Where does it all come from? A brief look into the jewellery industry

Do you know where that sparkling chain around your neck came from? That gold bracelet you treated yourself to, or even that ring you’ve saved on your Pinterest board? Everyone knows gold is valuable, but not many people know the horrific true cost of how we get this precious metal.

Here, we at Esther & Belle not only want to provide you with beautiful jewellery, but we also want to give you the information you need to pick sustainably sourced pieces. So what do you need to know when it comes to how gold is sourced? Small scale mines produce about a fifth of the world’s gold every year - pulled from the ground in hazardous conditions across Africa, Asia and South America. Not only are the people working in the mines at risk of dangerous working conditions, including the danger of mine collapse, but mercury is often used to separate the gold from soil. Mercury has devastating health impacts that attacks the central nervous system, causing long term effects on the local communities.

Even more disturbingly, according to the International Labour Organization, the mines employ tens of thousands of children whose development is particularly effected by mercury. These children are made to work in horrifically dangerous conditions - falling victim to mine collapses and the long-term effects of hard labour. But mining for gold also takes a toll on the environment. Not only does it cause deforestation but the toxic chemicals used in the process can often leak and poison the area - even in low concentrations.

So what can you do about it? Ask the question. When you’re buying jewellery, ask where the metal has come from. If they are providing sustainable gold (otherwise known as “green” gold) they should be able to answer this.

Recycling gold is also important - rather than pulling more gold out of the ground needlessly, it’s possible to reuse the metal in jewellery pieces otherwise languishing in the bottom of your drawer. So the next time you go to pick out that special necklace, or bracelet gift ask - where did it come from?