Hey Mr. Green,
I am looking for engagement rings for my girlfriend. We are both very eco-minded, and reducing our impact on the planet is very important to us. I have been looking between two companies, Brilliant Earth and Blue Nile. One offers recycled gold for the ring, but buying from them would essentially double the cost of the ring. Any suggestions? —Dan
Well, yes, recycled gold is a good choice, as it requires little processing compared to mining and refining gold, which can cause massive environmental damage by polluting water, using toxic chemicals, releasing toxic heavy metals, and ripping up large areas of land where open pit mining is done. Producing a single gold ring generates an average of 20 tons of mine waste, while the typical large gold mine uses 1,900 tons of cyanide per year to leach the gold out of the ore, according to Earthworks, which monitors mining around the world.
There is at the present time no third-party certification of all aspects of the gold-extraction processes, like there is, say, for organic foods, sustainable forestry, and some other industries. Earthworks, however, has contacted scores of jewelry dealers, inviting them to sign onto the “Golden Rules,” which demand a commitment to sound environmental and labor practices. Companies that subscribe are required to report on their sources, and from this information Earthworks has developed a Scorecard to rate jewelry retailers. Brilliant Earth has already received an “A” rating. Blue Nile has agreed to abide by the Golden Rules, but has not yet been rated. A number of larger retailers have earned big fat “F” for refusing to sign the agreement, while others have gotten an “I” for not responding. While this rating system may not be perfect, since it involves self-reporting, it is quite likely that a company flat-out refusimg to sign is burying its dirty secrets as deep as the bottom of a zillion-ton leach heap.
But what about the respected principle of “reuse” in the old triad of “Reduce, reuse, and recycle”? Some authorities I’ve consulted say that a used ring can be every bit as romantic as a brand-new model, so you might consider that option, especially if your lover appreciates older artifacts (and she might as well get accustomed to old things anyway, because if the marriage endures, you will be one of them). But I must confess to having very little authority in this aspect of relationships, as I practiced “reduce,” not giving my wife a wedding ring until after we were married. By a strange twist of fate, our landlord ran a jewelry store, and somehow convinced me that a ring was absolutely essential for a successful marriage, upon which I purchased his cheapest model. It seems to have worked well enough, but then diamonds are not forever, and with gold up to $1,800 an ounce, she may consider selling it.
I wish you a very happy marriage, and before bidding you adieu, am compelled to expand from environmental to romantic advice, and share my formula for lasting marriage that will be more effective than any rings or ceremonies or couples counselors. The harsh fact is that commingled finances lead to those bitter fiscal disputes that have ruined more relationships than all other problems combined. Therefore, I strongly recommend separate checkbooks, separate bank accounts, and separate credit cards.