Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our imprint as jewelers

Tara Locklear
repurposed skate board deck, enamel auto paint, found lapped glass, sterling silver and bronze cast gemstones, fabricated

Last weekend at the jewelry symposium, I had the chance to speak in depth with ECU undergraduate student Tara Locklear about recycled materials. She uses repurposed skateboard decks in her work and interviews the rider to better understand their preference of transportation. Usually, she says, it is a conscience decision to lower their carbon imprint. 

What about our imprint as jewelers? I try to be as eco-friendly as possible with my work. Many people ask, "what is eco-friendly?" or my favorite, "what aspect of jewelry isn't eco-friendly?" I usually respond with "which part is?" I will be touching on this topic in an upcoming lecture at ECU this spring. 
There are many things that we, as jewelers, can do to lessen our impart on the earth. Many do not realize the processes in mining for metal. 

Silver was first obtained in sixteenth-century Mexico by a method called the patio process. It involved mixing silver ore, salt, copper sulphide, and water. The resultant silver chloride was then picked up by adding mercury. Today, a method called the cyanide, or heap leach, process has gained acceptance within the mining industry because it is a low-cost way of processing lower-grade silver ores. A solution of water and sodium cyanide is added to the ore. Solutions are delivered to the heaps by sprinkler systems or methods of ponding, including ditches, injection, or seepage from capillaries. Silver is rarely found alone, but mostly in ores which also contain lead, copper, gold, and other metals which may be commercially valuable.

Places where silver is mined must contend with cyanide and lead leaching into the water supply, though it's effects are not often brought to the public's attention. Hoover and Strong, a metal refiner in Richmond Virginia, offers a line of Harmony Metals, which are 100% recycled. This option is so wonderful for the environment as it uses existing metals instead of mining for new metal. 
Other ways to be more eco-conscience is to use citric acid pickle, non- floride based flux and solder, and up-cyle materials. 

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