Some Thoughts On Dirty Gold

I decided to address this issue here because we are all wishing and calling for honesty and transparency from our fellow humans.

Sandy and I stand for, in our hearts and our business, the creation of symbolically meaningful jewelry that will last for generations. Your grandkids may melt it down, but that’s their choice. The point is that our jewelry will last that long and we hope that if you buy something from us it will be meaningful enough for you to wear it.

Onto some facts…

Environmental and Human Costs

“Because most of the known gold deposits in the world are in microscopic form, the shiny nuggets of old are as dated as the miner and his mule huge industrial open-pit mines, usually using cyanide to retrieve the metal from base rock, are required to make mining economically viable. link

“Gold mining, too, bears the scars of conflict, destruction, and human rights abuse. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, armed groups fighting for control of gold mines and trading routes have committed murderous crimes using the profits from gold to fund their activities and buy weapons.” No Dirty Gold , “Gold Mining and Conflict”

Due to activist pressure, alternatives to cyanide are being sought. “Mr. Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman, has tried to stay ahead of the controversy. He has broken new ground by buying Tiffany’s gold from a mine in Utah that does not use cyanide.” No Dirty Gold website

If you’d like to learn more about these options and the metals extraction process itself, click here.

Demand for gold and other precious metal jewelry climbs as people around the world make more money.

“In the Middle East, demand for gold rose 7.5% last year [in 2004] while demand for jewellery grew 12% and 16% in China and India respectively.” link

Precious metals are still being mined here in the US, though pressures from environmental lobbies and frightened residents may drive more mining to less developed nations.

Thanks to some organizations that are raising awareness, the jewelry industry as a whole is recognizing that they must address this issue. As a result, several national and international organizations have been created to design standards of conduct for the industry, from mining, to refining, to wholesale and retail. This may seem to be trifling, but the industry will work to secure it’s piece of the economy.

The “No Dirty Gold” campaign was launched 2 years ago by advocacy groups to highlight these issues.”But cleaning up dirty gold mining is not just a public relations exercise. It’s about making concrete, on-the-ground changes in the way that this metal is produced–changes that make a tangible difference to communities and ecosystems affected by mining operations.” No Dirty Gold Website

The Golden Rules call on mining companies to meet the following basic standards in their operations :

* Respect for basic human rights outlined in international conventions and law

* Free, prior, and informed consent of affected communities.

* Safe working conditions

* Respect for workers’ rights and labor standards (including the eight core ILO conventions)

* Ensure that operations are not located in areas of armed or militarized conflict

* Ensure that projects do not force communities off their lands.

* No dumping of mine wastes into the ocean, rivers, lakes, or streams

* Ensure that projects are not located in protected areas, fragile ecosystems or other areas of high conservation or ecological value

* Ensure that projects do not generate sulfuric acid in perpetuity

* Cover all costs of closing down and cleaning up mine sites

* Fully disclose information about social and environmental effects of projects

* Allow independent verification of the above

UK Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices is attracting the membership of large American retailers.

From their site, “The Council for Responsible Jewellery Practices was founded in May 2005 with Members from a cross section of the diamond and gold jewellery supply chain, from mine to retail.

Council Members are committed to promoting responsible business practices in a transparent and accountable manner throughout the industry from mine to retail. Their commitment aims to maintain consumer confidence in diamond and gold jewellery products and the trust of all interested stakeholders in their industry.”

Our Practices: For the small shop bench jeweler, recycling is a commonplace aspect of the jewelry making process. Whether a jeweler casts or fabricates, metal filings and dust from polishing are as ubiquitous as dirt in a workshop. Sandy sweeps his bench and shop surfaces and floor with a special vacuum and sends these “sweeps” to be refined, or in other words, recycled. This amounts to a significant quantity of metals. Any jeweler who wants to not only recycle, but also not throw away a profitable natural resource does so.

He has also acquired an awful lot of used jewelry over the years which we also send to be refined and recycled. Many of our customers refashion jewelry that they’ve inherited. We can melt these pieces ourselves or send them out for refining and refashion them into new jewelry. If you’re interested in doing this just let us know.

In jewelry fabrication, metal is often cut into shapes from a larger sheet using various techniques. Obviously then, there remain significant quantities of unused odd-shaped pieces left over from projects. We have boxes of such material that we melt for casting.

Casting involves the creation of a “tree” to which the individual pieces are attached, as shown in the picture below.

jewelry casting

Everything but the rings can then be remelted and used for another casting. This is also a common practice. And, of course, we buy our materials from folks who are complying with new sound standards. Ditto for diamonds and other precious and non-precious gemstones.

