9+ Conflict-Free and Eco-Friendly Jewelry Companies
Everyone remembers the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, where Bilbo originally found the ring. He loved it because it made him invisible, and then the ring got passed on to Frodo. Gollum was obsessed with the ring even though it was dangerous to anyone who wore it. The rings were supposed to be destroyed in order to save Middle Earth from evil. The famous poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien says a lot about the lust for gold.
The Truth Behind Rings
The books and the movies were fantasy. But, do they have any application to our present day lives? Many people would say that they do. Everyone loves the scene in which a man gets down on one knee and opens a box with a ring in it and proceeds to ask a woman for her hand in marriage. Typically the woman says "yes," and a ring is put on her finger.
Few people know that the underlying story behind the ring is that it could have come from metal mining and gold mining practices in which around 600,000 children all over the world are practically slave laborers as artisanal gold miners. They get no education and will be stuck in slave labor their whole lives.
Gold mining is the biggest cause of man-made mercury pollution, which destroys the environment and is terrible for the minors' health. The cyanide that comes from the pollution contaminates the surrounding environment, like it did in Romania when over 100,000 gallons of waste with cyanide in it got into the drinking water. Producing one ring creates 20 tons of mine waste.
The dangerous conditions of the miners include things like tunnel collapses, falling rocks, and underground fires. There have been hundreds of deaths from accidents in gold mines in South Africa alone. The gemstones that are used in these rings are diamonds that financially support rebel movements against government bodies—rebel movements that committed human atrocities like rape, made children into soldiers, and murdered were supported by diamond mining. The damage to the Earth and its people are an enormous price to pay for just one romantic engagement ring.
So, how do we protect the Earth and its people from this type of damage? There are several companies that sell ecologically friendly jewelry. A few of them are listed below.
1. Brilliant Earth
The company, "Brilliant Earth" makes every piece of their jewelry with recycled and re-refined precious metals. They get metals from existing jewelry, industrial used metals, and electronic components. They also encourage people to recycle their own jewelry that is no longer worn. When someone sends the company their jewelry to be recycled, a credit is applied towards any purchase from Brilliant Earth of equal or greater value than what the company got out of the recycling of the jewelry.
The company not only recycles precious metals, but they also have a vapor emissions cleaning system and a process of cleaning liquid emissions that are put into place to prevent any contaminants from being released into the environment. All of the jewelry is crafted in the United States where the strictest labor and safety practices are in place as opposed to having the jewelry made in a third world country where people and the environment are often both abused in order to make jewelry.
2. Leber Jeweler Inc. and Earthwise
The second company worth mentioning is Leber Jeweler Inc., which launched Earthwise in 1999. They make fine jewelry from recycled platinum, gold, and palladium with fair-trade colored gemstones along with conflict-free Canadian diamonds.
3. Green Oro
Green Oro was started by Shiman and Boryana Farkas. They manufacture 100% recycled gold jewelry. This prevents the mining of gold ore. They are presently the leading manufacturer of recycled jewelry and suppliers to major eco-jewelry vendors in the United States. They also use conflict-free green diamonds. They even have a cash-for-gold exchange, which is something most jewelry companies do not offer.
The Power of the Pearl
If you are looking at gemstones and not actually entire companies, it should be pointed out that the most environmentally friendly gem is the pearl. As opposed to the atrocities that go on in diamond mining, pearl-farming is different.
A native species of pearl oyster is cultivated in a basket or net. Most of the pearl farms are in the Pacific Ocean, which has the most diverse marine life of all oceans. However, there are many areas affected by coral reef degradation. Coral reefs are a main source of nutrients for the pearl, producing oysters along with being a home for many fish and several other organisms that play a pertinent role in the health of oysters.
So, in order for the oyster to be able to produce the desired pearl, the marine life also has to be kept very intact. Once the oyster produces a pearl, the abductor muscle is often eaten and the shell is used to make furniture, other jewelry, or buttons. Pearl farming is highly environmentally friendly.
4. Real Wings
If you are looking for more high-fashion jewelry and not diamonds or precious metals a good company (the fourth company) is Real Wings. They make jewelry out of butterfly wings. The butterflies live out their natural lives and are not killed to make jewelry. They come from farms which work in cooperation with rain forest and wildlife conservation efforts. The way the company is helping the environment is by financially supporting the conservation of different butterfly species and different ecosystems.
