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There’s Gold in Them Thar Stars

supernovaWe’ve had several people ask where our gold comes from. Naturally, we use 100% recycled gold, but where does it come from at the very beginning?

The answer is straight up. (So to speak.) While every element that makes up our world came from space, gold is a little different. Unlike elements like carbon or iron, it cannot be created within a star as part of the body’s normal fusion process. Instead, it comes from something far more explosive.

Scientists discovered that during the merger of two neutron stars (the dead cores of stars that had supernovaed) a microsecond gamma ray burst was generated that ejected gold. Lots and lots of it. According to Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “We estimate that the amount of gold produced and ejected during the merger of the two neutron stars may be as large as 10 moon masses – quite a lot of bling!”

Fortunately, this event occurred at a distance of 3.9 billion light-years from Earth, which is far enough that it should discourage all those big mining companies from trying to find a way to exploit one more resource!

At Leber Jeweler, we trace every product we sell back to the source. Even when it’s from the far reaches of the universe.


Brighten Up Your January

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis month’s birthstone, garnet, comes in a range of colors but the burnt reddish-brown is probably the one most familiar hue.

This particular example came from a project in Mozambique, and we also have a wide range of rare collector garnets that are from the Czech Republic. (Formerly Bohemia.) The setting, shown here in 18k yellow gold, is our Ivy.

In addition to the metal shown, we also offer the piece in platinum, palladium, and white gold.

On est tous Charlie

TOPSHOTS-FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-DEMO“If a large enough group of someone is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization.” -New York Times columnist Ross Douthat

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!”


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.