Louisa Pearson: Mining involves chemicals, none of which are romantic
WE HAVE previously established that an eco-friendly life need not be a glamour-free zone. Sadly, I am not evidence of this, sitting in old slippers, thermal socks and a stripey jumper my mum knitted. Did I mention the unkempt hair with about two inches of grey roots? That reminds me, I must call the hairdresser.
Moving on, it's 24 hours until Valentine's Day. Depending on your age and circumstances, the relevance of this annual love-in will vary. It could leave you perched at the letter box, hoping and praying at least one card will appear. Or perhaps you're just wondering whether can get away with an M&S meal deal rather than having to get dressed up and go out.
If you are still at the stage of your relationship where making an effort seems worth the effort, you're going to need a bit of sparkle. Even better, your other half might have been perusing jewellery shops to find the bit of bling that says "I love you"/"will you marry me?"/"thanks for putting up with me" (delete as applicable). But while it's relatively easy to find a box of fairly traded chocolates, ethical jewellery requires a bit more thought.
At its worst, the mining involves child labour, destruction of habitats and the use of chemicals like mercury, cyanide and arsenic. None of which are remotely romantic. The majority of diamonds we gaze at through shop windows have been certified via the Kimberley Process to ensure they're conflict-free, but ethical jewellers generally go further, ensuring traceability and trying to make sure miners are working in safe conditions and are paid a reasonable wage.
The launch of an official Fairtrade label for gold is imminent, whereas for silver, ethical jewellers either source it from mines they have confidence in, or they use recycled. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, good sources of info include the Alliance for Responsible Mining (www. communitymining.org) and No Dirty Gold (www.nodirtygold.org).
The good news is there is an increasing number of ethical jewellers making beautiful things you can enjoy wearing with a clear conscience. Scottish trailblazer Vivien Johnston is behind Fifi Bijoux (www.fifibijoux.com), and the company is very choosy about which mines it works with. It even operates a Trace Your Diamond service. I have my eye on a silver pendant and will be taking direct action to purchase it rather than spending long, fruitless days dropping heavy hints to Mr Green.
Other ethical jewellers include Cred (www.credjewellery.com), Made (www.adili.com) and Oria (www.oriajewllery.co.uk), whose owl pendant has also been batting its eyelashes in my direction.
As with clothing, the other option is to go for antique or recycled jewellery. There are some really interesting makers out there – the splendidly named Hairy Growler Jewellery (www.hairygrowler.co.uk), for example, makes whimsical pieces out of old cutlery – the fork bangle is particularly eye-catching. It reminds me of my ill-fated time on a silversmithing course. Three weeks in I'd produced a misshapen circle of metal with edges so sharp it would lacerate wood, metal and, most worryingly, flesh. Sometimes it's best to leave these things to the professionals.
This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 13 February, 2011
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