How dirty is your gold?
Many people are unaware that conventional gold mining is one of the worst polluters in the world. Not does it create massive amounts of geological waste (it takes anywhere from 2 tons to 100 tons of ore to extract one ounce of gold), but major pollution is daily added to our air, water, and soil from gold mining. About 20 tons of toxic sludge waste are created in order to extract and process enough gold to make approximately one ring. Many mines dump this toxic waste directly into natural waterways, killing wildlife and polluting drinking water. Not to mention the communities that are destroyed and grave health risks to workers via the use of toxic chemicals to extract the gold, the unfortunate grievances committed by the mining industry are many.
There do exist clean mining projects that do not utilize toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide to extract gold, that support their employees with fair living wages, and provide community resources. See Fairmined Eco Gold for more information on such mines.
Another option available besides fair mined or fair trade gold for designers who choose not to work with dirty gold is recycled gold.
So what exactly is recycled gold?
Recycled gold comes from refineries who use a gold extraction process to remove the metal from old computer motherboards, cell phones, and old jewelry settings before using a chemical process to separate the pure gold from alloys and impurities. The end product is 100% pure 24k gold, which will then be sold to manufactures and mixed with alloys, who will use it to make jewelry for designers like me! For an in depth look at the technical process head over to gold.org and get lost in the wealth of information.
Why should I buy recycled gold jewelry?
For my purposes here, I'lI attempt to address the underlying reasons why it's better to opt for recycled metals when jewelry shopping vs. conventionally mined metals. Think of it in a way as buying vintage vs. fast fashion. Yes, it's more convenient sometimes to pop into your local Forever 21 and buy some cheap basics to get your new seasonal wardrobe jumpstarted, but it's so much more fulfilling (to me, at least) to spend a few hours digging through a thrift store or vintage shop, discovering pre-owned gems that are not only unique, but timeless and my style. Not to mention the fact that they've been loved and discarded, and now will be loved again. I love the ideas of rebirth and renewal vs. mindless consumption. To be honest, I've loved and preferred shopping at thrift stores long before it was recognized as the cool and eco-conscious option that it is now. But I'm so happy to see so many people waking up to the reality that our shopping habits and spending decisions really matter and can make an impact on a global scale.
By taking the time to seek out designers who prioritize sustainability in their businesses, you are taking a stand as a conscious consumer. You can be a driver for change for the better for the planet, the lives of your children, and your community. You can help spread awareness to others about the importance of making responsible choices when it comes to what we buy, what we wear. Something so valuable as your jewelry should reflect your ethics and remind you of the good you're doing just by wearing it. Every time you see your ring on your finger or necklace around your neck, made with responsibly recycled gold, be reminded of the difference you're making.
Be the Change
It's going to take massive collective efforts as a society that is so consumer driven to consciously shift to habits that are going to help preserve our planet for the next generation. It's up to us, the small business owners, the stay-at-home moms who are shopping for their entire families, the single ladies who love to shop and treat themselves, the grandparents...it's up to all of us to make wise choices and wake up to the reality that "the times they are a'changin'", the planet is suffering from decades of abuse, and the next generation, our children's generation are the ones who are going to suffer for it.
The sad reality is that many of our leaders don't seem to have this as a top priority (saving the planet, that is). But we should remember that the power of a small group of enlightened people should never be underestimated. The greatest way we can make our voices heard is by "voting with our dollars." What if everyone decided to stop shopping fast fashion or dirty gold? Unfortunately, many of the bigger name jewelry design houses are also some of the biggest contributers to the problem, polluting communities and destroying lives around the world. What if we all decided to really think before we spend, and consciously committed to only buying things that actually help to preserve our planet rather than destroy it?
Jewelry made with recycled gold is a beautiful and viable option for the shopper who is seeking to be both chic and conscious in their purchasing decisions.
By committing mindfully to buying things that are not contributing pollution to the planet or inflicting suffering on the workers who produce them, we can begin to start taking the steps needed to preserve our planet and it's most precious resources for generations to come. May we be the generation that brings about the shift needed to move towards a more sustainable future. There will always be a demand for gold, but now is the time to wake up as consumers to the stark reality of how polluting traditional gold mining practices are and to move towards more ethical and sustainable options such as recycled or fairmined gold.
With full disclosure, it is my longterm goal to eventually become a fairmined licensee and work exclusively with certified fairmined gold. It can be a lengthy process to become a licensee and the price is higher than recycled gold, so for now I am happily using recycled gold as it's currently the best option for my business and clients at this time.