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Beautiful and sustainable jewelry made with care in San Francisco. Edgy and unique styles to wear everytday. We have everything from tiny platinum stud earrings to Moissanite engagement rings made from recycled gold and fashion jewelry from solid sterling silver.

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Filtering by Category: Ethics

Three Reasons to Ask Where Your Gold Comes From

Sharon Zimmerman

In my first jewelry classes, more than 15 years ago, I ordered some silver. I spent a whopping $25 and that amount was so precious to me. But where did this silver come from? I asked my teachers where the silver originated and got some vague answers - Arizona? New Mexico? (Mildly true, since that’s where my main supplier of raw materials is based). The mine and source of the metals was not commonly known to my teachers (maybe you had teachers who taught you this, if so - lucky!), wasn’t taught as part of the curriculum, wasn’t published in the supplier’s catalog, and wasn’t disclosed anywhere on their website. I persisted and kept asking different people, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I started to get answers. Thanks to organizations like Ethical Metalsmiths, those of us in the jewelry industry who cared now had a place to find answers.This was a great resource since bad news about mines, mercury leaching into the water and human rights issues around mining were rarely big news, unless the story was incredibly tragic.

Pure gold in my hand - Sharon Z Jewelry

I think that many of us have this picture in our head of a miner, with a long beard, a scruffy hat and dirty clothes, leaning into a riverbed, perforated pan in hand. Maybe he’s scooping up river sediment to sift through - I know that I always like to think of him biting into a newly discovered gold nugget like in the cartoons, with eyes that turn into dollar signs. Maybe this is the way that it originally went down in California during the gold rush, and to be sure there are still places where you can go panning for gold, but methods for gold and silver mining turned far less idyllic, and far more destructive.   

The good news is that there has been a sweeping movement to reform mining practices and more and more suppliers are signing on to use recycled metals in their offerings. Even more modern methods and partnerships have resulted in better options for both recycled and Fairmined precious metals.

Here are just a few reasons why you should seek out jewelry made from recycled or Fairmined gold (and silver!)

1- Preventing mercury contamination

Mercury is a waste by-product of gold mining.  It is released into the air (and ultimately into our water supply) during the process of gold mining. The truth about how gold is mined is less a story of a single man finding nuggets in the ground, and more about large companies using mercury to separate miniscule fragments of gold from the sediment in which it rests.  This process has been terrible for the environment around communities near these mines, not to mention that these communities aren’t benefiting in a way that is equitable. Mercury gets into our water supply when mining companies don’t do enough to care about how their wastewater is handled. This often happens in parts of the world where the poorest people are the worst affected https://earthworks.org/issues/mercury_air_emissions_from_gold_mines/



2 - You won’t be contributing to Human Rights Violations

Once gold is mined and then shipped to the refiners to be made into sheet and wire, you and I have no way of knowing where, exactly, this gold came from. If it comes from Nevada, we may “only” need to worry about mercury poisoning, but if it came from other parts of the world - Mali, for instance - your gold may very well have been mined by children as young as 6. There are new sources of gold from Fairmined sources, with certification that gold and silver were mined using environmentally-friendly standards, with inclusive and gender-equitable workplaces, and with economic support and equity going to the communities that mine the gold and silver. http://www.responsiblemines.org/en/

3 - It is easy to find recycled gold and silver

Finding suppliers of recycled gold is easier than ever. With increasing transparency in the jewelry industry, more and more suppliers are signing on to use only recycled metals. In the interest of my own transparency, know that I order my Fairmined and recycled materials from Virginia-based Hoover and Strong - their refining and environmental practices are above industry standards when it comes to reducing emissions and wastewater - their practices actually ensure that no wastewater is discharged into the environment. I also order recycled metals from New Mexico-based Rio Grande, a company that uses 100% recycled metals for most of their silver and gold.



What questions do you have about sourcing recycled and Fairmined metals? Hit me up in the comments!






