In my studio, I recycle precious metals and use eco-friendly chemicals when possible. And my acrylic comes from scrap and end cuts from a local plastic business. Ethical metalsmithing is important to me as a maker.
But what exactly is ethical metalsmithing?
To me, ethical metalsmithing means choosing socially and environmentally friendly metalsmithing practices. These include:
-recycling the metals I use
-using recycled or fairmined gold
-using responsibly sourced gemstones that are cut by fairly paid stonecutters
-opting for cultivated or reclaimed diamonds instead of mined diamonds
-supporting local businesses and services
-practicing eco-friendly studio methods
When I was still a student at the California College of the Arts, I learned from visiting artist Gabriel Craig that gold mining and the sourcing of precious gemstones such as diamonds can create ethical dilemmas for metalsmiths and consumers.
Something as small as a 18-karat gold wedding band can leave behind 20 tons of ore and waste rock. Gold mining also kickstarts chemical reactions, which result in acids or toxic chemicals that seep into the groundwater. Diamond mining, on the other hand, is less destructive than gold mining is but can lead to violent conflict and forced labor.
Everyday, we make choices as consumers, and our choices have lasting impacts. As both consumer and maker, I try to make choices that align with my beliefs. Although practicing ethical metalsmithing means spending more time researching suppliers, using slower processes, and spending more money on recycled metals and ethical gemstones, I believe it's worth it.