Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay from Oil and Gas Drilling, NY to ban Fracking

By admin on December 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm
Photo by Jim Klug from www.SaveBristolBay.org
Photo by Jim Klug from www.SaveBristolBay.org

Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay from Oil and Gas Drilling, via the LA Times.

“This is one of the most important ocean protection decisions that this or any president has ever made,” said Marilyn Heiman, U.S. Arctic program director for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “This is a victory for the people of Bristol Bay who have fought for more than 30 years.

“There are just some places that are too special to risk,” she said. “Bristol Bay is one of those places.”

But Tuesday’s action is only a partial protection for the remote region. Federal officials are expected to decide in coming months whether to allow the largest open-pit mine in North America to be dug in the Bristol Bay watershed.

This year, a study by the Environmental Protection Agency reported that the proposed Pebble Mine would have a devastating effect on the same fishery that Obama acted to preserve Tuesday.

This is huge victory for conservationists, fishermen, and Native Alaskans. I’m very happy to read this news today, even though there is still work to be done to protect the Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine, which would cause devastation to the landscape and economy.

Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks, via the NY Times.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

New Engagement Rings From Bario Neal

By admin on December 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

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Our New Engagement Rings. Available to purchase instore and online.

Sunday Reading: The Importance of Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold

By admin on November 2, 2014 at 5:23 pm
Deadly mercury is used in small-scale gold mining processes. Photograph: Eduardo Martino/Eduardo Martino / Documentograph via the Guardian

The Harsh Reality Behind the Glamor of Gold, via The Guardian

“The miners bring rock containing the metal ore to the surface where it is crushed by hand into a fine powder in the search for gold – work mainly carried out by women.

Then, controversially, the deadly metal mercury is used to help separate the gold. Gold clings to mercury which is burnt off in open cooking pans, the vapours filling the atmosphere, sometimes with children close by. Severe risks to health are caused by exposure to mercury which can lead to brain and nervous system damage, gastroenteritis, kidney complaints and more, yet the workers do not know this and swill the mercury with their bare hands.The mercury also pollutes local rivers and the food chain.

For all of these efforts, the miners receive sometimes less than $1 a day from middlemen, unaware of the gold’s value. As Tina Mwasha, Tanzania’s first female mineral processing engineer says, “If a broker walks into your compound and offers to buy your gold and you haven’t eaten for two days – then you sell.”

Fairtrade has already brought signs of hope. Several mines in Latin America are working to Fairtrade standards. A Fairtrade minimum price is paid for the gold plus a $2,000 (£1,200) per kilo premium, often invested in better equipment.”

NEW Black Diamond Eternity and Channel Bands

By admin on November 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm

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Our new Black Eternity and Black Channel Bands, made with ethically sourced, melee black diamonds.

Sunday Reading: Deforestation and Ebola, Deep Sea Mining

By admin on October 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm
Industrial kimberlite diamond pit mine in Sierra Leone, West Africa owned by Koidu holdings, one of a number of international mining companies who have come to Sierra Leone in search of diamonds. Mining is among major factors driving deforestation of the region. Photographer: David Levene

How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic, via The Guardian:

Although bats have long been on the menu in West Africa, there are other transmission routes for the virus besides bushmeat. It is conceivable the two-year-old boy in Guinea thought to be the first case in this outbreak was infected after eating bat-contaminated fruit. This mode of transmission may also explain how the disease gets into wild gorilla populations.

The bottom line is that there is no public health without environmental health. Deforestation didn’t cause this Ebola epidemic, but did make it much more likely. The region’s legacy of war and poverty, its beleaguered health care systems, and a series of bureaucratic fumbles fanned a small and isolated outbreak into a full-blown epidemic fire, which has already killed more people than all previous 25 known Ebola outbreaks put together.

It is shocking to realize that a tiny virus with just a handful of genes can fracture families, shred communities, destroy national economies and destabilize whole regions in just a matter of months. But this is what are witnessing with Ebola.

Ethical Metalsmiths recently published an article an deep sea mining, which would be devastating to marine habitats, called A Close Look At Deep Sea Mining:

Intensive research, planning, risk mitigation and the advances of technology hope to decrease environmental degradation.   The risk to the environment is far greater, however, in the form of large scale disaster.  EM fears the potential of large scale environmental disaster similar to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  During the spill, British Petroleum’s fail safes were unable to stem the flow of oil gushing out of the sea floor.  The prospects of a rogue tank-sized robotic vehicle on the ocean floor gobbling up ecologically diverse habitats concerns us here at EM and it sadly is not out of the realm of possibilities.

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The ROVs will remove some of the most biologically diverse and active vents and habitat on planet earth.  This concerns environmentalists even though the production area is much smaller than land based mining.  All that grinding and crushing of the vents will create noise pollution and large plumes of sediment that have the potential to spread over a larger area of habitat, impacting whales and possibly smothering other sensitive species in a larger swath of habitation.  Scientific research concludes that these ROVs will disturb and suspend 16% of the floor sediment in the surrounding water and predict it will take 20 years for sediment to regain its original density. This disturbance could destroy species’ environments and feeding grounds. Even after the slurry of ore is pumped up to the ship the environmental impacts do not stop.  The waste water is pumped back down to the ocean floor, and even if it is filtered prior to return, it could contain sedimentary particles and heavy metals that are harmful to ocean floor species and migrate to human consumption through seafood and shellfish and via water tables.

Sunday Reading: California Drinking and Irrigation Aquifers Contaminated with Fracking Water

By admin on October 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm
Fracking in California, Photo from www.CAFrackFackts.org
Fracking in California, Photo from www.CAFrackFackts.org

Troubling news from California. Protected aquifers in drought-ridden California have been found to contain billions of gallons of fracking wastewater.

