Saturday, February 23, 2008

Do you use coral in your work? Read this.

Pink and red corals are amazingly beautiful. They are also live marine creatures that are in serious decline around the world. Because of their brilliant color, certain types of sensitive corals are now harvested for jewelry (especially beads) and home decor pieces. It's ironic that we are literally loving the corals to death!

SeaWeb, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, recently launched the Too Precious to Wear Program to raise awareness of the severe threats, including over-harvesting and climate change, to certain species of coral. Tiffany & Co. has supported SeaWeb's work and stopped selling real coral altogether. We applaud SeaWeb, Tiffany and other retailers who have taken action and we're urging metalsmiths and jewelers to refrain from using real coral in their work.

Alternatives are available! You can use eco-friendly, "faux" alternatives to coral that are just as colorful as the real thing without contributing to the decline of these marine creatures and their ecosystems. Also consider using enamels and eco-friendly resins on metal to achieve deep pinks and reds. If you come across coral for sale -- particularly red and pink corals -- ask questions about the source. Tell the sellers that you are concerned about the environmental impact and urge them to read the Too Precious to Wear site.

Check it out: Exhibition at MoMA: Design and the Elastic Mind - Design - Review - New York Times

There's a very cool new exhibition at MoMA that features art, design and architecture that draws inspiration from detailed patterns and structures in nature rather than obvious organic forms. The exhibition runs through May 12. Here's the article, with images:

Design and the Elastic Mind - Design - Review - New York Times

U.S. Toxic Mining Pollution Increased in 2006 according to EPA Toxic Release Inventory

EPA released its most recent annual report (2006) on toxic pollution in the U.S. this week. Not such great news! --

The metals mining industry once again tops the list of the country's biggest toxic polluters. Unfortunately, the industry's 2006 emission level -- 1.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals -- increased 4 percent over 2005 releases. This is while most other industries' levels declined, due in part to less stringent reporting requirements by the Bush administration that went into effect in 2006 for smaller facilities.

Read the AP summary here:
The Associated Press: Industry's Toxic Chemicals Declined

You can check toxic releases by state and by industry on EPA's TRI page here.

A massive increase in toxic releases was reported from one mine in particular, a copper mine in Miami, Arizona. Phelps Dodge owned the mine in 2006, however the site was purchased last year by Freeport-McMoRan. This may not be good news if you're hoping for environmental improvement! Freeport has a less-than-stellar (read: near the bottom) corporate responsibility record, according to an in-depth report in the New York Times. Read here and here for articles on Freeport. Here is an article about the Arizona mine.

This is good reason to support reform of the General Mining Law of 1872! Please sign up for our mailing list to receive updates on how you can take action as Congress debates reform of the law this session and stay tuned....


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gold Fever! All Over Again

Here's an article by Elisabeth Malkin from today's New York Times about the effects of the dramatic rise in gold prices over the past couple of years. The article explains how employees of multinational mining companies have now gone out on their own to prospect in Mexico, backed by major capital from investors. We're worried that the rush has increasingly led to risky mining practices and is driving prospectors deeper into previously undeveloped territory in some countries, such as Brazil.

MAGUARICHIC, Mexico — In these mountains, where conquistadors once gouged gold from open veins in the mountainside, the hardened gold miner of film lore is giving way to a new breed of prospector: geologists and engineers, armed with sophisticated equipment and millions of investor dollars.

Largely American and Canadian, they toiled for global mining giants for years. But, now that the price of gold is near record highs, they are leaving their companies, raising capital to start their own prospecting start-ups and heading for Mexico. On Tuesday, an ounce of gold hit $929.30, up from $665 a year ago. Back in 1980, oil shock and economic gloom drove the price to $875 an ounce; that would be more than $2,000 today.

Retailers to hold mine to higher gold standards - Los Angeles Times

Major retailers Tiffany & Co, Helzberg Diamonds, Fortunoff, Leber Jeweler and Ben Bridge Jeweler announced last week that they publicly oppose the massive Pebble Mine in Alaska, recognizing that the sensitive and pristine Bristol Bay is the wrong place for a gold mine.

Last year, over 40 metalsmiths from the Ethical Metalsmiths network signed the Bristol Bay Pledge, registering their opposition to the proposed mine and pledging not to buy gold produced there.

The Pebble Mine -- proposed at the headwaters of the richest sockeye salmon fishery in the world -- would be in a terrible place. Toxic pollution from the mine could have tragic consequences for the watershed and salmon spawning grounds. Native groups and the salmon industry would also suffer. The majority of Alaskans are against the mine, which is a partnership between Northern Dynasty Minerals and Anglo American.

Read the full article here:

Retailers to hold mine to higher gold standards - Los Angeles Times

For a list of other organizations' and individuals' positions on the mine, read this.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Modern Jeweler

Here's an article by Marc Choyt of jewelry company Reflective Images on his impressions of the Ethical Jewelery Summit and its goals. EM played an instrumental role in planning and organizing the Summit (see earlier post).

Modern Jeweler

Marc has compiled many useful links and related information in his blog.

Thanks for the article, Marc!


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lasers Make Other Metals Look Like Gold - New York Times

This new process could have some very interesting applications in ethical jewelry sourcing (for instance, when used instead of plating, which can be a dirty process):

"In a feat of optical alchemy, Dr. Guo, a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, and Anatoliy Y. Vorobyev, a postdoctoral researcher, use ultrashort laser bursts to pockmark the surface of a metal in a way that is not perceptible to the touch — it still feels smooth to the finger — but that alters how the metal absorbs and reflects light.

The result is that pure aluminum looks like gold, and the appearance is literally skin deep.
'I cannot tell it’s not gold,' Dr. Guo said. 'It looks very pretty.'"

Check out the full article:
Lasers Make Other Metals Look Like Gold - New York Times