Now that conscientious people everywhere are considering alternatives to traditional unfair trade practices, unhealthy chemicals and production systems, and just-in-general products of the un-green greed machine, the art of handcrafted jewelry is emerging as a star. For eons, folks in the industry have expended a lot of human and natural resources – digging up the land and disrupting eco-systems – in search of precious metals and gemstones.
But as most of you likely know already, you can also stay 'green' and make/wear beautiful jewelry
– especially in the realm of handcrafted adornments. Here are some facts and ideas for applying your environmentally friendly philosophy to your jewelry making/buying/selling decisions. We found this great information on an Overstock.com site -- http://www.overstock.com/guides/eco-friendly-jewelry-buying-guide
1) Most precious metals, diamonds, and gemstones are found through mining, a process that displaces large amounts of earth. Hard-rock mining uses chemicals to leach metals such as gold from earth and leaves these chemicals in the ground. Consumers have encouraged efforts to find a more nvironmentally responsible way to gather natural materials. Some producers are beginning to listen as campaigns for ethical mining take hold; the movement encourages better working standards for miners and reducing mining's impact on the environment. As this trend continues, it will become easier to find jewelry made of materials that were mined in a more earth-wise manner. Check out this great Etsy shop for more on how they support this trend: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamsFactory?section_id=11531381&ref=shopsection_leftnav_8
2) Recycled jewelry offers a wonderfully responsible way for you to add earth-friendly treasures to your collection. This recycling takes two forms: reusing and caring for vintage jewelry and incorporating recycled non-jewelry items into new jewelry pieces. Many companies will purchase old gold jewelry to melt and resell to manufacturers. Recycling precious metals reduces the need for extracting more from the earth and keeps the metals in the marketplace instead of lost in drawers, closets, and scrap heaps. Look for recycled jewelry made of gold, recycled silver, and other recycled materials when you're shopping. You can also find great pieces of handmade jewelry that incorporate recycled glass beads made from discarded magazines and recycled plastic. Check out this great Etsy shop to see how they're supporting this trend: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShannonWestmeyer?ref=l2-shopheader-name
3) Artisans around the world handcraft beautiful art, jewelry, clothing, and practical household items. Businesses with an interest in social responsibility are giving these skilled craftsmen and craftswomen new access to the global marketplace by paying them fair prices and wages for their goods. When you buy handmade jewelry from artisans, you can own a one-of-a-kind piece and help support fair trade, which provides support for livable wages in developing communities. Artisans often use sustainable and
recycled local materials, such as grasses and copper, to create earth-friendly jewelry. Many pieces of handmade jewelry also incorporate local tradition and art.
4) Consider vintage jewelry! (We highly recommend Ellen Gonchar's wonderful 'Vintique Jools' - http://www.vintiquejools.com
Many collectors love vintage jewelry, and some of these jewels are displayed in fine museums. These beautiful pieces are eco-friendly because they are essentially recycled! You can own lovely, one-of-a-kind antique rings, bracelets, brooches, necklaces, earrings, and hair accessories and reduce waste at the same time. Even better, estate jewelry often features the highest quality of craftsmanship, and these pieces always connect you the artistry of a previous era.
5) Consider pearls as your gem of choice. Cultured pearls, which include almost all the pearls available in today's market, are farmed through aqua culture. Farming in water is considered less damaging ecologically than mining for gemstones on land. Pearl producers carefully maintain the cleanliness of the water within their farms because the pearl oysters will not thrive in polluted water. The oyster shells are used for other products, such of mother-of-pearl jewelry and buttons.
6) Fashion trends continually change*, and the cute new jewelry designs can be hard to resist. When looking for casual jewelry, consider items made of sustainable products, like necklaces with hemp or cotton cords. Choose decorative wood and glass beads instead of plastic, which may not be easily recycled. Finally, avoid trendy jewelry that you'll only wear one season; you'll spend your wardrobe budget more responsibly and reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill. When you're finished with a piece of jewelry, consider reselling the item or using the components to make a new piece yourself.
7) Though mining for natural stones historically has had a harsh impact on the environment, consider that created gemstones are made of chemicals, and many are mass-produced. Also, there are some miners/suppliers who are beginning to be more conscious of environmental as well as human concerns, and adjusting accordingly. We know one person from the Tucson gem show who is actually known for the wonderful relationship he has developed with the natives where he mines the beautiful stone Larimar (here's a strand from our shop), and his respectful treatment of the workers and residents of the area.
8) Stay informed to make the most of living green. Read, ask questions, and be aware of the latest news in the green jewelry movement. Remember that environmentally responsible manufacturing practices are an evolving trend. Keep searching for green jewelry and accessories; more options are coming. Don't forget that your decisions and efforts, where they be on a large or small scale, have the power to help us protect the earth and its natural treasures.
*See this incredible educational video called 'The Story of Stuff' for a quick and entertaining lesson on why we should think twice about our 'consumer society' and continual need to change things out, add new things, etc.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy our post L is for Larimar.
Until next time,