EARTHWORKS

Jewelry gets eco-friendly

Poughkeepsie Journal | Karen Shan

June 8, 2014
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David Walton buys goods made in America. He bicycles to destinations when possible and eats a vegetarian diet.

Plus, Walton, a designer and crafter of fine jewelry and owner/goldsmith of Hudson Valley Goldsmith in New Paltz, uses recycled precious metals, reclaimed stones and conflict-free gems in the design and fabrication of his bracelets, necklaces and rings.

"In terms of material, you're talking about a difference of a half-penny on the dollar," he said, relative to a conventional sourcing of materials. "From the economic reason, there's no reason not to. From a social stand point, there's no reason not to."

The U.S. Census Bureau reports an estimated 23,394 jewelry stores operated in the U.S. in 2011, along with 1,385 jewelry-manufacturing establishments. With that, jewelry stores sold $26.7 billion in merchandise in 2010, that up from $25.7 billion in 2009.

The No Dirty Gold campaign includes more than 100 jewelry retailers in the support of improvements to harmful metal mining practices, in part, through a commitment to the program's Golden Rules, including the respect basic human rights, informed consent of affected communities, respect of labor standards, refraining from work in areas of ecological value, no dumping of mine wastes in natural waterways and more.

"Dirty gold just isn't romantic," said Payal Sampat, campaign director of the No Dirty Gold campaign, an endeavor of Earthworks, a nonprofit aimed at environmental protection from mineral and energy development. "Retailers don't want consumers to associate gold jewelry with polluted rivers and child labor, and they are joining us in calling on the mining industry to clean up its act."

Catherine Sproule, CEO of the Responsible JewelleryCouncil, said jewelry designers have had a long-standing interest in jewelry that incorporates sustainable practices.

"For the public, there seems to be a growing movement as materials management comes more to the forefront," said Sproule in an email. "Designers have a very grassroots connection with consumers and they value accessibility to materials that can make this possible."

Varying tastes in design, she said, allow for all trends within the movement, from mainstream to avant garde.

"Many suppliers through the value chain are offering sustainable options for jewellery creation — it is movement that continues to grow," Sproule said.

Walton's shop includes a sales floor with an adjoining and viewable work area, where he makes 90 percent of what's sold, with goods designed on a custom basis. The pieces are cast from recycled precious metals that are refined to their purest form then re-alloyed. Diamonds used in his jewelry are reused from earlier pieces or certified as conflict-free, meaning they have no connection to illegal dealings that fund conflicts.

"One of the things that people tend to forget about is the labor practices," he said. "A lot of times mass-produced jewelry is produced under questionable practices," including goods from China and India.

Walton said while it's up to jewelers to seek needed materials from ethical sources, consumers should be sure they're purchasing the pieces from responsible retailers.

"People hear 'recycled metal,' and they're so happy about that," said Walton, whose current designs include pieces made in pink or rose gold and/or feature mixed metals along with unusually cut diamonds or gemstones, like druzy agate, a sparkly option.

"I take great pride in the work that I do," he said.

Husband-and-wife team, Dan and Jessie Driscoll of Made From Coins in Woodstock make pendants, earrings, bracelets and cufflinks from silver American coins.

"Our raw materials are usually sitting in tin cans in attics," said Jessie Driscoll.

Most of the coins used for the jewelry are from a collection Driscoll inherited, but some are sourced from eBay. The coins are sanded off on one side with the image left on the other, although, recently the couple has created some designs with the image intact on both sides, per customer requests. The process allows for variation in design, making each piece of jewelry different from another.

"I loved the idea that we didn't have to buy something; that we could take something that we already had," she said.

Karen Maserjian Shan is a freelance writer: mkshan@optonline.net

Choosing justly made jewelry

• Buy reused pieces such as antique, vintage and estate jewelry collections that provide access to high-quality pieces without environmental harm. Try shopping from antique dealers or auction houses.

• Avoid harmful materials since extracting precious metals and gems can greatly disrupt the environment and host communities. For less formal looks, try pieces made with glass or shell rather than gems, avoiding those made with the plastic polyvinyl chloride. Beware of necklaces and bracelets with high levels of cadmium, most notably from China and India.

• Look for recycled content and consider resetting a beautiful gem in a new setting or selling jewelry to be melted down and crafted into something different. Buying any product that contains recycled or reused materials will tend to lessen water, energy and waste effects and protect valuable natural resources.

• Demand responsible sourcing if you must buy new. Scout out responsibly sourced jewels and ask for gems that come from countries with strict regulations, such as Canada and Australia, to avoid stones that contribute to violence and human rights abuses.

• Talk with sellers about environmentally responsible products. With jewelry, just as with other products, the more the consumer asks about sourcing and materials, the more likely the nature of the industry will improve.

Source: Originally posted

on the Natural Resources Defense Council website: www.nrdc.org/living/stuff/untarnished-jewelry.asp

On the Web

• Hudson Valley Goldsmith:

www.hudsonvalleygoldsmith.com

• Made From Coins: www.madefromcoins.com

• No Dirty Gold:

http://nodirtygold.earthworksaction.org

• World Gold Council:

www.gold.org/gold-mining/responsible-gold-sourcing

• Responsible Jewellery Council:

www.responsiblejewellery.com

• Ethical Metalsmiths: www.ethicalmetalsmiths.org

Tagged with: no dirty gold, jewelry, gold, fairtrade

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