What I Learned at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show - the Ethical Edition

Sharon Zimmerman

When I made the decision 6 years ago to expand my designs to include precious gemstones and diamonds, I wanted to make a conscientious choice about my suppliers. And hoo-boy! It was a bleak landscape for those of us seeking ethically-mined and sourced gemstones. It has long been my opinion (and the opinion of others, tbh), that “conflict-free” stones come with some dubious claims. Choosing gems that meet certain criteria means that I ask some variation on the following questions when looking for stones:

  • Know where they come from - are they natural? If so, what country are they from, where they were mined or how they were gathered.

  • If lab-grown, what country grew and cut them?

  • Did the people who mined them get paid a fair price?

  • How much do you know about where they were cut?

Mine-to-Market Stones: all the cool kids are doing it!

With all of these questions in mind, for the first time ever I entered Tucson - The Granddaddy of Gem and Mineral Shows. Nothing prepares you for how massive it is. The whole city turns itself into one big emporium for gemstones, rocks, and minerals. There are the official shows, with all of the official and certified dealers coming from the US, Mexico, Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Kenya and so many others (So. Many.) Then there are all of the sideshows: hotels clear out their rooms to host crystal and geode vendors; there are shows in tents, parking lots, muddy fields, even at gas stations. There are gemstone dealers who aren’t at the shows and you have to make private appointments to see what they have. Decision fatigue is real, and you regret 100% of the gems you don’t buy. Alas, your suitcase is only so big and your budget too.

Ant-hill garnets - these were some of my favorite finds in Tucson

Ant-hill garnets - these were some of my favorite finds in Tucson

Finding the right people, those gemstone dealers who will welcome your questions is a relief. The newest term to hit the industry is mine-to-market. Think of it as farm-to-table, but for gemstones. When you’re in an industry that would love to never talk about the worst parts of your industry, it can be difficult to find the ones who will help to shed light on these dark places. Making jewelry is a joyful act, and I want the materials I work with to be joyful too. It’s the primary reason why I source stones with such strict rules in mind.

The good news is that I found gems! I know how worried you were. My favorite discoveries at this show were the Australian sapphires. They knocked me out. The colors, the sheen, the depth. Oh, and the guy I bought them from lives within 50 miles of mines that he works with. This isn’t abstract for him, he lives within this world, oversees the cutting, controls the amount of waste, and also sells them. He knows where they came from, who cut them, and how much the people mining and cutting get paid.

Australian bi-color sapphires. The colors were un-freakin-real.

Australian bi-color sapphires. The colors were un-freakin-real.

But my favorite find at this show were the Ant-Hill Garnets *record scratch*. Wait, what? Oh yeah. Garnets. Mined by ants. Yes, really. Ants dig underground to build their hills, the garnets are in their way, so they push them up to the surface, the garnets roll down the ant hills and Voila! Garnets that are eco and human friendly and such incredible colors. These in particular were found in Arizona. Designing around these is going to be delightful.

Ant-hill garnets are my new favorite gemstone.

Ant-hill garnets are my new favorite gemstone.

Going to this show gave me a lot of hope for the future of jewelry. So many more designers, producers, gemstone dealers than ever are passionate about getting behind ethical gemstones.


Have a question about ethical gems? Ask in the comments below!

Becoming a Certified Green Business

Sharon Zimmerman

Why Become a San Francisco Certified Green Business

I’ve been running an eco-friendly business since 2011, so why go through the trouble of being certified by SF Green Business? In a nutshell, I did it because I believe in it and because I think that you do too. Committing to environmental security, clean air, and clean water doesn’t end with recycled metals and diamonds, it extends into every decision that I make for my life and my business. SF Green Business provides framework, suggestions, and guidelines for maintaining my commitment to clean water and clean air for all humans. Going through this process meant taking a hard look at all of the chemicals used in the jewelry-making process, looking at everything from our floor cleaner to our hand soap, and making sure that they weren’t causing harm.

