Gold. Silver. Diamonds. These are some of the most coveted materials on Earth. Whether it is the luscious texture of a gold ring, the silky shine of a silver necklace or the fiery sparkle of diamonds, precious metals and gemstones have always fascinated people. But we have gotten so accustomed to wanting jewelry that we have stopped thinking about what it takes to have it.
I want you to stop for a moment and just imagine. You have, probably, seen the image of Earth from space with its misty blue waters and rough patches of earth and vegetation. But what those images don’t show are the scars on our Planet. If we were to be able to photograph those scars, you wouldn’t see a fairy-like imagine any more. You would see a beautiful painting whose canvass is torn in thousands of places. And under the canvass, peaking through the holes, there is only the pitch black of nothingness.
This is what the precious metals mining industry has done to our Planet.
Dynamite & Cyanide vs. Earth & Water
The gold mining industry is one of the most harmful ones. In order to remove the gold-bearing rock from the Earth, people have to use dynamite. If the gold ore is buried deep beneath the surface, narrow and deep channels are created. Afterward, dynamite is inserted in these channels and the earth is literarily blown away. The interior of a gold mine is like a battlefield. Everywhere you look you can see the holes and the scars left by the explosions. And like every scar, they tend to affect the area around them as well.
If you think this is bad, then think about the next step. Once you scoop the gold-bearing rock out of the Earth, you need to isolate the pure gold through an extraction process. One of the most commonly used substances in this extraction process is cyanide. The problem is that, once the extraction is complete, the cyanide ends in the Earth’s surface and it poisons the underground waters. In Europe, one of the largest cyanide spills caused by the gold mining industry happened in Romania, back in 2000. Because the cyanide reached the Danube as well, which crosses several countries, it completely wiped out fish species and affected millions of people. The cyanide spill of 2000 has been called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl.
Waste & Carbon Emissions
26 tons of waste – the equivalent of 7 African elephants. This is the result of mining for a single gold ring. Now think about your jewelry collection and count your gold rings.
And what about diamonds? Mining for a simple one-carat diamonds, which means 0.2 grams, generates 57,000 grams of carbon emissions and uses 126 gallons of water. Besides the waste, there is also the aspect of ethics. The majority of diamonds come from conflict zones and are sources of conflict. Entire communities live in poverty, terror and torture so that we can adorn our fingers and earlobes with diamonds. Just watch Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio to understand the effects of diamond mining.
Should we give up jewelry?
No. Just the bad practices. You have probably heard of the slow fashion movement when it comes to buying clothes. The principle is quite simple. To solve the problem of underpaid labor in developing countries and harmful chemicals used in growing cotton, for example, clothing brands have started to produce locally and use fabrics that are not harmful to the environment.
Now, the jewelry industry needs to follow that line. Thankfully, the change has started already. I have discovered a young & creative jewelry brand called Ana Luisa. If there were a term for slow fashion when it comes to jewelry, Ana Luisa would be the poster brand for this term.
By taking a simple look at their gorgeous jewelry collections, I have discovered that they use only 100% recycled gold and silver. Instead of continuing the process of scarring our Earth in search of gold and silver, Ana Luisa has chosen to breathe new life into existing gold. Not only do they use 100% recycled gold and thus reducing their impact on the environment but they are doing so without compromising the jewelry’s quality. I love the fact that, if I am wearing one of their gold hoops, I can also feel good about it.
Ana Luisa also has diamond jewelry but guess what? These are clean, lab-grown diamonds that have the same qualities as mined diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds have the exact same chemical composition, hardness and brilliance as mined diamonds. However, they don’t destroy our planet, don’t hurt communities in developing countries and are priced 35% less than their mined cousins.
The Future Is Ethical Jewelry
With brands like Ana Luisa out there, we can get hopeful. We don’t have to give up jewelry and we don’t have to continue hurting our planet in order to have jewelry. We just have to change our methods. By getting our jewelry from sustainable jewelry brands like Ana Luisa, we encourage other brands to change as well. By supporting these initiatives, we can actively contribute to the change that we want in our lives. And who knows? Years and years from now, that picture of Earth from space will not be a lie anymore. Cause maybe, just maybe, the scars would have finally healed.
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