Resource Spotlight: The Jewelry Glossary Project



As time goes on, we continue to learn about certain grotesque side effects associated with hugely popular products sold across the global economy. Decades ago it was coffee and chocolate, then diamonds, now plastic and textiles. It can kinda feel like too much. 

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been here: you read one well-written article or watch a poignant documentary that exposes clear social and/or environmental atrocities perpetrated by an industrial system that you participate in. This incites a familiar sense of doom as you try to figure out what to do next. You ask yourself, “how much have I contributed to this problem? How can I help? What better choices can I make as a consumer”? 

Then, armed with your new knowledge, you decide (confidently) to align your next purchase decision with the positive impact you want to make. You even do some extra research to compare brands or products to see which one is the most “sustainable”. But at this stage you find vague, inconsistent language. One “eco” brand is drilling wells in African villages, and another “ethical” company is clearing plastic from oceans. You’re now wondering, what do I really get from this information? What does “sustainable” even actually mean? How do I make the right decision? 

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. It’s normal to feel frustrated by the nuanced nature of sustainable consumption. We don’t have all the answers, and we won’t pretend that there’s one right answer to the problem of “greenwashing”. But we are pleased to share a helpful resource that focuses on just one thing: words. 

The Jewelry Glossary Project is an online hub offering shared definitions of key terms within the jewelry industry for use by the trade and the public. This ongoing project is intended to serve as an educational tool to clarify these terms, curb misuse, and raise awareness of prevailing discrepancies in current general use. 

The working group at the Jewelry Glossary Project is comprised of jewelry designers, gemstone wholesalers, goldsmiths, educators, and sustainability experts. Together, they defined these commonly used terms for use specifically within the context of jewelry: 


  • DEFINITION – Practices that protect environmental integrity and promote human health in the sourcing, production, sale, and distribution of jewelry.
  • Note: the processes related to sourcing, production, sale, and distribution of jewelry components can be sustainable. However, extractive practices of finite resources in the jewelry industry such as gold and diamond mining are inherently environmentally unsustainable.


  • DEFINITION – Guided by principles that facilitate environmental and human well-being and avoid practices that do harm.


  • DEFINITION – A term applied to metals and gemstones purchased or used by consumers (post-consumer), or are a byproduct of manufacturing (pre-consumer), or finished goods that were never in circulation (pre-consumer) that are reused in the manufacturing of new products. Bullion containing any non-recycled metal or manufacturing byproduct reintroduced back into the same production line are not recycled.
  • Click to see The Jewelry Glossary Project breakdown of Pre-Consumer Recycling vs Post-Consumer Recycling 

Fair Trade, Fairtrade, and Fair Trade Certified

These few simple definitions may seem like a small step, but the Jewelry Glossary Project helps increase transparency throughout the supply chain and creates accountability for verbiage misuse. With differing or unknowable standards for what words mean, it’s difficult for industry players to understand or trust each other. Supporting precise language means helping companies, customers, and suppliers all get on the same page. 

At Many Hands we believe that words are powerful tools that can uplift smaller stakeholders who often have to fight for a voice in the global economy. We commit to using specific words that convey our action (or relative inaction) in an accurate way. We support the work of the Jewelry Glossary Project, and we consider their initiative to be an exemplary step towards sustainability across all industries. 

Do you feel super passionately about words like we do? Let us know your thoughts -