Some of the practices I had in place needed some serious updating, and other practices had been in place for a long time. The tricky thing about being in a commercial rental property is that I'm not always in control of how the building operates. For instance, I can't tell the building what kind of toilet paper to buy, but I can lobby them to provide aerators in their faucets to reduce water flow (SF Green Business provides these). SF Green Business will also work with the building owners on your behalf to help them adopt green business practices. Here is just a sampling of the policies that have been adopted in the studio:

  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
    Nailed this one! We've been recycling everything in the studio (including our metal scrap) forever. It was nice to implement a composting plan too.

  • Purchase environmentally preferable products
    I've long been a believer in using eco-friendly products, but to meet this demand I had to dig into the MSDS on a number of products. Boy howdy was that a fun time.

  • Conserve energy, water, and natural resources
    Signs went up around the studio reminding us to turn out the lights, not run the water too long and to recycle. Al Gore reminds everyone in the studio to turn out the lights before we leave.

Al Gore reminds us to turn off the lights everyday

In addition to adopting the SF Green Business Practices, I go a few steps further by applying rigorous standards to my jewelry-making:

  • Reuse metal scrap within the studio - lots of designs start off as scraps of metal that are re-melted into new jewelry including these earrings.

  • Use only (solar-powered) lab-created diamonds, recycled diamonds and recycled sapphires. We use Fairmined and Fair Trade gemstones when they are available.

  • Use minimal, recycled and compostable packaging to ship out your fabulous jewelry. The shipping boxes are small and compostable, the ribbon is reusable, the gift boxes are 100% recycled and even the shipping labels are both 100% recycled content and totally compostable.

Supporting other Certified Green Businesses is my new mantra and I was thrilled recently with my new business cards from Greener Printer. I'll for sure be using them for future printing projects like postcards and booklets. They use low-VOC inks and recycled paper, and because they are in the Bay Area, I can reduce my carbon footprint by ordering products that are closer to home.

There were a lot more regulations than this and I encourage you to check out their roster of Bay Area businesses that are also certified green. This process is a four-year commitment to maintaining these standards and to continually seek out better alternatives for my business and for my life. I am thrilled to be a part of this process.

What are some tips to go green that you've implemented in your life or business? Tell me in the comments!

Recycled Gold - Why this is a basic that all of your jewelers can and should use

Sharon Zimmerman

Drawing down wire in the studio - Liz Hafalia for the SF Chronicle.jpg

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This was the mantra of my generation of environmentally conscientious people in the 90s. One of the things I love the most about jewelry (aside from the fact that I get to make my own accessories and share them with everyone) is that it is easy to reuse and recycle almost every element of what we do. Have a ring you aren’t using? Melt it down and make another. Have a diamond in a setting that you don’t care for? Cut it out and remake it. Want to reduce your consumption? Easy, just buy better jewelry. You could buy only one new piece a year and pull together a beautiful and meaningful capsule collection.

That said, recycled gold should be the baseline standard for sustainable jewelry. Jewelers throughout the ages have collected scraps and bits of gold from their projects and have recycled them back into future projects with minimal environmental impact. I do this myself at the bench - melting down tiny bits and re-purposing them into new jewelry to create new eco-friendly pieces.

The above video shows the melting of gold scrap to roll out for a new piece of jewelry


Gold and silver are precious natural resources. Around the world gold is mined using industrial techniques, often times creating pollution, adding mercury to the water and displacing indigenous people. Much of today’s gold mining is done not just for jewelers, but for electronics as well, which has created a higher demand. The good news is that gold is 100% recyclable and re-usable, and Fair Mined metals are becoming easier to acquire. Artisanal gold mining is becoming more common and many of us see partnerships with specific mines as the way forward for the industry. Over the next year, I hope to offer Fair Mined metals as an option for many of my pieces, but until then, I continue to use only recycled gold.

Ethical Gemstones Part Three - What is Moissanite

Sharon Zimmerman

What is Moissanite and how does it compare to a diamond?

4 karat recycled rose gold with 5mm round brilliant Moissanite-Made in San Francisco RI-090-Rose Chalice Ring - 1.jpg

What is Moissanite?

