All That Glitters Could Be Dirty Gold



gold rings


Dirty gold, what an ugly way to think about wedding bands or other treasured jewelry but that's the term being used to describe much of the gold jewelry being made today.

When shopping in an elegantly designed jewelry store with all it's sparkling beautiful jewelry or even looking in a display case at your local department store it's hard to connect with the ugly circumstances that surround gold.

Metal Mining - A Dirty Business In More Ways Than One

No matter what metal is being mined whether it's gold, silver, platinum etc. there are some serious questions being raised about the negative environmental and human affects of mining.

Gold because of it's popularity has been the target of the campaign against dirty gold but all metal mining is a concern.

Our beautiful gold or silver jewelry began it's life underground. Bringing that gold to the surface is process that is far removed from the simpler techniques of the past of panning for gold or digging in the gold mines for chunks of gold. Gold like that is hard to find anymore so newer methods of locating even minute amounts of gold have been developed.

Mining is a complicated business. The potential of wealth opens many doors and has allowed harmful practices to proceed unabated. Governments and businesses benefit but what about the people and the environment caught up in metal mining.

The Basics Of Mining

Mining today is carried out on several scales, the artisanal and small scale mining carried out by small companies or individuals in often times very remote regions of the world and the large scale mines.

Small scale mines are often hidden away from view and outside of any kind of oversight. The gold is removed from the earth by blasting and hand digging of mine shafts. The material is run through a series of screens and a mercury amalgamation or strong acids are used until the last bits are removed.

This type of mining creates many problems both for people and the environment but is harder to address because these operations are widespread and in hidden areas. Left unaddressed this type of mining can have devastating affects to a region and it's people.

The focus of attention is on large scale mining. The most popular of which is open pit mining. This type of mining produces the best results in the fastest and least expensive way. The basics of which are as follows:

  • Large acres of land are stripped. People, trees, plants, wildlife, everything gone. This prepares the area for open-pit mining. Often thousands of local people are displaced and forests are leveled.

  • gold mining


  • Tons upon tons of earth are blasted and excavated in order to find gold buried in the rocks and soil. In some instances these mounds of soil are left when mining in an area is finished.

  • The ore, rocks containing metal, is then pulverized into a powder. Water is added to make a slurry. Cyanide a known toxic poison, is used to dissolve the gold or silver from the ore.

  • The leftover slurry is usually stored in pits creating serious environmental concerns of cyanide leaching into soil or groundwater creating toxic conditions for people and wildlife.


  • According to the Environmental Literacy Council when days of heavy rain and snow caused 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide rich waste to be released into the water supply 2.5 million people in Baia Mare, Romania were affected and it is believed all of the fish in the affected waters were killed.


  • Hundreds of regional people are employed to work in the mines. Abuses of basic human rights are not uncommon sometimes even affecting children. In many regions of the world there are few safeguards in place to make sure they are working in safe conditions or even being paid decently.

    gold mining


  • Once a mining company is finished in an area what happens all to often are problems of pits leaching cyanide which can cause water sources to be poisoned. Natural areas are destroyed by an open pit left unusable and mounds of earth are left behind from excavation.

    It is easy to understand why gold is referred to as dirty gold.
    This is an industry that needs to change.

    gold jewelry We don't have to give up buying gold or silver jewelry, we just have to make better choices when we shop. Choices that not only let us continue to enjoy beautiful jewelry but can also help to bring about much needed change to mining practices.

    What You Can Do

    The No Dirty Gold campaign began just a few years ago to help educate both consumers and retailers and encourage them to sign a pledge to begin questioning where and how gold is mined. This pledge is a show of support for ethical and environmentally friendly gold mining. By joining together consumers and retailers are calling on the mining industry to begin implementing change.

    Mining is dependent on us.

    We have the buying power to bring about change and signing the No Dirty Gold Campaign is an important step.


    For more information about No Dirty Gold Campaign and to sign the pledge click No Dirty Gold. For a list of retailers who have signed the pledge go to No Dirty Gold Supporting Retailers.

    Where To Shop

    The jewelers who have supported the No Dirty Gold Campaign are sources to consider. Some are more visibly committed than others as you will see if you do a little research on their sites. Some jewelers like Cartier include info about their commitment on their website but not all jewelers do.

    It is going to be hard to know for sure if the gold in jewelry is sourced responsibly particularly because mining for metals has such a history of environmental and ethical problems that are just beginning to being addressed.

    Perhaps one of the best way to be assured is to buy reclaimed gold. All the beauty without the ugly.

    greenKarat jewelry


  • greenKarat offers what they call Ecologically Responsible Jewelry. They use reclaimed gold to create beautiful jewelry and through a unique program will create new jewelry from gold jewelery donated by family and friends. What a unique and meaningful way to create that special piece. Check out Green Karat

  • Brilliant Earth also works with reclaimed metals. By using reclaimed gold whenever possible they hope to lessen the demand for newly mined metal. Also a signer of the pledge. See their jewelry at: Brilliant Earth

  • Earthwise Jewelry, a part of Leber Jewelers, uses conflict free diamonds, fair traded gemstones and reclaimed or recycled gold. Lebers' has signed the pledge and works to insure they source the metals used in their other jewelry lines carefully. See for yourself at: Earthwise Jewelry

  • Related Pages

    Conflict Diamonds

    Fair Trade Jewelry

    Recycled Jewelry

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