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Handcrafted Jewelry: Why Well-Made Matters

BenchEvery Earthwise Jewelry® piece is made here in Chicago in our workshop. Most companies can’t make that sort of claim. In the world of jewelry, the pride of craft has fallen by the wayside as every company seems focused on being the biggest not the best. So they shift their production “somewhere else.”

There’s too much outsourcing in the world. Big companies main focus is on making products as cheaply as possible because to them, profit eclipses pride in craft. So instead they spend their money on marketing an image rather than on simply paying skilled craftspeople to construct things that are well-made.

Perhaps this is an old-fashioned belief in this age of free trade and globalization. But as a business that has made jewelry in Chicago since 1921, every company president from my grandfather on down to me has known how to make jewelry with their own hands. How many jewelry CEOs can make that claim?

Pretty in Pink

DSC_0530Pink gold (aka “rose gold”) is becoming quite popular lately. The colored gold brings a touch of warmth and vintage feel to any ring. Combined with a design that echoes the early 20th century like this custom Earthwise Jewelry Canadian diamond engagement ring, we think this metal really sings.

At Leber Jeweler, we make all our pieces here in our Chicago workshop especially for each client we serve. If you want any of our designs in rose gold, just ask!

A River Runs…Orange

GoldKingMineGold mining. That’s to blame. In this case, a contractor, working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inadvertently let loose 3 million gallons of heavy metal-filled waste water that has turned the Animas River in Southern Colorado orange.

The Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, is one of a large number of abandoned small mines in the Upper Animas Basin that has long lain dormant after years of being used to abuse the earth to procure gold. Scientists say it’s the largest untreated mine drainage in the state. So work was necessary to clean up the mess. Mining companies and free-spirited miners have a long history of leaving disasters-in-waiting when their mining projects cease to be profitable. So it’s up to someone else to clean up their messes.

One water test from the spill showed lead levels 12,000 times greater than normal. The wastewater also contained extremely high levels of arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and mercury. All are byproducts of gold mining. 

According to our friends as Earthworks, there are roughly 500,000 similar mines in need of clean up.

Like I said, it’s not the fault of the contractor or the EPA, who have wanted to designate the area around Gold King Mine a Superfund site for clean up. Blame it on man’s endless thirst to mine for gold.

At Leber Jeweler Inc, we exclusively use 100% recycled gold in our Earthwise Jewelry. This stems the need for new hard rock mining to procure fresh metal. Enough damage has been done to the earth. Let’s use the gold we have, recycle it when we’re through and not repeat the errors of the past. Because if gold mining continues, the Gold King Mine spill will just be a precursor to many disasters yet to come.

Ma Su Su Pavé wedding set

_DSC3429One of our most popular designs is the Ma Su Su engagement ring. A simple, elegant setting that lays close to the finger. A great ring for someone with a more active lifestyle. Works wonderfully with either a Canadian diamond or a fair trade colored gemstone as the center stone.

When worn together with the Ma Su Su Pavé wedding band, you can be stylish and socially responsible in one felled swoop.


The Supreme Court Has Spoken

250px-EqualJusticeUnderLawMarriage is now legal for everyone!

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

-Justice Anthony Kennedy, June 26, 2015

…And Now He’s Not.

RafaelMIn a shocking reversal and despite the fact all charges against him were dropped, Angola has decided to prosecute Rafael Marques anyways. He once again faces the prospect of jail time.

We will continue our calls to have his rights protected and will work through our channels to help his cause. Stay tuned.

Victory! Rafael Marques is Free!

RafaelMOur friend, a human rights activist facing ten years in prison and $1.2 million in fines for speaking out on behalf of artisanal diamond miners and their families, walked out of court a free man today. Along with a coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International, two jewelers spoke out in support of Rafael while the entire diamond and jewelry industry remained largely silent, despite the diligent reporting on his case by some of the best journalists in the US jewelry trade journals.

He is allowed to continue to monitor the situation in Angola’s diamond fields, and the generals agreed to ensure the human rights situation  is improved. Which in the end, is all he really wanted.

This one counts in the “victory” column. I strongly suspect that if individuals hadn’t spoken up on his behalf, the results may have been very, very different.

Two Jewelers Take a Stand

RafaelA short while ago, we were approached by a coalition of NGOs hoping to get retail jewelers to speak up on behalf of investigative journalist, Rafael Marques de Morais, whose book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, features detailed accounts of torture and human rights abuses in Angola’s diamond sector. We have known Rafael for many years and have highlighted his work in the past.

The major jewelry and diamond companies in the US were approached to make a statement of support. All but two remained silent.

As I told an industry trade publication, “For many in our industry, ethical issues are all about damage control. It’s disappointing that people don’t want to take a proactive stand.”

I have no doubt now that we have taken a stand, both with our initial statement in March and with this joint public letter, other jewelry companies will follow our lead (once their PR department’s tell them it’s a good idea) now that two prominent jewelers have made public statements calling for the charges against Rafael Marques to be dropped and requesting Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos “to order the formation of an independent commission that will fairly and objectively investigate the allegations of human rights abuses committed against artisanal diamond mining communities reported by Rafael Marques.”.

We will continue our efforts to speak up on behalf of Rafael, as well as the countless artisanal diamond miners who have been victims of Angola’s diamond trade. To us, there are many things far more important than trying to protect the image of the global diamond industry.

Eleanor in Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe create numerous variations on our Eleanor engagement ring making it suitable for rounds, ovals, cushions, princess, and emerald cuts. But somehow, adding color just makes this ring extra special.

Our Eleanor, set with a blue sapphire center surrounded by Canadian diamonds, is one example. Colored stones. No two are exactly alike. Just like your special someone.

Burma’s First Cardinal Speaks Out

FatherCharlesWe first met Charles Maung Bo (or Father Charles as he likes to be called) many years back and we had a wonderful, conversation-filled dinner at a small Thai restaurant. When one pictures a Roman Catholic church official, one conjures up an image of formality. But Father Charles, who at the time was Burma’s first Archbishop, was anything but. He was funny. Interesting. And certainly full of stories of life behind the iron borders of Burma.

In February, Pope Francis promoted him to Cardinal. In his first Easter message Cardinal Maung Bo  spoke out against “international looters and cronies” who have long-exploited Burma’s finite natural resources.

“Evil does not give up easily…Ceasefire interludes are used by all armed people – state and non-state actors – to loot the resources of the people. The teak, timber and jade, and other treasures of the people, are open to merciless looting…Do not bury our people once again into poverty. Do not open their resources to the international looters and cronies.”

During the Vatican ceremony in which Father Charles became Burma’s first cardinal, Pope Francis whispered something in his ear that sounded, according to sources, like “go for it”. It was a special moment of empowerment that Father Charles says he won’t forget.

Neither will we forget individuals like Father Charles, who really is doing something to change the world for the better.