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Green With Envy for Guiltless Gold and Unconflicted Gems

goldminewasteIf you saw the movie Blood Diamond or have heard the phrase ethical gold, you must be starting to wonder what’s going on in the world of jewelry. To put it simply, a small part of the industry is going green, and that has introduced a whole new lexicon to shopping for jewelry.

Diamonds have drawn perhaps the most attention because the gems are often mined in countries that are war zones and the proceeds of the sale of these stones finances insurgent or invading armies. These stones are called blood diamonds, conflict diamonds or war diamonds, as opposed to those mined in Canada, which refers to its mined stones as “conflict-free” diamonds. If you just want to buy your spouse a diamond necklace or a watch with diamond accents, you can see where this guilt thing is going. If you visit Diamond Facts, an industry-sponsored awareness program, they will tell you the United Nations backed boywithgunKimberly Process Certification has viturally eliminated trade in conflict diamonds, and that 99% of the world supplyis from sources free of conflict. They also tell you that 5 million people have access to healthcare thanks to diamond revenues, a fact that should make you feel better if it's reliable.

How about gold -- should you feel guilty about buying gold? No easy answer for that one. Environmentalists claim that gold mines have been devastating the environment on a massive scale, and suggest we all stop buying “dirty gold.” Oxfam America and Earthworks have a campaign called “No Dirty Gold” and they claim that a single wedding band is responsible for at least 20 tons of waste. Taking a page from the diamond industry trade groups, the gold producers are now trying to respond to the critics and take steps to ensure that their sourcing is more ethical.

goldbandFor some, the only ethical gold is recycled, which has opened up a market for earth-friendly jewelers such as Green Karat and Leber Jewelers. Both these companies have take a strong stance against gold or diamonds that are tainted by environmentally unsound practices or conflict issues. Green Karat notes that there is enough mined gold sitting around to meet the demands of the industry for the next 50 years, and most of it is unused jewelry gathering dust in bank vaults or forgotten in jewelry boxes.

It may be a small movement now, but the idea of going green when it comes to our luxury consumption may grow rapidly in the coming years. I like the idea of recycling gold and stones that are sitting unused and turning them into a symbol of second life luxuries, and it’s a good bet that others will want to think about it as an alternative to what we are doing on and to our planet now.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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