How to be Ecologically and Ethically Aware When Buying Jewelry

Jeweltree FoundationAre you concerned about the effect that consumer demand for gold and new jewelry is having on our environment?

Here’s a guide to shopping for jewelry in a way that won’t harm our world:

Why has demand for jewelry increased?

We live in a consumer based society, where demand for the new has never been higher.

In the past, the average person’s jewelry collection might have been limited to a few special pieces, like a wedding ring and watch, but these days it’s common to have multiple items.


Constantly shifting trends and cheap credit means people are buying new jewelry like never before. Especially as the price of gold continues to rise and consumers see gold jewelry and precious stones as a safe investment, as well as a style choice. 
But there are consequences to this increased demand for precious metals and stones. 

What happens when gold is mined?

To put things into perspective, you need to understand that to end up with just one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul away 30 tons of rock, which they then sprinkle it with diluted cyanide to separate the gold from the rock. At some of the largest mines, workers move half a million tons of earth a day! 

Why should you be worried?

As you can imagine, this kind of scale of gold mining can put enormous strain on the environment, in just some of the following ways:
1.  Erosion – Soil can be eroded, creating sinkholes and huge holes in the landscape, changing the way our world looks and functions. The Sacramento River Valley in California is an example of this. 
2.  Pollution – From 1985 to 2000, more than a dozen reservoirs containing cyanide-laden mine waste collapsed – in 2000 in Romania mine waste spilled into the Danube River, killing more than a thousand tons of fish.
3.  Extinction – Areas rich in biodiversity, such as many rainforests in Papua New Guinea, have been destroyed, harming the global environment and leading to the loss of many species of animals and plants forever. 
4.  Exploitation – In developing countries, indigenous people have been paid very little to work in dangerous, life threatening situations to mine gold and precious stones. Much work has been done to try and halt this, but there are still incidences where unscrupulous companies don’t look after their workers. 

What can you do? 

There’s a lot of work to be done on improving the way we mine gold, but this isn’t something consumers can have much direct impact on. What you can do is make sure you buy your jewelry ethically and stop buying items from companies who can’t vouch that the origins of their gold are ethically and environmentally sound.
Make sure you ask where the precious metals and stones in the jewelry you’d like to buy came from. All reputable websites and stores will make this information readily available to you. If it isn’t immediately obvious, don’t be afraid to ask.
 “It is absolutely possible to buy ethically sourced precious metals and stones,” says jewelry expert Jana from “Many jewelry companies use accredited suppliers who are continually buying back and recycling scrap metal, thus helping to create more environmentally friendly jewelry. 
“If you’re at all concerned about the origins of your jewelry make sure you ask you jeweler about this. My jewelry company works with the Jeweltree Foundation, a brilliant organization who supply metals which are 100% ethical & eco-friendly.”

How does the Jeweltree Foundation work?

1. The Jeweltree Foundation supports the Oro Verde Project in Colombia and Eco Andina in Argentina. Both guarantee ecologically mined precious metals and fair prices with premiums for the miners. 
2. There is no mercury or cyanide used in the mining process, no use of heavy machinery and thus no ecological disruption. 
3. Eco Andina also established a rehabilitation program for former silver miners that currently work the tailing in Bolivia.” 

What about upcycling jewelry you already have? 

 “This an excellent option for jewelry lovers with a conscience about the environment,” says Jana. “You can take an existing piece of jewelry and modify it to meet your own specifications. Some people like to change the jewelry themselves, or you can go to a jewelry professional who will look at the existing piece, ask what kind of jewelry you usually wear and your ideas on what the new piece of jewelry should look like. They will then produce a few sketches and mock-ups until they come up with the perfect design for you.

How does restyling or upcycling work?

Restyling jewelry involves melting down the old pieces (after testing that they are made from precious metal) and casting a bar of gold or silver. Any gem stones will be removed first, either to be reused later or to be returned to you. The jeweler will then mill out the bar cast from your old gold or silver and turn it into a new piece of jewelry, using goldsmithing techniques.
Depending on what you had in the first place, your jewelry can be further customized to meet your specifications. Diamonds can be added to a piece for extra sparkle or a pendant could be converted into a ring or a pair of earrings. The sky’s the limit!  

What are the benefits of upcycling?  

1. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint. The more jewelry that is bought, the more companies will produce, increasing the carbon footprint. Reusing existing materials halts this cycle. 
2. Your upcycled item will be truly one of a kind and unique – you ever won’t see anyone else wearing the same thing. 
3. You’ll appreciate lost treasures. Over time, old jewelry or things we may have inherited can lose their appeal. Upcycling something you already have is a great way to make something wonderful you’ll wear every day, from an unloved or unwanted old item that’s been hidden away for years.
Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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