Be the Change

Over the past two days, I attended the Incorporation of Goldsmiths event “It’s in our hands - One Year On, Ethical Making Symposium.” I was inspired and a bit overwhelmed by the event. As a jeweller, I have to face the fact that jewellery is a dirty business. Precious metals and gemstones come at a cost to the environment and to the people that mine them. Personally, I feel it is my responsibility not to contribute to the problem. If I am not a part of the solution, then I am a part of the problem. I will go into some of the details of what I learned in future blogs, but in this blog I want to address what this means for me and my studio.

Some of the steps that I am going to be taking include:

Use only recycled silver.

Register with fair trade/fair mined and only use ft/fm gold.

Use responsibly sourced/fairtrade/recycled gemstones.

Use lead free enamels.

Minimize use of chemicals in the studio.

Increase my use of recycled/recyclable materials in packaging and promotion materials.

Responsible waste management.

I already do a lot of these things, but I learned lots of new tips for lessening my environmental and social impact throughout the symposium.

The preferred choice for precious metals is fairtrade, but sadly, because of how silver is mined, there is very little fairtrade silver available, so recycled silver is the best option for now.

Except for my initial classes, I have always used recycled silver in my jewellery making. Although it is a more expensive option, with my background as a biologist then as a development worker, it was important for me to incorporate my ethics into my jewellery practice. I have recently found a source of recycled chains and findings and although, again, it comes at a cost, I will now be using these exclusively. Many jewellers argue that 80% of silver is already recycled, so what is the point in using silver that costs more just to be able to call your work recycled. Buying silver that is certified 100% recycled is important to me because it is the greenest possible choice. There is no virgin silver involved, which means there is less impact on the ground whether it be on the people doing the mining or location where it is being mined. There is an element of trust involved. The people where I source my chains and findings assure me that the silver is recycled, but they cannot provide documentation. In the future I hope that as more and more jewellers demand recycled silver and auditable processes, these will fall into place and the entire system will become more transparent and traceable.

As for chemicals in the studio, I have recently switched from using “safety pickle,” which is in no way safe, to using food grade citric acid. Pickle is used to clean metals after working with them. I learned over the past two days that I was not disposing of it properly. Although the citric acid is safe, the heavy metal residue in the discarded pickle solution is toxic and cannot be poured down the drain. I will be looking into safer ways to dispose of the solution.

Although I already use recycled/recyclable materials in packaging and promotional material, I am going to be upping my game! I am investigating using vintage jewellery boxes instead of new ones, and for my parcels, I’m switching from using normal packing tape, which isn’t recyclable, to paper tape.

Coming up in future blogs – greenwashing, the social and environmental impacts of mining, gemstones, more green studio practices, and what you can do.

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