The Bottom Line for us:

We all hope for continued prosperity for all people, and governments of industrialized nations demand this of less industrialized nations in exchange for helping programs. Yet, if we humans want to follow the Walmart and Target model, buying, buying, owning countless inexpensive and meaningless items, including jewelry, that we lose or forget about, then demand will continue to rise dramatically. This isn’t prosperity. It’s greed. And a kind of dull pacification. Makes me think of my grandma. She raised 9 kids by herself during the 30’s and 40’s and insisted on buying sheets and furniture and clothes that were expensive, because they lasted and were nicer.We can boost our immunity to advertising propaganda. And we don’t have to stop wearing jewelry.



Filed under art, mining

Mine Musings, Part I

Mining has been getting a bad rap lately. Terrorists with diamonds, nasty chemicals used, the greed of it all.

Sandy and I have been to the Reward Mine, directly east of Manzanar, south of Independence, CA, twice recently. It was originally called the Eclipse Mine, and later included the Brown Monster mine just one canyon over to the north. I learned online that it was so productive that a town called Reward with a post office (1900-1906) existed from 1860 to 1936 and served as a trading center for other mining operations in the Owens Valley.

So, I’ve been mulling over whether to write about mining for a while, not wanting to open up a can of worms relating to our business. But when I learned that all of the buildings at Reward have been pilfered, piece by piece, over time, it dawned on me that this part of American history is slowly vanishing. Yes, maybe the men who went after gold here were greedy and they used chemicals like cyanide to process the ore, BUT, until you’ve driven the dirt roads and have seen the incredibly inhospitable conditions these guys worked in – well, I guess it’s easy to dismiss as another set of bad human actions.

I think you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about if you take a look at some of our Flickr pics of the mine here.

I’m feeling a mission about this coming on, so this will be Part I.rm8small.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under mining

Arts Shows 2

What a weekend and beautiful show.

Draining work talking to folks all day long, keeping your energy and spirits up for 3 days. Sandy is a natural for this, though we’ve only done 2 shows in 2 years, compared to many more that he did in previous years.

Business was strange – usual for shows. I’m new to the scene, but have heard from lots of folks that it’s always hard to tell how it will go – fads, fashions and economics.

We can also walk away and hope that conversations about custom work and cards handed out will pan out.

Here’s Sandy setting up the first morning, having a little breakfast.


~ Lauren

Leave a comment

Filed under art

Arts Shows

Sandy’s been working like crazy this week preparing for the 37th Annual Mammoth Lakes Labor Day Festival of the Arts. Should be a lot of fun, with roving musicians, actors, clowns, stage shows, food and lots of art.


Leave a comment

Filed under art

Linking, Ranking and Google

While slogging through the thicket of info on blogging today, I found a great person and resource: Lorelle on WordPress. Many great pages on blogging, and specifically WordPress.

Along with the linking theme here, you may want to read this one: Secret Out – How Google Ranks Websites, by Lorelle on WordPress “. May be old news for some (from 2005), but… She explains in interesting and easy to read language the in’s and out’s of how Google manages to outwit the spammers. And she makes some more sense out of the queries in my 1st post.

The skinny:

Not the number of links (reciprocal or not), but rather the length of time you’ve been on the web with your domain name, AND…
A gradual (vs. constant or acute, i.e. spammers) number of changes in your website, including the addition of links.

Relevance in all your keywords and content.

How long folks stay on your site (click thru rates).


and, makes me wonder why I, and others, have been under a rock or something…


1 Comment

Filed under web

Internet and Imagination

I’ve been banging on Sandy’s Mountain Scene Jewelry website for 5 years now, reading, taking advice, updating, etc. What I have not done is much linking – a small links page for friends in business, 2 links on the home page that were required for reciprocity (stinky), and I’ve put us in a few link farms whenever I’ve stumbled across one that’s relevant and easy.

As we all know, linking is supposed to be the deal, pretty nearly the whole deal.

So, how are we (almost completely) making a living from web sales when I’ve ignored the issue?

The reason I started to blog – finally – is to explore this idea.

First, we live well within our means, usually, and in a place where it’s not easy to go shopping and spend – a middle of nowhere.

Second, linking seems to be secondary to defining your niche well and making all your coding/content relevant and redundant.

Third, and most interestingly, is that folks find us. This is wild because I’ve been yapping about our unique marketing problem: no one knows that mountain jewelry exists. I’m not a marketer or business person by inclination or training, so this has been like an insurmountable wall for me. I search for relevant info (hard) and refuse to implement the ideas I do find (easy).

So how is this working?

I encouraged Sandy to ask our clients. The essence of their answers – imagination and desire.

This got me thinking of the Internet as similar to the time when medieval map makers symbolized uncharted territory with dragons and scary monsters. Sort of. Yes, there are many capable and imaginative folks working to create/understand the architecture, the network structure and dynamics and the extent of the net. And only a set of folks see scary stuff along the edges (or the middle, or everywhere, depending on their general fear level).

It’s the uncharted territory idea that I’m going for. Anything could be out there in cyberspace, and our clients are like explorers. This is phenomenal. If you’re a client reading this – cheers to you and your way of thinking!


1 Comment

Filed under web