We recently received a lovely e-mail from Ethical Metalsmiths to jewelers using FAIRMINED gold: “Responsibly sourced, fairly mined, fairly traded, transformative and fully traceable gold is no longer an idea, but a reality and you are the ones making it happen in the United States [...] What I am most excited about and think you may be too, is that the premiums you paid on your certified gold has been applied to the building a of a new high school in Relave, Peru. The use of the premium is democratically decided by a committee.” We are so proud to see the benefits to the mining community and their families. Images courtesy of Ethical Metalsmiths.
Blog Archive: Metals
Fairmined Gold from Aurelsa
We’re excited to let you know that Anna Bario, co-owner of Bario Neal, will be a part of a roundtable discussion on the importance of responsible gold sourcing, hosted by Jewelers of America (JA) and National Retail Federation (NRF).
“Gold and other minerals have been known to fuel unspeakable violence in Congo and the surrounding region, when mined and traded illegally by armed groups who use them to finance their activities.” says Holly Dranginis, Policy Associate at the Enough Project, a Washington-based nonprofit. “Jewelry companies have a major role to play in curbing that violence and improving the conditions for peace by developing responsible sourcing practices.”
You can register for the event here.
We are excited to announce that Fairmined gold is now available on our website in all of our wedding bands and engagement rings! Read more about Fairmined Gold..
This article aims to keep our readers up to date on the complicated and nuanced path towards ethical and environmentally-conscious gold standards. More specifically, Bario Neal is currently committed to using Fairmined gold and plans to offer Fairtrade gold in the near future as well. In this article we lay out the details of the Fairmined gold standards set forth by the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). We also explain the difference between Fairmined and Fairtrade gold. Fairmined and Fairtrade standards and certification have the power to transform the gold mining industry, along with the lives of those dependent upon it. We will update this article as the ethical gold story unravels.
“Globally, over 100 million people depend on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) for survival. The 15 million ASM miners work in harsh and dangerous conditions to produce just 10-15 percent of global gold supplies, but they make up 90 percent of the global work force in gold extraction. These miners and their families are caught in a vicious circle of exploitation [and] illegality, and many lack the skills and resources to move forward. However, if managed responsibly, ASM mining can provide a great opportunity for poverty reduction and sustainable development for millions of people.” 
Bario Neal uses 100% recycled metals whenever possible, the exceptions being our bronze pieces and certain findings like earring backs and clasps that we aren’t able to make ourselves. We are also well aware that regardless of how much recycled metals we use, precious metals will continue to be mined and continue to be recycled. In response to the social and environmental issues surrounding metal mining, Bario Neal has been working to expand our commitment to ethical metal sourcing and more directly support responsible ASM mining. Fairmined gold has only recently become available to the US market, and we are proud to be one of the first jewelry companies to develop a relationship with sources for Fairmined gold.
An article about the Aurelsa mine via Reuters
“Aurelsa, with 45 employees, made its first direct international sale in June 2013, a 2.2-pound (1-kg) shipment of gold certified as “ethical” by ARM, and it has exported another 22 pounds (10 kg) of ethical gold since.
While Aurelsa still sells some gold to middlemen, it hopes that all of its production – currently at 4.4-6.6 pounds (2-3 kg) per month – will soon be marketed and sold as “ethical gold”.
There are three other mines like Aurelsa in South America and last year they exported a combined 790 pounds (360 kg) of “ethical gold” to boutique jewelers in the United States and in Europe.
Miners at Aurelsa work in well-lit tunnels and take home regular paychecks, a vast improvement over other mines in Relave, a town of about 4,000 people.
Across from Aurelsa’s active mineshaft, hundreds of illegal miners dig without protective gear at La Capitana, an imposing hunk of rock that locals say has been mined for more than two centuries.
“In any one of those, you’d have to crawl to get inside, and you wouldn’t be able to see anything,” said Daniel Arcos, an Aurelsa engineer.”
Dorothée Gizenga, Executive Director of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) speaks about the DDI and its relationship to the Kimberely Process in an interview with Ethical Metalsmiths. Excerpt below:
EM: There is a relationship between DDI and the Kimberley Process. Can you explain the relationship and help our readers understand the difference in the regulatory aims of the Kimberley Process and the development goals of DDI?
DDI was created to complement the Kimberley Process, an international conflict prevention mechanism. We address the issues that are not within the Kimberley Process mandate. There are socio-economic issues affecting artisanal miners who mine diamonds in alluvial fields, where conflict diamonds started. We believe that conflict prevention requires resolution of these development issues, issues that will not disappear on their own without intervention.
DDI represents the first attempt to take a holistic approach to the challenges of artisanal alluvial diamond production, working with governments, miners, civil society and industry to solve problems that will not disappear on their own and need sustained support. Through education and projects working directly with artisanal miners, DDI seeks to promote better understanding and concrete solutions for issues relating to the artisanal diamond-mining sector.
The Kimberley Process is most challenged in the alluvial diamond areas, where internal controls required by the certification scheme are weak or non-existent. DDI is working with governments to increase internal controls through projects, and enhance the implementation of the KP through policies and project. After a number of years, the KP now recognizes the importance of development and its effectiveness.