OK, so maybe you don’t want a diamond (I’ve talked about their ethically dubious status in the past), but you’d still like some sustainable and conflict-free bling, with similar hardness and durability. And maybe you don’t have the budget for a lab-grown diamond, or you’d like to spend your money in other ways (like a hella awesome honeymoon!). What to do?. If you are happy with lab-grown stones but don’t want the expense of a lab-grown diamond, then a Moissanite is the perfect sustainable solution.

What is Moissanite?

Moissanite is silicon carbide (different than a diamond, which is carbon) and has strong covalent bonding, which is what makes it so suitable for forming into gemstones. Plus, it originates from outside the solar system, so that’s pretty cool.

So where does Moissanite come from?

Moissanite was discovered in the remnants of a meteor crash in Arizona in 1893. Originally confused with diamonds due to its brilliance and hardness, it would be more than 100 years before this stone would finally be made available for jewelry use thanks to advances in lab-growing techniques. Now all Moissanite gemstones are created in labs. This amazing stone has greater fire than a diamond and is harder than a sapphire (it reaches 9.25 on the Mohs hardness scale). The Moissanite that I get for my engagement rings comes from North Carolina’s own Charles and Colvard.

How does Moissanite hold up compared to a diamond or a lab grown diamond?

Damn fine, if you ask me. It is highly scratch resistant (it can really only be scratched by a diamond). This gemstone is brilliant, has so much fire and for much greater value. Best of all, there is no destructive mining involved with Moissanite. 

What can’t Moissanite do?

It cannot do your laundry. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Ethical Gemstones Part Two- What is the Deal With Lab-Grown Diamonds?

Sharon Zimmerman

As promised from our last post, I’ll be talking about lab-grown diamonds in this post and asking--”how sustainable are they?” There’s been hype from Leonardo DiCaprio, Silicon Valley, and millennials, all in support of lab-grown diamonds as a socially-responsible and sustainable alternative that uses technological innovation to produce an identical and affordable option to mined diamonds. And I am totally effing on board! Lab-created diamonds aren’t tainted by the conflict of mined diamonds, and many are created right here in the United States. I’ve been proud to use lab-grown stones for the last five years, but I’m always concerned about where/how my suppliers produce these diamonds that we use in our engagement rings.

A lot of the labs that grow diamonds do not disclose their procedures and "proprietary information". They don’t have to. While the mined diamond industry has come under appropriate scrutiny, the lab-grown diamond industry, still a baby, doesn’t have a current certification, not even one as vague as the Kimberley Process. So some, playing off the label of “lab-grown” are profiting without having to meet consumer expectations in regards to conflict-free status or sustainability practices.

And the deceit doesn’t stop there. Since lab-grown diamonds are physically, chemically, and optically identical, they are being passed off as mined-diamonds and sold at those prices. These fake mined-diamonds are so believable that only trained gemologists, equipped with the most precise instruments, can tell the difference. In my opinion, it's shady when those that claim that lab-grown diamonds aren’t the real thing, bypass the experts in order to sell them as such. For those consumers interested in real lab-grown diamonds, responsible businesses will certify the quality-grade of their lab-grown diamonds.

With mined diamond production slowing down and becoming increasingly costly, I’m curious to see how giants like De Beers, who started manufacturing diamonds in the 1960s, will spin and sell lab-grown diamonds eventually. Right now, De Beers and friends are speaking out against cultured diamonds in defense of their workers. According to them, mining diamonds creates jobs for more than seven million of the poorest people in the world. But I think real concern for these communities might look like preparing them for the inevitable exhaustion of mined diamonds, using higher current wages and training in alternative work. Even Botswana, a country that has experienced relative stability with it’s own diamond trade, will likely exhaust their diamond mines by 2029.

Across the board, transparency and traceability for lab-grown diamonds haven’t become industry standards yet, but I’m super-optimistic that all of us conscientious consumers will demand it. I believe we’ve brought about the changes we’re seeing now and that lab-grown diamonds will continue to evolve to become a real solution for a future shortage.

Next time, I’ll be talking about another option I endorse - traceable colored gemstones. Please tune in, join the discussion on sustainable jewelry, and feel free to get in touch.

