The art of adornment has been a fundamental piece of human culture since the dawn of time. Gold, being the most malleable of all metals, has been melted and molded for millennia, ornamenting everyone from royalty to gangster, from a queen’s crown to a crown in your molar.
Yet industrial extracting of gold from the earth is a proven ecological scourge. Large gold mines bring water-pollution, forest depletion and displacement of indigenous people. Experts estimate that the creation of just one average-size gold ring produces over 20 tons of waste material. Enter "eco-gold".
Eco-gold is an umbrella term, often referring to recycled gold (gold that has been melted down from jewelry and other sources). Also called “ethical gold”, this re-used gold is a key way to reduce the ecological footprint of your gold jewelry. Eco-jewelers simply ask us to be aware that the gold we buy has a legacy – a legacy that can be tarnished not only by earth-damaging mining process, but also by the labor conditions under which it is processed.
One such company, Green Karat, has developed a method of ranking jewelry with an "assay number", calculated by tracking the ecological characteristics at all levels of manufacturing. And Lucina focuses on the craftsmanship of local artisans in developing countries who use only fair-traded silver and gold in combination with seeds, woods and glass beads. Sumiche is worth a visit, too.
Note: gold is in such high demand that recycled materials alone cannot fulfill suppliers’ needs. The longer term solution is to source gold from artisan mines. Currently, artisan mines are plagued with problems regarding safety and the complications of poverty, but there are movements to bring sustainable practices and labor-enforcements.
Give up the gold? That’s not entirely necessary. But consider supplementing your jewelry collection with an exotic array of pieces that avoid precious metals altogether, such as the Palma collection, which features tagua nuts – “the ivory of vegetables” – created by master artisans of the Chilean coast.