natural and Untreated Stones. To reduce land and water pollution from toxic chemicals and radiation, choose a jeweler that uses all natural, untreated gemstones and pearls. If they must be treated, such as in the case of freshwater black pearls, make sure they are done so organically. Most semi-precious and precious gemstones are treated with a variety of potentially harmful methods, such as irradiation and chemical enhancement.

4. Look for Sustainable and Organic Materials: tagua nut, coconut shell or acai berry are breathtaking works of art when properly carved and polished. These natural elements are fully renewable each year and support the emergence of green businesses by artisans internationally.

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5. Vintage and Recycled. Look for jewelry with recycled glass and vintage or second-hand materials. Avoid pieces that use brand new crystal.

Swarovski and knock-offs do not release their manufacturing processes to the public and, thus, there is no way to determine how safe or unsafe the materials and their chemical treatments really are.

6. Your Bridesmaids. Don't let all your green efforts go to the wayside when it's time to shift focus to your wedding day sidekicks. Your bridesmaids are spending lots of time, effort and dough to make sure this is one of the greatest moments of your life. Choose a great eco-friendly jeweler or make the jewelry yourself by hand! One of the most touching ways you can show them a little love is with a heartfelt and gift that will last a lifetime.

By choosing to invest in eco-friendly jewelry, you are a making a powerful statement about the importance of metals recycling, environmentally responsible mining and ethical labor practices. Jewelers will never be motivated to change their practices if consumers don't pressure them with their dollars.

Photo Credits (from top): Diamond ring on flower petal, sea glass necklace, and recycled gold pendant.