We now have fair-trade, fair-mined gold in stock. Coming in 2014!
New research shows the possibilites of cornstarch to to replace cyanide in gold extraction. The use of cornstarch could greatly improve the environmental and health impacts of gold mining and scrap separation. Thanks to Toby Pomeroy for sharing!
Working with recycled precious metals is an important part of our process at Bario-Neal. We focus on sourcing the most environmentally and socially responsible metals and stones possible. One hundred percent recycled precious metals are the best option currently available, as they don’t require additional mining.
Our recycled silver, gold, palladium, and platinum come from two primary sources: Abington Reldan Metals, a refinery about 40 minutes from our Philadelphia shop, and Hoover and Strong, a refinery in Richmond, Virginia. These refineries take in scraps of precious metals, dust and filings from jewelers’ workshops, old or unwanted jewelry, silverware, silver from photo processing, as well as metals from electronic devices. The refineries collect, sort, melt, and refine these materials into forms that jewelers like Bario-Neal can use again, such as casting grain, sheet metal, and wire.
Our refineries aren’t only committed to producing 100% recycled metals, they are also invested in the environmental and health impacts of their facilities. We’ve visited both refineries, and we’re impressed with their advances in reducing waste and energy use. Hoover and Strong has been in business since 1912, and their recycled metals are third-party certified to ensure the recycled content. They maintain four large fume scrubbers to reduce emissions that cause air pollution. Hoover and Strong also uses the Miller Process (http://bario-neal.com/bn/blog/?p=12) to refine gold, which reduces acid use by 85%. Abington Reldan Metals is a LEED Silver certified facility, and they’ve been operating for over 30 years. They also use waste heat from the refining process to heat the manufacturing plant and for domestic hot water, as well as for the sludge drying and water evaporation process. This heat recovery has reduced their energy consumption by about 20-25%. Both facilities maintain a closed loop for water, meaning there is zero discharge and all the waste-water is treated and re-used in the refinery.
This article describes in detail the precious metals we use at the Bario-Neal studio, and we hope it will be helpful in choosing the right material for your commitment band or engagement ring.
What does the karat refer to? Karat is a unit of measurement for gold. 24 karats is pure gold, or 100% gold. The higher the karat, the more pure gold a metal contains. Because pure gold is quite soft, 24kt gold is not used in jewelry but simply used as a reference for measurement. The most popular gold, 14kt yellow gold, is 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metal (also called alloy). So 14kt gold is 14/24 karats, or 58.3% pure gold. 18 karats can be figured out the same way: 18/24 = 75% pure gold.
What type of metal should I get if I am hard on my hands? What is the hardest metal? What metals resist scratching best? If you are hard on your hands, we recommend platinum or palladium. Because of their ductility, platinum and palladium will not break or wear thin the way gold will. Platinum and palladium will sooner bend or deform than crack, which is usually an easier repair. All metal will scratch overtime but you may notice it most on softer metals such as sterling silver.
What type of metal should I get for my engagement ring if it is a delicate setting style? Because of its strength and density, platinum is the best metal for rings with delicate settings. As mentioned above, platinum will not wear away so the prongs will never become thin, as they would if they were in gold. Palladium is not recommended for delicate setting styles. If you are interested in a yellow metal, then 18k yellow gold is a good choice as well. If platinum doesn’t work with your budget and you’re interested in a white metal, 18k white gold or 14k white gold are also good options.
Will a brass or bronze ring turn my finger green? Yes. Brass and bronze react with acids in your skin when you sweat. The oxidation of the metal then rubs off on your finger turning it green. This is the same type of oxidation that happens to bronze sculptures or copper roofing, but instead the bronze is reacting with acids and chemicals in the air. In the past we have made rings with an inner band of gold and the outer band made of brass. This is a great solution if you really love the color of brass but want to avoid the skin discoloration.
How do I know if I am allergic to nickel? If you’re allergic to nickel, your skin will turn red and become irritated where you come in contact with the metal. About 1 in 8 women have a nickel allergy. White gold is the only metal we work with that is alloyed with nickel so all other metals are considered nickel free. Therefore, platinum, palladium, 14kt yellow, 18kt yellow 14kt rose, 18kt rose and sterling silver are safe to wear if you have a nickel allergy. Sometimes wearing a necklace that has a 14kt white gold chain is not always the best judge to decide if you have a nickel allergy because it is not worn every day. Because of this, customers in the past who thought they did not have an allergy discovered that they did indeed after wearing the ring for a couple months. If you are unsure about having an allergy or not, consider wearing jewelry containing nickel for a longer period of time, rather than just a day or two. If your skin becomes irritated from a ring that does not contain nickel, consider having it cleaned or cleaning the ring yourself.
Platinum: Platinum is a very strong and naturally white precious metal. It is also very dense and therefore the heaviest. It does not tarnish and is hypoallergenic. All of these qualities contribute to platinum being the best metal to work with- especially for prolonged wear. It is the purest precious metal we work with, containing 95% pure platinum and 5% ruthenium. Ruthenium is of the platinum family and is alloyed with platinum to make it harder.