Beyond Bling

True Treasures Avert Eco-Harm

Done right, Valentine’s Day and gifts of jewelry go together like love and marriage. Those that have no desire to support the unsafe worker conditions, widespread price fixing and waste associated with gold mining, also linked to pollution, financing wars and terrorism, look for better options. They wish to have no part in underwriting standard ring-making practices which, according to the Worldwatch Institute, create tons of toxic mining waste that can persist for decades and enter the food chain. Happily, there are far more ethical choices.

Alternate routes. Among many sustainable and socially responsible options, jewelry made from recycled gold, silver and titanium plus synthetic gemstones is offered by GreenKarat ( while Brilliant Earth ( provides antiques and also custom makes or helps customers create their own treasured gifts utilizing minerals from pure sources; the company also donates 5 percent of its profits to support communities that have suffered from unethical industry practices.

Heirlooms. A son or grandson gifting a grandmother’s or mother’s cherished piece of jewelry to a spouse or girlfriend expresses a tradition of love and family connectivity, plus gives new life to precious items. Michelle Ercanbrack, a family historian at, recommends using a family-treasured diamond in a more modern setting or making a ring into a pendant. “Heirlooms link the present to the past—they are part of a family narrative that can increase the present generation’s sense of belonging and identity,” she says.

Native American jewelry. Deborah Nelson, owner of Silver Eagle Gallery, in Naples, Florida, and Highlands, North Carolina, attests that artful jewelry by Native Americans supports their culture and forges a connection to Americana with timeless appeal. Bracelets made by Navajo Indians incorporate turquoise pieces often linked together or set in mosaic form on a sterling band. Sterling silver and golden amber sunburst rings also make good gifts. “The handmade attention to detail is a stark contrast to what’s cast in a mold overseas,” says Nelson.

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