5. Green Products and Gifts
If you are into jewelry made from recycled materials, Green Products and Gifts is a good company. All of the jewelry they make is hand-made in the United States and made out of a variety of recycled glass bottles and sterling silver. They also use silver-plated silverware to create spoon jewelry and recycled scrabble tiles to make pendants. Recycled records are used to make earrings. They sell many environmentally friendly and/or recycled products that would be great for gifts for other people due to the high level of originality. Or, you might purchase one or more of these artistic items for yourself! When purchasing items made from recycled materials, you are helping to protect and preserve the environment.
6. 31 Bits
31 Bits is a company based in Southern California that turns recycled paper into colorful jewelry. The company finances a fair and consistent paycheck for over one hundred displaced women in Northern Uganda. One-third of those women are H.I.V. positive.
The business model that is set up empowers women and cares for them holistically through counseling, health education, finance training, and business mentoring. Upon five years of working for the company, a woman graduates from the program and owns her own business. They take the paper from posters, advertisements, and textbook pages to use to make jewelry. Then, they tear it into long strips, roll it not tight beads, and coat it in a water-based varnish. The beads are then used to make necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry.
Future Plans for 31 Bits
The company "Cangles" makes jewelry out of recycled aluminum cans. There is the same amount of energy in half a can of gasoline saved every time an aluminum can is recycled . Each piece of jewelry, hair clips, etc. is hand made in the United States. Not only that but a portion of what is made from the sale of the products goes to local charities: the community food bank, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Autism Speaks. Even the box that the jewelry purchase is mailed in is made of recycled materials.
8. Coral Covey
Coral Covey is a jewelry company that makes jewelry depicting marine life and other wildlife that is based out of Munich, Australia. They use 100% reclaimed sterling silver to make jewelry. The studio they make it in is powered by one hundred percent renewable gas and electricity, bought from Polarstem. The energy source comes with a hydro-electricity station east of Munich where wetlands have been developed allowing fish and other wildlife to pass through the river thereby making it good for animals and the planet. Even the packaging and paper used for their advertising comes from recycled boxes, recycled paper, and one hundred percent recycled cotton ribbon, and naturally dyed felt.
9. Fairly Adorned
I personally own several pieces of jewelry from the company Fairly Adorned. Instead of the horrible practices like what was seen in the movie Blood Diamond like murder, making children into soldiers, and using slave labor that are not only destructive to people but to the Earth as well, this company empowers the people of Africa as well as benefits their environment.
The person who owns the company uses three different kinds of beads: Kazuri beads, beads from Swaziland, and Pearls to Paper. The Kazuri beads started being created in the year of 1975 when Lady Susan Wood started a small business of bead making in her backyard with the hiring of two women. Realizing there were several other women who needed jobs, the "Kazuri beads" (Swahili meaning small and beautiful) were created right outside Nairobi, Kenya. By the year of 1988, it turned into a large workshop employing over 120 women. Now it employs over 400 women who are in need or mostly single mothers, widows, or disabled women.
The Kazuri beads are made out of clay from Mount Kenya area. The factory in which they are made is a social gathering place, offers free medical care, access to educational programs, and provides each woman with a wage that supports an extended family of twenty or more. The Kazuri beads are not only fair-trade certified but are also a member of the World Fair Trade Organization.
Other Beads Used by Fairly Adorned
The person running this company also uses beads that are made from recycled amber glass and tools like old typewriter keys and forks from Swaziland. The hand-made beads are made by twenty-five women who by making these beads are therefore able to provide for their families. The women in this group are members of S.W.I.F.T. (Swaziland International Fair Trade Association). Also, "Paper to Pearls" is another product sold by this company that uses beads from Northern Uganda the same as "31 Bits". Their website is: http://www.fairlyadorned.com .
We Share One World
In conclusion, what may appear to be a pretty ring or piece of jewelry may have been made from exploiting people as well as the Earth. We need to be very mindful of what we are buying as jewelry so that we are not destroying the Earth and its inhabitants. We must make every effort to avoid the exploitation of people, especially children, diamond and gold miners, the planet as a whole, and ourselves. "All that is gold does not glitter" is a very true statement. We must make good decisions for ourselves and for future generations to come.