According to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California State Water Resources Board found that at least nine of the 11 hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wastewater injection sites that were shut down in July upon suspicion of contamination were in fact riddled with toxic fluids used to unleash energy reserves deep underground. The aquifers, protected by state law and the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, supply quality water in a state currently suffering unprecedented drought.

The documents also show that the Central Valley Water Board found high levels of toxic chemicals – including arsenic, thallium, and nitrates – in water-supply wells near the wastewater-disposal sites.

Arsenic is a carcinogen that weakens the immune system, and thallium is a common component in rat poison.

“Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

A Marriage Equality Victory

By admin on October 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

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Another marriage equality victory to celebrate that could potentially expand same-sex marriage to 30 states, up from 19.

Supreme Court Delivers Tacit Win to Gay Marriage, via the New York Times.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will have an enormous practical effect and may indicate a point of no return for the Supreme Court.
Most immediately, the Supreme Court’s move increased the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19. Within weeks legal ripples from the decision could expand same-sex marriage to 30 states.

People’s Climate March 2014

By admin on September 26, 2014 at 11:53 am

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Top image via AP/Jason Decrow. Anna was at the People’s Climate March in New York last weekend! Described as the largest climate march in history, estimates of marchers ranged between 310,000 and 400,000 in Manhattan alone:

“Feeling hopeful that the message was heard at the UN. Climate change is the issue of our time; it affects everyone and everything. There is no planet B!” Attached are some photos Anna snapped on her cell phone from the march.

 

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Introducing One of a Kind Stones

By admin on September 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

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Phenakite pair cut and sourced by Top Notch Faceting

Tourmaline cut and sourced by Top Notch Faceting.

Half-octahedron diamond.

Visit our website for more information and images.

 

 

Top Notch Faceting’s Jean Noel Soni

By admin on September 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

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Jean-Noel Soni is the mastermind behind Top-Notch Faceting. Jean creates award-winning, precision cut gemstones that are ethically-sourced, cut by hand, and created without the use of computer-aided design . In his words, the unique facets in his gemstones are “all figured by man.” I had the opportunity to take a peek at his notebook and the degree of detail and geometry that goes into every gemstone is remarkable. Speaking with Jean, it’s clear that he is incredibly knowledgeable about the materials he sources, and is passionate about his process and unique perspective on the industry.

Jean-Noel Soni’s interest in gemstones began at an early age. Raised by his mother, a collector of antique jewelry, Jean was surrounded by intricate vintage trinkets as well as his mother’s talented jeweler friends. His introduction to gemstone cutting started in 2009, taking a once-a-week class at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. The curriculum was solely in cabochon cutting, or stones that are polished and shaped without facets. Jean’s interest in gemstone cutting took off.  Jean states that cabochon cutting is very precise and this experience aided his understanding in creating the dimensions for a stone.

Since Randall didn’t offer classes in facet cutting, Jean decided to take matters into his own hands. Saving money to spend on gem cutting equipment every few months, Jean turned to how-to books in gemstone faceting, including a vintage German book his mother owned from 1896.  At this point, it seemed clear that gemstone cutting was Jean’s calling. Jean picked out other books from the library, paying close attention to the detailed diagrams, illustrating interesting facets and techniques.

16.10ctOregonSunstoneBefore

16.10ctOregonSunstoneAfter

More or less self-taught, Jean’s work is precise and thoughtful.  He strives to create heirlooms from gemstones with the understanding that the material is finite. Never creating the same stone twice, Jean takes the needed time to design each stone. “For me, I really enjoy the challenge of taking whatever shape is presented to me and changing that into a gemstone. It can be challenging depending on the shape of the stone.”

Browsing through Jean’s instagram he is clearly prolific. “I love to work. I love the challenge and the ritual.” He was kind enough to send us a few before and after shots of stones, as well as a few shots from his studio. The transformation of a rough stone into a gem is quite magical and even sculptural.

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4.82ctImperialGarnetBefore

4.82ctImperialGarnetAfter

1.87ctBenitoiteBefore 1.87ctBenitoiteAfter

1.79ctNigerianSapphireBefore

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“I use an older faceting machine. By machine, it is only a motor that spins round grinding wheels in different grits, horizontally. Each facet on every stone is ground down in finer and finer grits until each is polished. The trick lies in keeping all the facets at the proper depth and keeping symmetry. [This is] all done by eye and hand. There is also a whole other slew of things that go into cutting a gem including orientation of the crystal, dopping (attaching) the stone to a quill with wax so it doesn’t fall off and polishing, which is it’s own science by itself. I do not use any computer programs for my work at all. The materials are all very different and I feel that computers can only account for so much. Besides it’s more fun to figure out the stones with my own head.”

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I asked Jean about his views in the gemstone industry and appreciated his honest and critical approach. He mentioned that often in the industry, gems are cut for optimal weight, rather than precision cutting, which brings out natural beauty of the stone. “In the commercial gemstone cutting industry, it’s business as usual.” Jean notes that in the industry, people source cheaper materials rather than the quality of stone, but notes that a few people, such as himself, are searching for high quality products.

Jean prides himself in his ethical sourcing, saying the best way to ensure that a stone is ethical is to work small and stay local. Jean works directly with miners, traveling to places as diverse as Romania, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. His stones are  vibrant, clear, and untreated. Some of his favorite stones to work with are garnets and zircons. Every once in a while, Jean will find a zircon stone with a phenomena called double-refraction, which creates an almost double-vision effect. “You’re essentially watching the molecules vibrate.”

Please join us at NextFab Studios for a discussion with Jean-Noel Soni about his practice on September 24th, from 5-7PM. Please sign up here: https://nextfab.ticketleap.com/jewelry-lecture/dates/Sep-24-2014_at_0500PM

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