I'm not big on jewelry. Note the $2 tin ring that I bought in Cozumel in high school my first trip out of North America. Other than that, I'll wear pieces that were worn or given by people I love.
But after a recent visit to an Oak Park, IL, bead store and the splurge it provoked, I'm left with hundreds of dollars' worth of unstrung Czech glass, Swarovski crystal, silver, wooden, dyed coral, wannabe pearl, jade, and vintage mid-century plastic beads, plus the wire and sterling clasps. I even spent a full day exploiting the worskhop table at an SF bead shop, crafting necklaces for my cousins for Christmas. While I waited two hours for a jump after my Zipcar battery died another day, I kept popping back into General Bead down the street, where the shopkeepers' rainbow hairdos match the beads.
But how sustainable is this jewelry hobby? For example, Swarovski crystals are supposed to be the best because of their high lead content, which sounds not so good, but how bad could it be? Are dyed beads a bad idea? Shoud you leave coral alone? Vintage jewelry is always a safe bet--best if you're lucky to get it handed down from family and friends. If you want to make your own pieces, you can buy box lots of broken pieces at estate auctions and yard sales. I'll be looking into the eco-friendliness of the ingredients you'll find at bead shops. In the meantime, here's the prettiest and greenest jewelry I've found:
You can see sunsets in the jasper and wear ancient history with the dinosaur bone fossils within Kirsten Muenster's strikingly modern, one-of-a-kind necklaces (left, above), rings, and bracelets. Lucina uses fair trade beads, such as Colombian red choclo seeds and vegetarian ivory, which add an earthy touch to the company's elegant, sparse pieces. How about an espresso pearl bracelet (below, right)? I also like 19 Moons' funky brooches (above, right), bracelets, and picture pendants, which embrace imagery from the Victorian and atomic eras. K. talis's North Carolina maker keeps old-fashioned, protective talismans in mind (right) when crafting wearable art from lost keys, shoe buckles, and other detritus. Viva Terra sells nice green jewelry, housewares, and other stuff. Vik Jewelry's fun Indio collection sources materials from Brazil, including dyed acai seeds (left) and feathers. Yvette Doss hand-crafts pendants (right) with semi-precious stones and recycled doodads such as Mexican milagros for her Yew Tree necklaces. By the Sea Jewelry uses softened sea glass in teal, seafoam, cherry and other hues. My favorite necklace pendant was a thousand year-old Roman coin I picked up in Jerusalem, but beware of looted and fake antiquities.
At the Green Festival, Moonrise Jewelry sold beautiful necklaces with real orchid pendants (left) dipped in resin. Vortex Green Jewelry's artists design pieces with lots of recycled beads. They also guide tours of Sedona, Arizona. Motherboard Inc.'s cufflinks are the ultimate accessory for the nerd who is taking over the world. Castaway's bold wood, leather, and horn designs aren't for the faint of heart--but you'd never know that these mature pieces are all sourced from castoff materials.
People make jewelry out of practically anything--like bike chains, gumball charms, and vinyl records. Verde Jewelry makes use of Timber Bamboo and vintage baubles (left). Transit tokens, dice, and Scrabble letters become cufflinks and rings thanks to tokens & coins(right). I used to glue quarters to my barrettes (don't ask). Japan's Harvest even sells jewelry made from old skateboards--supposedly. That part of the site is under construction. Israel's Ayala Bar costume jewelry involves lots of recycled goods. If you're making jewelry and need a sustainable silver source, Cloth of the Gods from Yellow Springs, OH (the original Twilight Zone) sells silver beads and more from tribes in Thailand.
Making a commitment? Skip the blood diamonds and the greed-gold. Brilliant Earth offers a line of fair trade, conflict-free diamonds. Sumiche Jewelry, fair-trade certified, is the work of an Oregon couple, Susan and Michelle. Leber's Earthwise Jewelry makes use of Canadian diamonds and fair trade ingredients. Green Karat sells engagement-ready, ecologically-sensible stuff (left). The Ringworks Studio in Puget Sound focuses on conflict-free gold as well as diamonds. Rather knock on wood than rocks? You could get a custom-crafted wooden ring made in Vancouver with all sorts of sustainbly-harvested trees such as cherry, the tree of the heart, or pine, which represents peace. Steve Wiser of Wiser Jewelry crafts pendants, engagement rings, and other 18 karat golden things from recycled gold in a Washington state studio that will soon be solar-powered.
Major jewelry sellers such as Tiffany & Co., and even Zales are signing on to support less brutal ways of mining precious gems and metals (Find out more from the Council for Responsible Jewellry Practices.). That won't stop companies' brutal marketing campaigns that shove diamonds in our faces. I couldn't think of a much emptier symbol of enduring love than a colorless cut rock. How about a blue sapphire instead?
Don't ask how I sat through this movie, but the guy character in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" dreams up an ad campaign for diamonds with the tagline, "Go frost yourself." No mention of blood diamonds there. Indeed, you'd have to have frost in your heart to treasure some ritzy rock that people across the world lost their limbs to bring you.