This post was sponsored by Sharon Z Jewelry and I received product for review.
Over the past few years, I've spoken with several jewelry designers who strive for ethics in their production process and they unanimously agree on one thing: it's very difficult to trace raw materials.
If you purchase a conventionally made jewelry item - say gold hoops or a diamond engagement ring - you can almost guarantee that child labor was involved somewhere in the production process. According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of children under the age of 17 help process raw gold in unregulated Ghanaian and other African mines, using toxic mercury to purify the gold. In Bolivia, an estimated 3,000 children - some as young as 6 - work in the silver mines (in 2013, in a very Newsies-reminiscent turn of events, some child workers were beginning to unionize). Globally, at least 1 million children work in mines, forced there by poverty and political unrest, and often receive a wage as low as $2 per day if they receive a wage at all.
There's something particularly disturbing about child labor, but we need to remember that adults don't fare any better from these exploitative industries. All are caught up in a system - made possible by local governments and deal-hungry consumers - that sees more value in hoarding their money than in human livelihood.
One way to ensure that the jewelry you're buying is ethically and sustainable sourced is to stick with designers who prioritize recycled, lab grown, and fair mined materials. Sharon Z is one such designer...
Ethical Details: Top - Synergy Clothing; Jeans - thrifted; Shoes - c/o Mawu Lolo; Silver Spear Earrings - c/o Sharon Z Jewelry
Sharon Zimmerman makes all of her minimalist, eye-catching jewelry in her San Francisco studio out of sustainable and ethically sourced materials. All silver and gold is recycled, and a large portion of it is sourced from a family-owned business just an hour away from where I live in Virginia (the ethical community is a small world after all!).
Gemstones are either recycled or lab created. In Sharon's words:
Having been a metalsmith for more than 10 years, I have come to understand the issues and complications around conflict-free stones, where they are mined and how laborers are treated. In my opinion, “conflict-free” stones are a dubious ideal and they cannot feasibly be tracked in today’s market. So I have chosen instead to work with laboratory-grown stones from the American companies Chatham and Diamond Foundry. With the exact same composition as mined stones, they are chemically and physically identical-they do not compromise the quality of my jewelry or my modern conscience.
Sharon is also happy to work with client-provided stones to create one-of-a-kind pieces. I mention this because engagement and wedding season is upon us. My very own wedding anniversary is less than a month away. If my husband and I'd had any awareness about the ethics of the jewelry industry back when we were getting engaged, we would have repurposed a diamond my mother-in-law offered us instead of going for a new sapphire engagement ring. You live and learn. Anyways, read about Sharon's process here.
Sharon sent me her small but badass recycled Silver Spear Earrings to review. They're a "huggie" style that wraps around the earlobe, making a subtle but impactful statement in profile. I wore them to church a couple weeks ago and my fellow chorister turned to me and said something to the effect of "Woah! I like your earrings!" as they caught her eye. I don't mind wearing something that has something of a stunning effect on people!
I opted for the oxidized finish so they'd be less shiny and more suitable - at least to my taste - for everyday wear. I'm very happy to add them to my arsenal of artisanal, thoughtful jewelry.
These were packaged in a simple, recycled box wrapped in natural-tone paper and sealed with pink wax. I was delighted by the hand-stamped wax seal (my husband bore the brunt of my audible delight as I opened it in the kitchen when I got home from work). It showed a lot of care without being gaudy or wasteful.
And in case you're wondering this Pride month, Sharon Z is LGBTQ friendly.