Gold-mining can have devastating effects on the environment by contaminating water systems with arsenic, lead, mercury, petroleum byproducts, acids and cyanide, among other toxic waste. It is estimated that, collectively, mining companies around the world dump 180 million tonnes of toxic waste into rivers, lakes, streams and oceans annually, according to Earth Works. On average, a newly-mined gold ring alone creates 20 tons of waste. Meanwhile, a recycled ring creates almost zero waste and recycled and reclaimed metals eliminate a tremendous amount of new pollution and contaminated water.
Designers including Natalie Frigo are committed to using recycled metals and reclaimed materials in their collections in an effort to reduce waste and their environmental impact. For instance, the Small Daggers and Black Agate Earrings (above) are made from recycled brass and reclaimed black agate stones. When reclaimed materials are unavailable, Natalie sources conflict-free stones to ensure that "no person was forced to mine a stone in unsafe or illegal working conditions." All of their diamonds, are "individually tracked through their full chain of custody to ensure that ethical practices are used in mining, cutting and polishing. Ethically sourced goes beyond conflict-free; gemstones are delivered from mines that provide a living wage, ensure safe working conditions and protect the environment by limiting dangerous chemicals and developing plans for restoring the land after mining is complete."
In addition to shopping brands that use recycled metals and reclaimed materials, look for Fair-Mined Certified gold.