- As beautiful as jewelry is, it comes with a big environmental price tag. One gold ring, conservationists say, generates 20 tons of mine waste.
Toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury, which are used to leach gold out of rock, have polluted drinking water supplies, contaminated farmland, polluted rivers and streams, and threatened the health of workers and communities.
- Gold and diamond mining operations can also displace people from their homelands against their will and destroy traditional livelihoods. Conflict or “blood” diamonds have helped fund devastating civil wars in Africa, leading to terrible human rights abuses and causing the deaths of millions of people.
- 80% of all gold mined is made into jewelry. But more mining may not be necessary. There is enough gold above ground (already mined) to satisfy all demands of the jewelry industry for the next 50 years. Much of it sits in bank vaults and in the form of old and unused jewelry.• Most metals mining has a devastating impact on the environment. Increasingly, concerned jewelers are reclaiming metals and gems and recycling them into beautiful new jewelry.
- Shop at antique stores, estate sales, yard sales and specialty shops where you can find quality used jewelry you can polish to look brand new.
- Ask for diamonds mined in Canada , where the human rights of miners are protected and diamonds are mined under stricter environmental laws.
- Use scarves rather than necklaces.
- Buy jewelry at crafts fairs from artisans who work with locally available materials – beads, glass, stone, stainless steel, and wood.
For Your Shopping List
- GreenKarat sells rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants and custom jewelry made from recycled gold.
- Earthwise Jewelry uses gold and platinum processed from reclaimed sources to make wedding and commitment bands, pendants, and rings. The collection also features colored gemstones mined and cut with a concern for both environmental issues as well as fair-labor standards.
- Patronize companies that have pledged to support more environmentally benign gold mining practices: Zale, Leber, the Signet Group (the parent firm of Sterling and Kay Jewelers), Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels.
- Brilliant Earth jewelry features Canadian-mined diamonds in recycled gold bands (like the one pictured above), as well as other beautiful settings.
- Eco-Artware offers all kinds of baubles, including cufflinks, made from such recycled materials as typewriter keys and vintage watch parts.
Learn more about the need for environmentally responsible gold mining at the No Dirty Gold campaign website.
Global Witness offers more information about “conflict” or “blood” diamonds.