All that glitters

Did you know that miners often have to move and crush 250 tons of earth to mine one ounce of gold – the amount typically required for one wedding ring? Did you know that an open pit gold mine uses 900,000 litres of water a day? Did you also know that 75% of all mining and exploration companies are based in Canada?

10K gold shepherd hook earrings $8 at MCC Abby East

It makes you look at your jewelry a little differently – at least it should. I don’t wear a ton of jewelry and a lot of what I have is what you’d call “costume” jewelry – stuff that isn’t made with precious stones or metals. I do appreciate things that glitter (I’m a little bit my mother’s daughter that way) but I am becoming more and more aware of the impact that mining metals and stones has on the environment and on communities and livelihoods of people where mines exist.

cool blue painted bracelet that my mom found for me. it's painted inside and outside

One way to satisfy your penchant for all that glitters is to mine your own family for heirlooms. I was impressed that William and Kate chose to do something a little different: Kate is wearing heirloom rings, Diana’s famous engagement ring and a wedding band given to William by the Queen. William has chosen not to wear a wedding band, which I thought was quite interesting. I’ve also noticed a lot of magazine articles and blogs focused on green weddings that encourage couples to consider either using family heirlooms or purchasing wedding rings that are ethically produced.

this beautiful silver cross necklace is from Finland. $10 MCC Abby East. (the roses from John for our 25th anniversary)

And of course, the other logical place to look for jewelry is your local thrift shop! You’ll have to mine through mostly junk and costume stuff to find a few precious items but at least this kind of mining doesn’t hurt the earth. I’ve had quite a bit of success at various thrift shops finding rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. All my watches are either hand-me-downs from my mom or purchased thrift. I usually try and make a stop at the jewelry counter before I leave a thrift shop, just to see if something will catch my eye.

I wear these two sterling silver rings every day. The larger filigree ring, $2 MCC Abby East. The smaller Celtic Knot ring, $7 Salvation Army New West.

You can learn more about mining justice here.

Great little watch with leather strap, $15 at the Thrift Jewelry booth at last year's MCC Festival

Have you found any treasures or trinkets at thrift shops? I’d love to hear about your treasures!

Update: May 7th. Today’s Vancouver Sun happens to have an article about fair-trade gold mining (Front of the G section) as part of its focus on the EPiC Sustainable Living Expo that’s happening here May 13-15. I learned that a jewelry maker is called an atelier and the one featured in the article is Hume Atelier, which sources all of its gold from artisanal miners. It’s not a perfect process yet but it’s a very good start. Check it out!

I’m linking to Apron Thrift Girl and Thrift Core today!

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3 Responses to All that glitters

  1. Brittany says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and well written post about the impacts of buying newly mined precious metals. We seem to hear more often about the human rights violations that go hand in hand with diamond mining in many African nations, but we don’t hear as much about the deleterious effects of mining gold and silver. I, too, have a preference for vintage jewelry and one of the two simple gold bands I have on at the moment are my “new” wedding band (if I were marrying today and not 12 years ago I would likely have made a different choice) and the wedding band worn by my great-grandmother. I find it interesting that so many designers are creating jewelry wedding with a vintage look to them…why not go for the real deal?

    • angelika says:

      I too might have made a different choice when we got married 25 years ago. Even information about diamond mining was non-existent back then. It’s great that folks have more information and choices now. How cool that you’re able to wear your great- grandmother’s wedding band!

  2. Van says:

    Love your thoughts on this! I don’t hunt for much jewelry, I go for unique and kitschy pieces instead (like faux gold boat necklaces? squids? octopuses?)

    I like heirloom and thrifted old pieces much better than anything you can buy retail, it has so much more character and usually, an interesting story to go with it.

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