The Importance of Being Eco Friendly In Our Jewelry Making

Nowadays eco-conscious consumers want all things green—or at least somewhat green. As jewelry designers, most of us don’t make every element of our jewelry ourselves. So, with only limited control, how can we make our jewelry making as eco-friendly as possible?

Above: The women of Langtang Designs in Nepal enjoy their time together creating jewelry. Photo courtesy of Elsa Haberle.

First, we should consider the mining practices used to attain the elements we incorporate into our jewelry. Mining has considerable environmental impacts—the harmful chemicals used to extract raw materials find their way into the air and water. Thankfully, the mining industry is working on ways to lessen these impacts and conserve resources, and there are companies out there finding safe, alternative ways to extract metals and mine stones.

Bead Artist Michael Harrington makes his own paper beads. Photo courtesy of Michael Harrington.

Bead Artist Michael Harrington makes his own paper beads. Photo courtesy of Michael Harrington.

Ask questions of every jewelry supplier you buy from. Are their products totally traceable from mine to shelf? If you suspect not, ask for proof. Every importer, including me, has documentation of where the product originated. Consumer demand for this information is the only thing that will drive importers to provide routine sourcing. Many companies already using eco-friendly practices are proud of it and will post the proof liberally.

There are many more ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into your jewelry making. How about using vintage beads and components or already-recycled pieces? Why not use found objects such as shells, watch parts, and dried flowers in your jewelry?

Bead Artist Michael Harrington makes his own paper beads. Photo courtesy of Michael Harrington.

Lonakana, a beading retreat for women with cancer, has an abundance of found objects within its land. Photo courtesy of Lonakana.

You can also look beyond the jewelry and consider your packaging. With all the “green” paper choices available these days, look at what you can use to make hang tags, earring cards, boxes, bags, tissue, business cards, and even signage for your shows. Do some rubber stamping with eco-friendly inks to customize your designs.

Make sure to keep every scrap of sterling wire and even bits of dust in your polishing papers. You can send it all off to be melted and made into new products, while you get company credit to purchase new items—all in the name of conservation! This practice alone would make a huge impact if every jewelry designer were diligent and committed.

Bead Artist Michael Harrington makes his own paper beads. Photo courtesy of Michael Harrington.

The Bead Goes On, a bead shop recently featured in Beadwork’s Bead Buzz department, focuses on handmade beads and materials. Photo courtesy of Sally Roesler.

Eco-consciousness is not the wave of the future — it’s now. As designers, we’re supposed to be on trend when it comes to consumer style, so find ways to jump on this trend in your jewelry making sooner rather than later. You’ll not only be eco-friendly, but also eco-chic.


This article was originally published in Beadwork, April/May 2009. To find out more business tips or more about eco-chic jewelry, visit the Interweave Store.

Viki Lareau is the author of Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry: The Complete Guide to Turning Your Passion into Profit (available at www.interweave.com). She has also taught business and beading classes nationwide.


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