There are certain things that can be grown in labs that … just give us the ‘ick.’ From lab grown meat to growing new skin cells (yep, Google it) it can all be quite distasteful. One thing we wouldn’t turn our nose up at, is lab grown gemstones.
Everyone loves a shiny, sparkly stone, and just like Marilyn Monroe said: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Yet, it’s no secret that the process of mining stones can involve extreme labour – including child labour, little safety for the employees, and poor salaries (some earn less than a dollar a day).
The new alternative of lab grown stones, might just be our new best friend. In fact, In 2019 Forbes reported that the demand for lab-grown diamonds had increased by 20%, while the rough diamond market suffered a 25% decline in sales. Earlier in the fall, we spoke to Amy Fox, who is the founder of Iron Oxide. A sustainable jewelry brand with items made in America that, you guessed it, use lab grown stones.
Amy started Iron Oxide back in 2009 when she had graduated college and was struggling to find a job. She started selling pieces on Etsy, found it was her passion, and went back to college to learn stone setting. Amy found joy in the creative hand craftsmanship, and shooting the photos for her pieces. Attention and care is massively instilled in every piece, and they use timeless designs and quality materials. Every piece is created by hand in the studio, which is based in Portland.
Iron Oxide ensures that the stones are ethically sourced, and the working conditions from where the stones are from is humane. This gives every customer the peace of mind that when wearing something from the jewelry line it won’t impact the planet. Amy explains,“The more pressure we put on the industry, the more transparency we’ll see.” They love to work with synthetic and lab grown stones as there is no harmful mining practice associated. Amy says,“I’m hoping that it becomes more popular and the first choice, rather than seen as a counterfeit or ‘fake.'”
Iron Oxide goes above and beyond being committed to sustainability. They only buy gems from companies that are fully transparent about their practices and labor conditions and make sure they never support bad practices. The metals they use are all recycled and refined and any scrap that is produced is recycled. “A lot of these stones take over a year to grow and are made from the same material that’s found in real opal,” Amy tells us. Each packaged order contains a minimum amount of tissue paper, and no bits of paper that will likely get thrown away. In fact, even the bubble wrap is likely to be from Amy’s recent Sephora order!
They offer free repairs to avoid items being thrown out, and in addition to this, Amy does not use any companies that donate to Trump or do not pay taxes, and she moved her domain hosting from “GoDaddy.com” when she found out that the founder is a trophy hunter. We stan Amy.
When we spoke to her, we were at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Amy told us that Iron Oxide donates 25% of all profits to the movement, and is also focusing on self-educating on the matter by reading books through her book club and supporting black owned businesses. In addition, Iron Oxide also donates to other groups such as IRCO, The ACLU and NAYA.
One of the rings that really caught our eye was the Polaris ring. It is a little star ring that measures about 15mm in diameter and has a beautiful opal centre. The opal has a pale blue cast with iridescent pink and green tones.
Their necklaces come in a range of different stunning shapes and can all be worn on their own as a statement. They can also be layered up to create a contrasting look. You have the option of customizing your look by selecting the stone of your choice, from Moonstone to a lab grown blue opal.
The pieces would all make a perfect gift for this season, or a treat for yourself. You can shop the full collection here.