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From Our Workbench- Diamond Halo

Pt1.28BezDiaEngDSC_0105LRSimply graceful. A 100% conflict-free Canadian diamond surrounded by a sparkling halo of more Canadian diamonds and set in a recycled platinum handcrafted setting made here in our Chicago workshop.

She’s sure to say “I do!”

The Voice of a Small-Scale Miner

ChikomeniWe’ve long worked with small-scale gem mining projects that help support Malawi. In fact, if you asked me to name the poster child for best practices in this sector, I’d point to my friend’s years of tireless leadership effort in this African nation’s gem mining sector.

The miners who are the first rung of the global supply chain frequently lack the opportunity to express their concerns. As is often the case, it is the big corporations, government officials, and other entities making autonomous policy decisions that directly affect the miners’ lives without any input from those most affected.

Chikomeni Manda is one of those miners and we wanted to offer a platform to share his thoughts and experiences of mining in Mzimba, in northern Malawi. In part:

“Small scale mining…offers a greater opportunity for direct and indirect job creation, especially in rural areas. At the micro level, revenues generated from these mining activities increases local purchasing power as well as the demand for local products. Therefore mining gives hope for rural growth and economic empowerment.”

We share this view and will continue our work both in Washington DC as well as internationally to help miners like Chikomeni have a voice in what should be a democratic process related to how natural resources like gemstones can best benefit a country’s citizenry. We will also continue our decades long efforts working to create and support gemstone social responsibility standards that are equitable and beneficial to all.

December’s Birthstone- Blue Zircon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe love blue zircon. It’s pretty. It sparkles more than diamond. And it’s very affordable for a natural gemstone.

While we will gladly set this month’s birthstone in any of our Earthwise Jewelry settings, we feel that our Ursula ring, offset with Canadian diamonds, is a great setting for this steely blue fair trade gem.

Available in recycled platinum, palladium, white or yellow gold.

Illinois has been Fracked

oil_gas_tests“Fracking is not a bridge to the future. It is a plank on which we walk blindfolded at the point of a sword. There is no right way to do it. And the pirates are not our friends.”  -Sandra Steingraber  the author of Living Downstream.

As with all bad or unpopular news, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources quietly released the rules that now allow energy companies to now begin applying for permits to drill for oil and gas using a controversial method called “fracking” that injects water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale rock.

Based on the rules, it looks like they were written by industry lobbyists. As highlighted by the Chicago Tribune:

-The law requires drillers who want to flare or burn excess gas to explain why it is “economically unfeasible” to capture the gas. Specific criteria for determining whether a company has proved economic unfeasibility have been eliminated in the final draft.

-Criteria for assessing whether a permit applicant’s water source management plan attempts to conserve water to the “maximum extent feasible” also have been eliminated from the regulations.

-A clause in the rules that gave IDNR authority to force drilling operations to move farther away than the law required in certain situations has been eliminated in the final rules. For instance, that authority might come into play near a playground or a school building.

-The final rules scale back regulation of radioactivity contamination. The issue was addressed at length in an earlier draft of the rules.

We stand with the people of Southern Illinois who are going to be most effected by this environmentally unsound drilling practice and who continue to resist this hostile takeover of our natural resources by Big Industry. For more information, go to Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment. The next community fracked may be yours.

 

Carrots or karats?

Stephen Yeboah_200A new study has examined whether artisanal gold mining really is a “sustainable” option and if farmers (in this case, cocoa farmers in Ghana) should be giving up their fields to pursue the quest for gold.

Through our consulting work with local villages in developing nations, we’ve often suggested that many communities are better served by focusing on truly sustainable activities like farming or beekeeping or other endeavors that do not permanently scar the earth. While the appeal for quick riches from gold mining can be tempting, the costs are often too high and the long term benefits are often too low. This new study seems to support our thinking.

The researcher, Stephen Yeboah, who is currently a Research Fellow at the Africa Progress Panel, a non-profit organization chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, concluded that “although ASM (artisanal and small-scale mining) provides an additional source of income for some farmers, it is more of a complementary activity rather than a complete substitute for farming. The costs far outweigh the benefits ASM provides to these communities. ASM affects land and farms too often with little or no compensation. The majority (90 per cent) of farmers sampled in the district indicated that compensation is not adequate to mitigate the cost of the permanent loss of lands.”

