As beautiful as jewelry is, it comes with a nasty environmental price tag. One gold ring, conservationists say, generates 20 tons of mine waste. Toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury, which leach gold out of rock, pollute drinking water supplies, contaminate farmland, foul rivers and streams, and threaten 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.
Eighty percent of all gold mined is made into jewelry. But more mining may not be necessary. Enough gold has already beenmined 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. Alternatives to African diamonds come from Canada, where diamonds are harvested and finished using fair trade practices that protect the human rights of the miners.
Shopping at the mall? Patronize companies that have pledged to support more environmentally benign gold mining practices like Leber, Helzberg, Fortunoff, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels.
In your community, browse antique stores, estate sales, yard sales and specialty shops. You should be able to find quality used jewelry in unique settings at great prices. A little polish will make most vintage gold glimmer like new.
Online, GreenKarat sells rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants and custom jewelry made from recycled gold. Earthwise Jewelry uses gold and platinum processed from reclaimed sources, conflict free diamonds, fairly traded colored gemstones and environmentally conscious precious metals to make wedding, anniversary and commitment bands and other fine jewelry. Brilliant Earth jewelry features Canadian-mined diamonds in recycled gold bands, as well as other beautiful settings.
For truly green alternatives to gold, diamonds and gems, think organic textiles, wood, and recyclables.
Locally, artisans are knitting and weaving scarves from organic wools and cottons to replace necklaces. You can find them in neighborhood boutiques and via word-of-mouth.
Online, check out Eco-Artware for all kinds of baubles, including cufflinks, made from such recycled materials as typewriter keys and vintage watch parts. And don't miss Gwen Davis' Verde collection, fashioned from recycled and organic materials like bamboo, vintage beads, and antique Swarovski crystals. Relying on a concept called “elemental design,” Davis uses fire to etch unusual designs into her bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings, then polishes them with beeswax.
For more options, visit the jewelry page of our website