Trend: Buying recycled wedding rings

Apr 3, 2014 at 7:30 a.m. ET

According to a study by XO Group, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2012 was over $5400, which is a sizable portion of the typical American's yearly income.

engagement ring
Photo credit: s-cphoto/iStock/360/Getty Images

Some consumers, however, are starting to say enough is enough when it comes to the cost of engagement rings. Instead, according to Reuters, savvy buyers and sellers are rushing into the recycled market to avoid the financial and environmental cost of purchasing new diamond rings.

Buyers are leaving the engagement ring retail market because its benefits are quickly waning. Consider the following ways in which recycled engagement rings are a better option than new ones:

  • Vintage is in. Most of today's popular engagement ring styles are, in fact, vintage or classic. There is little benefit to purchasing a new engagement ring in a vintage style when recycled vintage rings are readily available.
  • Recycled styles save money. You can expect to pay about half of the retail price when you purchase a recycled ring instead of a new one.
  • New rings carry environmental and social risks. Precious metals and gems like diamonds and gold are rife with social and environmental abuses in the supply chain. The mining techniques for diamonds and gold are often exploitative of both the land and the workers. Not only that, Amnesty International reports that millions of people have died as a result of conflicts caused by the diamond trade. A recycled ring reduces the demand for socially and environmentally unsound mining practices.
  • Recycled products are hipster friendly. Most diamond engagement rings are purchased by members of the millennial and hipster generations, because this is the generation entering into marriage for the first time. If there was a stigma against recycled rings, it is quickly disappearing with a generation of consumers that appreciates recycled products.

Pointers from the pros

We spoke with Philip Johnson, CEO of online recycled diamond and jewelry marketplace Have You Seen the Ring, to hear his thoughts on how consumers should protect themselves. According to Johnson, both buyers and sellers should utilize secure online jewelry marketplaces rather than purchasing through eBay, Craigslist or pawn shops.

Doing so protects the interests of both the seller and buyer, and ensures that the hand-off between owners is safe from deceit. "By using a secure marketplace, sellers can receive up to 60 percent more for their pre-owned jewelry," he said. Moreover, buyers can feel assured that they're purchasing a high-quality recycled piece for their beloved.

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