When the euphoria of being madly in love enters the picture, concern for the environment is usually the last thing on couples’ minds. But as Earth Day 2012 approaches, it’s important to point out that the grandest of romantic gestures doesn’t have to be an eco-unfriendly one. Choosing a vintage or antique engagement ring over a new one can not only heighten the romanticism. It can also eliminate the harmful impact gold mining and diamond mining have on the earth.
Mother Nature Network recently singled out vintage and antique jewelry shops as one of the ways any wedding can be made greener. That is because choosing antique rings “helps with some of the dangerous manufacturing processes of gold.” An article in the “New York Times” a few years back titled “With This Ethical Ring I Thee Wed” highlighted some of these dangers.
Pointing out that “80 percent of all the gold mined today is fabricated into jewelry,” the article enumerated the gold-mining Earth Day–unfriendly impacts of what is unaffectionately referred to as “dirty gold”:
1. The use of cyanide “to retrieve the metal from base rock, which can pollute water and lead to the release of other pollutants like mercury”
2. Displacement of indigenous peoples to get at the profitable gold at all costs
3. Rock waste, 30 tons of which are “often needed to produce a single gold ring”
But gold isn’t the only material that makes an antique or vintage engagement ring a better choice for environmentally-conscious couples. With an estimated 80 percent of American brides receiving a diamond engagement ring prior to their nuptials, diamond mining enters into the equation as well.
According to the World Diamond Council, unregulated diamond digging can harm the environment in the following ways:
1. Land disturbance – “Diamond mining uses a variety of methods, some of which involve the removal of large quantities of soil from the earth.”
2. Energy use and emissions – The carbon emissions that are a byproduct of diamond mining “are considered to be a major factor in global warming and climate change,” both vital environmental concerns this Earth Day.
3. Waste and recycling – Waste produced by mines “can include oil, paper, scrap metal, batteries, tires and small quantities of plastic and glass.”
4. Use of water –¬ “Diamond mining uses water, rather than chemicals, for extraction,” making “it even more important that the diamond mining process does not pollute natural water sources and that it uses as little [water] as possible.”
5. Impact on Biodiversity – Diamond mining occurs in diverse places around the globe, disrupting delicate ecosystems in the process.
Because the gold and diamonds in vintage and diamond engagement rings were mined long ago, no additional impact is made on the earth by grooms-to-be who buy them and brides-to-be who wear them. As a result, they align with Earth Day’s agenda of protecting and preserving the environment.