Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ethical Bling

This is something upon which I have been recently doing a lot of ruminating and research. Despite this "Age of Eco" there is surprisingly little information out there and the precious metal industry is only just beginning to make changes and discuss certification standards.

What I have gathered so far is this:

  1. Mining is evil, no two ways around it. We just can't pretend that wearing precious metals will ever be removed from a process that destroys the earth.

  2. Precious metals are never wasted. They can be endlessly recyclable by being refined and melted back down to their pure state - even the tiny filings when you are sanding a piece. I mean, you wouldn't throw out a piece of gold, right?! Just like "green" and "eco" get tossed around in order to market a product without meaning that they are sustainable or eco-friendly, "recycled" is the mythical term in the precious metal world. When you buy silver or gold, it is rarely ever made entirely with "newly mined" metals. The same companies refining it and producing the plate, wire, grain and ingots are always buying people's old gold and silver and adding that into the mix.

  3. The process that really has room for improvement is in the refining of precious metals. There are a couple of companies that use far less water than the industry standard and capture the chemicals used in the process in a more eco-friendly way.

Well, those companies don't exist in Canada yet, as far I can gather (I'm looking into that more closely). Making ethical bling would mean no longer purchasing my precious metal locally, paying US dollars (which ain't a pretty scene with our weak Canadian dollar right now), leaving a carbon footprint by having it shipped, and raising my prices which affects my local customers in a big way.

It's just like eating organic... until there is a major shift in the industry and in demand for ethical precious metals, there is a major price to be paid by the pioneers. But maybe it is time to blaze a brazen trail in that direction... In the meantime I will continue to build my studio with found and recycled objects, while encouraging the industry to make progress in any way I can.

Check this site out for more info:

note: I haven't touched on diamonds and precious stones...I know there are more standards for ensuring that you aren't buying "blood" diamonds, illegal and endangered coral, etc - but as I rarely use any of these, I haven't done a lot of research in that area.


  1. That's interesting to learn about jewellery rarely being made from entirely newly mined materials. And I hear you on the ethical-versus-local dilemma--it seems to affect a lot of artists try to go "green" with their craft these days.

    Are you familiar with Green Karat? Their pieces are made only from recycled metals and lab-created stones (they also have extensive information available on the effects of gem mining). Obviously as a larger company they have access to resources that are out of reach to the independent artist, but I think it's interesting to see that there's a growing market for what they offer.

  2. @quenoille: I actually meant to mention Green Karat, and it completely slipped my mind when I published this, so thank you for that reminder!

    Though they aren't a supplier, jewellers can look to them for good ideas for going green, such as offering a voluntary off-set carbon tax. I like the information they have on their site, and their range of products, such as a wedding registry and custom orders.

    I will say, however, that I am not completely convinced about recommending to a client that they purchase a gold wedding band, for example, from some place like Green Karat. Is buying 100% recycled metal going to make mining less evil? Is purchasing an american made product with a currently frightening exchange rate and shipping it more ethical than commissioning a local jeweller?

    I don't know...

  3. That's an excellent point, and one that comes up often in ethical shopping. I find I'm faced with it every time I buy groceries: do I buy the organic apples from Washingston state, or the non-organic ones from here in Ontario. I usually end up choosing local over organic if I'm presented with the choice, but it's not a black-and-white issue for sure.

  4. Not an easy decision! Hopefully, in time, we won't have to choose between the lesser of two evils...