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Jan 01, 2010
“Every day it seems like another Facebook status makes the transition from “in a relationship” to “engaged,” and this means that engagement rings are going to be in high demand as graduation continues to approach.
While conflict diamonds — diamonds sold to fund wars — have been getting a lot of news coverage recently, especially with the release of the movie Blood Diamond in 2006, there hasn’t been much talk about the bands that hold such diamonds in place.
Unfortunately, the gold that goes along with the diamonds is tarnished with controversy as well. Gold extraction in developing countries often is not regulated with environmental concerns in mind. Deforestation, water pollution and risks to human health are all part of the formula to extract gold for jewelry use.
Cyanide is often used to extract gold from the stone it’s attached to, and gold miners often use this toxic chemical without proper safety gear, according to The Independent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that cyanide inhibits cells in the body from using oxygen, leading these cells to die. The heart and brain are most affected by exposure to cyanide.
Mercury is another toxic chemical used, although by smaller mines, to separate gold from rock. Much like the way in which people remove precious metals from e-waste, it is done in enclosed spaces with high heat, which causes people to inhale the toxic fumes, according to National Geographic. Mercury exposure can lead to permanent brain damage.
Poor working conditions for humans go along with the poor conditions of the environment containing the gold mining operations. According to The Independent, three tons of toxic waste and, according to Mother Jones, 20 tons of mine waste come from creating one gold ring. The mines — created from blowing off the tops of mountains — leave cyanide running into the water supply and sulfuric acids forming from the rocks covered with cyanide, according to Spiegel.
It might change these gold mining operations to move one’s business elsewhere, and there are plenty of businesses selling gold that is certified as “eco-friendly.” The Web site www.nodirtygold.org provides a list of retailers who sell gold mined in a more socially — and environmentally — sound way.
Reducing your demand to developing nations’ gold mines isn’t going to be a slap-in-the-face to those people who are struggling to survive; the problem is these workers are struggling to survive in poor working conditions without proper compensation. Big business is what will be hit hard, and consumers can use their buying power as a tool of change.
There are other alternatives to purchasing a brand new ring as well, such as finding a jeweler who will melt your old gold into a new ring. Another option is a vintage ring or reusing a ring that has been in the family. Going as far as Pamela and Tommy Lee by getting ring tattoos, however, is not something I’m ready to endorse.
Tradition is tradition, and it doesn’t have to be broken in order to coincide with environmental concerns. But something as special and meaningful as an engagement or wedding ring shouldn’t come at the expense of someone’s health or have toxic pollution and deforestation attached to it.
An eco-friendly engagement — that has a nice ring to it.
Cathy Wilson is a senior studying journalism and a copy editor for The Post. Send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”