An introduction to jewellery ethics
Yo it’s time to get real about ethically sourced gemstones and precious metals.
In some way, shape or form we each care about our planet, its inhabitants and ourselves. Making a choice to do better for our world and the creatures that exist in it has become as important as breathing, as we understand that all life is sacred and the fact that even one individual can have the power to make a change.
There is an issue that sits close to my heart as a vegan, an environmentalist and a jeweller, and that is the horrendous amount destruction to the environment and human rights issues involved in the mining industry. The process to attain materials used in our favourite adornments, gemstones – precious and non precious, and metals such gold and silver have disgusting repercussions that the mainstream jewellery industries pay millions of dollars to keep swept under the rug.
The image above illustrates pollution of ground and surface water from acid mine drainage and contaminated dust and soil from mine dumps, In South Africa this is an every day occurrence and has exposed the population living close to the mines and on the waste dumps to high concentrations of heavy metals and radiation.
Mainstream large scale mining has both endangered and disempowered the people involved and living in mining areas such as Mozambique, Kenya, Brazil and the demographic of Congo to name a few. Their countries leaders and governments have failed to address the adverse environmental and health effects of more than 130 years of gold, silver and gemstone mining, and its all because of one thing; demand.
Consumers want and they shall receive. Marketing is their favourite conditioning tool, we are told that ‘diamond’s are a girl’s best friend’ and that a man must spend four months of his salary on a diamond to proclaim his true love, and BAM! Diaaamonds are foreverrrrr.
I feel you would be interested to know that diamonds aren’t actually rare; yes they are one of the hardest materials on earth, but they are quite common. By holding them in backlog, the multi billion dollar diamond industry creates a frenzy about their fabricated scarcity.
Are you aware of their molecular structure or what they are made up of? Carbon. Yes, the same thing you learned to write with in the first grade. If you threw a carbon pencil into a hefty compressor for a while, out would pop a shiny conflict free diamond with a greater purity of one formed in the earth. (And that’s actually how cultured gemstones are made, but we will get to that another time) A majority of diamond, gold and even semi precious stones such as turquoise and ruby mining industries are directly correlated to multitudes of human right and environmental issues.
Enforcing child and slave labour, ravaging landscapes, contaminating water supplies and contributing cyanide, mercury, and 36 other toxic substances to the destruction of vital ecosystems.
Once mining sites are deemed useless the raw earth is left untouched, the deep holes bored out by acid and heavy machinery during the excavation process fill with excess putrid run off and rain water to form stagnant pools that are the prefect breeding ground for mosquitos. And alas, malaria is born and spread around neighbouring communities that have minimal means to treat patients.
Obviously there is such a thing called land restoration, though some governments and companies involved in large scale mining would prefer turning a blind eye to this crucial factor of rehabilitation with a bulky pocket of cash. Education surrounding these issues play a huge role in the problem, having cultural ‘work’ ethics ingrained for generations.
Gemstones and precious metals are also used as currency to fund gang wars, as the gemstones themselves are untraceable. If someone knew that the diamond ring on their finger helped support a 7 year old Kenyan boy being ripped away from his mother and fed cocaine, have a gun shoved in his tiny hands in order to fight a turf war; they would be outraged. Right?
We need to start spreading awareness and educating ourselves of the horrific practices that happen on this planet, unnecessary practices that we can change. I am sharing with you my knowledge and passion on this subject in hopes to create a platform for educated ethical jewellery and sustainably sourced materials, to help plant a seed of knowledge in those of you who believe in doing right and spreading awareness for the better.
There is such thing as ethically sourced and fair mined gemstones and metals, but we need to support these small industries so they become the norm. Like our food and clothes, we have to start questioning where the materials we adore actually come from. Creating a demand for a visible supply chain and ethically sourced materials really shouldn’t be that difficult.
So what can you do? Stop buying mass produced shit, educate yourself on issues that involve you (if you wear jewellery, this is your concern), support sustainable artists, talk to your friends, start asking questions. To the makers, the companies and corporations. ‘Where was this mined?’, ‘Was this ethically sourced’, ‘Does the mining company adhere to all environmental and human rights standards?’, ‘Have you seen the quality of the gem cutting facilities?’ If they don’t know, suggest that they find out. And let them know you wont be supporting them until they do.
This goes further than the extended jewellery industry, if we each implemented this philosophy into our every day lives as consumers, imagine the difference we could make. Have you seen that meme floating around, it says: ‘it’s just one straw; said seven billion people’? It is such a powerful statement as really makes you realise that as an individual, we have the power to make change simply by choosing where we lay our support with in the industry.
We put value on these things because they are beautiful and were formed naturally in the earth, though when you take a step back and think about the abhorrent process of destruction and blatant disregard for the environment involved in mining; does our love for our earth and its gifts extend really extent that far?
We have the privilege of education and the power to changed this fucked dynamic with in a billion dollar industry that takes advantage of our lack of knowledge and is tainted with corruption, endless environmental and human rights issues and gang wars. All we need to do is raise these questions to the mainstream platform and spare a small amount of energy keeping them in the spotlight, in hopes to make ethical jewellery practice and being ethically minded consumers a normality.
Lets do this