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What Jewelers Mean When They Say Green
How the jewelry industry is becoming a leader in green sourcing and manufacturing.


When people say “green” and “the environment” endlessly these days, they assume that everybody knows their definitions. But for jewelers and their suppliers, what does “being green” or “environmentally aware” really mean?

The answer, it turns out, is that more than almost any other industry, the jewelry industry is conscious of how heavily its processes impact people and the earth. The distinct green trends within it are like pieces of a mosaic that are just now being assembled. The portrait that’s emerging depicts a new sensibility among consumers and producers about jewelry in particular and life in general:

  • Consumers, younger ones especially, are asking more and more for “responsible” jewelry.
  • Some designers have been buying and manufacturing “green” for some time, but didn’t realize it until green recently became a general topic of discussion.
  • The industry is rapidly increasing its engagement in such eco-friendly practices as “fair trade,” “conflict free,” and “green gold.”
  • Certification is coming on at all levels, from ore and gems that meet fair trade requirements to refiners seeking third party validation to retailers presenting documentation to customers that the jewelry they’re selling has an honorable pedigree.
  • Recycling will soon extend to gems. For example, Hoover & Strong plans to begin selling diamonds that have been recycled from jewelry pieces that haven’t sold.
  • Local gemstones may become like the local food movement—jewelry will feature notable “pride of place” local gems that may not be available elsewhere.

DESIGNERS FIND THEIR OWN GREEN PATHS

Sometimes you can be green and not know it. In late November, jewelry designer Jessica Fields sent out an e-mail blast to customers and colleagues announcing, “Jessica Fields Goes Green!” Although the announcement was the first time that New Jersey-based Fields had ever mentioned green, she had been using eco-friendly gold for a considerable time, as well as buying free trade gemstones and working with a diamond dealer who follows the Kimberley Process for acquiring conflict free diamonds. “I think my green sensitivity was always there and I don’t think the worldwide push to go green had that much of an effect on it,” she says.

In Minnesota, designer and custom jeweler Liz Bucheit had “always been green in the sense that I recycle gold to avoid messing with the earth. When green became big, I realized I had been green all along.” But Bucheit, who lives and works in an 800-person town that’s popular with artists and art tourists, says her customers have also helped her green awareness. “I do well with engagement jewelry and find that people 30 years and younger ask intelligent and concise questions about the origins of the materials I use. They’re a sophisticated clientele, and selling jewelry is almost like having an audition with them. Can we disclose where we got our diamonds? What’s the source of our gold?”

For Washington, D.C.-based designer Alberto Parada, “thinking green” began in 2006 when clients came to him asking about eco-friendly pieces. “They may not have quite known what they had in mind when they made the request, but they’d often refer to things like renewable bamboo floors as examples,” says Parada. “So I started doing research on mining practices and other aspects of producing eco-friendly jewelry. How did miners extract metals and treat their workers? Where did gems come from? Did they have conflict free origins and involve fair trade? Then I looked for manufacturers I could visit to see their recycling processes.”

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hand-carved drusy quartz leaves and pearls created using silver wire

“Autumnal Tiara” with hand-carved drusy quartz leaves and pearls created using silver wire made from scrap, poured into ingots, put through the rolling mill, and drawn into wire, then forged. The design is by Liz Bucheit of Crown Trout Jewelers, (888) 750-9294, www.crowntrout.com.

cuff bracelet

“Noah’s Heart” cuff bracelet by DeAnna Cochran, hand carved and hand formed in reclaimed fine .999 silver with conflict free rough cut diamonds, suggested retail $700, (214) 334-6461, www.deannacochranjewelry.com. Sales from the Noah’s Heart collection benefit MD Anderson’s Pediatric Cancer Research.

Hand-forged silver cuff with a cast fern leaf by Stephan Hoglund, suggested retail $395, (218) 387-1752, www.stephanhoglund.com.

“Alma” rings in tricolor Harmony 18k gold with fair trade concave cushion cut citrine and amethyst in high bezels by Alberto Parada Jewelry, suggested retail $1,800, (202) 333-5575, www.albertoparada.com.

collection in 14k reclaimed gold, conflict free diamonds

Dené Jewelry’s “True Colors” collection in 14k reclaimed gold, conflict free diamonds, and fair trade sourced garnet, peridot, blue topaz, citrine and sapphire, and amethyst, suggested retail $2,000, (800) 577-3363, www.denedesign.com.

Tsavorite and 18k gold pendant

Tsavorite and 18k gold pendant, suggested retail $1,190, and diamond and tsavorite pendant, suggested retail $1,350, by Rhonda Faber Green from the limited edition “Green for Green” collection to benefit the Alliance for Climate Protection, (310) 858-8688, www.rhondafabergreen.com.