Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrating Earth Day as a Jeweler...

I have been debating for weeks if I should write an Earth Day post. The simple fact is, what I do for a living contributes to polluting and reaping the planet. Metal and gems come from the earth via mining and mining is a “dirty” business which has a huge impact on the environment. Here are just a few eye opening facts:
-A single gold ring generates 5 to 20 tons of mine and environmental waste.
-96% of U.S. arsenic emissions and 76% of lead emissions come from mining.
-2 to 5 grams of mercury are released into the environment for every gram of gold recovered.
-Cyanide used in leaching gold from ore can pollute water resources and kill fish and other life.
-Metal mining consumes as much as 10% of world's energy.
Kalgoorlie Mine, Australia. Photo courtesy of mattyp_ / Matthew Perkins on Flickr.

What is a jeweler to do? One way we can begin to "go green" is to use 100% recycled metals. Although a major percentage of the precious metals in circulation are already recycled (who throws it away?!), they are usually a mixture of recycled and newly mined material. At this time, it is impossible to police where all the metal in our manufactured findings come from. However, we can, at least, purchase our mill products from refiners who certify that they are selling 100% recycled metal.

Unfortunately, buying recycled metals will not solve the problems in the mining industry. We should also demand that the mining industry abandon practices that endanger people and ecosystems.

For more information on this subject please visit the following sites:
Ethical Metalsmiths
No Dirty Gold
The Alliance for Responsible Mining
Sky Truth
Responsible Jewelry Council
International Cyanide Management Code

Articles on this subject:
"The Real Price of Gold" By Brook Larmer (National Geographic)
"What Jewelers Mean When They Say Green" by Patrick Totty(Modern Jeweler magazine)

Resources for eco-friendly refiner and manufacturer of precious metals:
Hoover and Strong
Oro Verde/ Green Gold Corporation
Thunderbird Supply Company


:::ZebraLilly::: said...

I'm so glad you've posted this helpful information. I,too, have struggled recently with my jewelry making and the rest of the jewelry making industry and the fact that such beautiful items can cause such irreversible destruction on our earth. It helps to know that there are resources out there to help reduce our footprint and make jewelry making more sustainable.

Nicola said...

I make a lot of my pieces in Art Clay Silver because it's 100% recycled, it IS hard to be an ethical jeweller. Especially when a lot of the big guys arent :(