Turning Six and Giving Back

Sharon Zimmerman

Lots of styles have come and gone, but these have stayed constant

Lots of styles have come and gone, but these have stayed constant

My business turned Six in March! This business has been a roller coaster these last six years and I wouldn't have it any other way. Along the way, I've learned that staying true to my values is as important as making huge sales - one without the other feels so hollow. So it was an easy decision for me to combine the sixth anniversary month with Women's History Month and give back to a cause that supports women - The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. NCADV supports women (and men) leaving violent homes by providing resources, information and safety as well as a help line that you can call to get support. Thanks to my amazing customers, this business of mine was able to donate more than $200 to this cause. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

The Good Karma Sale, Giving Back and a Coupon Code for you

Sharon Zimmerman

After the year that we've had, I am determined to be more committed than ever to giving back to organizations that are near and dear to my heart. My commitment to sustainability does not end with jewelry - it extends to my sense of civic responsibility too. I'm starting with this Holiday Season by participating in the Good Karma Sale. November 21st-30th, 10% of all sales made through the website and at the SF Etsy Holiday Emporium will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, an organization co-founded by Albert Einstein that is dedicated to assisting and resettling refugees escaping from violence around the world. Helping refugees takes on many different forms and includes providing water, food, and shelter and ensuring that refugees are safe and cared for. Follow the hashtag #goodkarmaisthenewblackfriday to see all of the vendors participating in the Good Karma Sale!

Throughout December, 5% of all sales made through our website and at shows will be donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. NCADV works to create a culture where domestic violence is not tolerated; and where society empowers victims and survivors, and holds abusers accountable. 

And lastly, as promised, is your coupon code. Take 15% off any order on my website November 21-28 with coupon code Karma2016 *. This is my thank you for your support, enthusiasm and for helping to give back this holiday season. Enjoy, and I hope to see you soon.

Lastly, sign up for our mailing list to enter to win a pair of sterling silver spear huggies! The winner will be announced on November 28th.

 

*This code is good through Midnight Pacific Time on November 28th, 2016.

Transitioning Jewelry - when to remake antique and unused jewelry

Sharon Zimmerman

What can you do with unused jewelry?

Sparkle-Ball-ring-recycled-diamonds-14-karat-gold

Jewelry is powerful. Serving as a reminder of loved ones, connecting us to our past and grounding us in the present. But sometimes jewelry no longer serves us or it no longer serves it’s original purpose. Loss, divorce, inheritance, unwanted gifts - there can be a lot of reasons why you may no longer want tor fine and precious jewelry - sometimes jewelry reminds you of a painful moment or transition in life. Maybe you inherited jewelry from a loved one that isn’t to your taste; maybe your jewelry just needs a different look. If so, then it’s time for an update. The diamonds in these rings once symbolized a different life, but have now been refreshed, updated, made new. Rings (and earrings) that symbolize a change and a transition through to a new time in life. A jump start, a renewal; hit the reset button.

In the rough studs with recycled diamonds in rose gold

If your jewelry is made from gold or platinum, diamonds and/or sapphires, the good news is that almost all of these materials can be reused and remade into new jewelry. Metal can be melted down or reshaped, stones without major flaws can be put into new setting, and sometimes can even be re-polished or re-cut to look brand new. The jewelry shown here was all rea fashioned from a single wedding set - the small stones were pulled from an unused diamond band and re-purposed into a pair of earrings and a sparkle ball of a ring. The center stone from her engagement ring was set into a lowered bezel setting instead of the impractical tall prong setting that she had once loved. We worked together to customize some of my existing styles to use her stones, and then we turned the leftover metal from her rings in for cash credit. The results? She now has two rings that she can were everyday, and a pair of studs that can go with anything. This is a way better cost-per-wear for her jewelry, and her pieces are no longer gathering dust in a drawer.

Do you have questions about transforming your own jewelry into one of my designs? Leave a comment or get in touch directly.

recycled diamond 18 karat gold setting oxidized silver ring