There's a lot of guilt-free jewelry around if you shop carefully. But what if you like to string your own beads and sculpt your own pendants? Here are some green supplies for making jewelry. I'm almost too late for Valentine's Day, but keep this in mind next time you're stringing beads or bending wire for your beloved (chow on happy chocolate here).
The Beaded Needle, the best source of links I've found on this subject, advises buying beads manufactured in the U.S., Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Japan because "all of these countries protect their workers." Glass beads from India or China? A big no-no (U.S. furnace glass artists such as David Christensen: yes, yes.). Yet even the popular Fire Mountain Gems fails to protect Chinese workers from fatal silicosis, says the L.A. Times. Insert comment here about how beauty shouldn't kill. After I received Fire Mountain's giant recycled paper catalog, which contains all sorts of information about the company's do-good deeds around breast cancer and so on, I e-mailed them asking about the eco- and human-friendliness of its goods. Two weeks later, haven't heard back.
On the shinier side, look for Karen Hill tribe silver (also sold by Fire Mountain , Shiana, and Nina Designs), Ands' Bali beads, or Rishashay's Fair Trade Federation-approved Indonesian sterling--rather than from random, unregulated sources. Ethical Metalsmiths want to work with silver untarnished by eco-violations.
Rings & Things sells some 20,000 items online or in a 300-page catalog, and the owner told Beaded Needle that the stone cutters he visited seemed ethical enough. The family-owned A Grain of Sand says it handpicks stones and silver.
When dealing with Swarovski and other high-quality crystal, don't chew on the beads or uh...stud a goblet or silver platter with them, since they contain lead. You might want to wash your hands after handling beads, chains and filings. Some beads are dyed, heated, and irradiated. A reputable supplier should label their goods accordingly as the FTC demands.
Don't worry about quartz crystal, though, since that's so natural that it can be shaped make sweet music (beware soundtrack) and bring out your inner shaman. Kacha's Celtic crystals are hand-mined. Earthly Gems says it cares about ethical sourcing. You can buy Discount Crystals NOW! at Healing Crystals, where they pray for your order but don't guarantee how the rocks were mined. Just don't let someone turn those crystals against you to control your mind...ohhh. I'm sure that isn't the case for Chrissy White's hardcore healing crystal jewelry, which she's shown at U.K. eco-design fairs.
Ethical Beads has some more good links to sustainable jewelry-making supplies. And once again, vintage beads are always a safe bet. Try Earthly Adornments or New York Vintage Beads or the Beadin' Path or A Grain of Sand or Bruce Frank or or go to a flea market that's not in San Francisco, where they try to charge you $20 for half a set of rhinestone, apple-shaped earrings and a rusted fake pearl choker.
Find out more about lab-grown diamonds here.
Other ready-made stuff: Purchases of Rainforest Native jewelry send money toward rainforest conservation. They even sell a grippy massage tool made from rainforest ivory instead of yucky plastics. The Palma Collection has more nice rainforest ivory earrings (left) and necklaces. Sustento sells bracelets of buttons.