The truth is, gold mining is not sustainable nor is it the best hope for many small communities, no matter what its proponents may tell you. At Leber Jeweler, we offer 100% recycled gold exclusively as a way to ensure no hard rock mining is done to procure the precious metal in our Earthwise Jewelry and we are pleased the Ghanaian farmers recognize their future is not paved with gold, but with soil.

 

She said “Yes!”

SheSaidYes

We love to hear what happens after our engagement rings leave our store, ready for the big moment. In the case of Ian and Jill, it happened at Niagara Falls!

Being a small company, we like the fact we have one-on-one relationships with our customers and like to know that we’re a small part of a very big step in couples’ lives together.

So send us your pictures and stay in touch! And congratulations to Ian and Jill! Check out our Facebook page for a picture of the happy couple.

 

Remembering an Activist

WVThis post isn’t about jewelry. It’s about remembering the life of an ordinary citizen who helped change so very much. Most people have never heard of James “Jimmy” Weekley, of Blair, West Virginia, who died last week at the age of 74. But Mr. Weekley was the kind of activist we admire most.

Mr. Weekley was one of the lead plantiffs in the first major court case to challenge mountaintop removal mining. He was one of a small handful of dedicated citizens who put a lot on the line to try to take a stand against Big Mining in an effort to protect their community and the land. 

A 1998 story from the West Virginia Gazette sums things up nicely when it describes Mr. Weekley taking two coal mining executives on a tour of the area around his home.

At times, the group walked along the creek in areas Arch Coal plans to bury under a valley fill.

“Look around you, sir,” Weekley said. “Look at how beautiful it is.”

Just a few hundred feet up the hollow from Weekley’s house, his 84-year-old mother, Sylvia, sat on the porch of her own home. “This is her homeplace,” Weekley said. “I was born here.”

“When you come in here and do this, all I’m going to have left are memories,” Weekley said. “Money can’t buy my memories. Look at all the species of trees and plants that are going to be destroyed. Why? Why? Why?”

Gardner said, “The reason, Mr. Weekley, is that we have a resource that is valuable and that the market wants. That is coal.”

Rest in peace Mr. Weekley. You made a difference.

 

What Is The Right Thing To Do?

WendellBerry“We do not have a right to ask if what we do will succeed or not, the only question we have a right to ask is what is the right thing to do. ” – Wendell Berry

Happy birthday Mr. Berry!

From Our Workbench- Ivy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve always liked our classic Ivy. Inspired by nature with an organically shaped shank with vine-like details, we also offer a version with small Canadian diamonds set on the sides to make this ring extra special.

Perfect for a diamond or any colored stone you wish. Perhaps something green like this beautiful peridot to celebrate summer?

Available in white gold, yellow gold, platinum or palladium.

Mining Company Sues to Protect their Right to Despoil Nature

salmonThe US Environmental Protection Agency has announced proposed restrictions that would essentially block a potentially damaging gold and copper mine in Alaska. In what sounds like a story from The Onion, Pebble Limited Partnership, along with the state of Alaska, are now suing the EPA.

According to EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran, “mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems. Bristol Bay’s exceptional fisheries deserve exceptional protection.”

But that hasn’t deterred the company behind this proposed mine which, if allowed to proceed, would be the largest open pit ever built in North America, reaching a depth that rivals that of the Grand Canyon at nearly a mile. Based on conservative standards, mining would mean the loss of at least 5 miles of streams with documented salmon or loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds that connect to salmon-bearing streams or tributaries of those streams.

And that’s a best case scenario assuming there won’t be an accident.

We’ll see how this plays out in court. Right now, opposition to the mine is strong but the company behind the project sees a significant profit to be made from this venture, so they plan to fight. Beginning Monday, the EPA will begin taking public comment regarding their proposal. Rest assured, we’ll be continuing our efforts in support of the EPA measure.