“As sustainable fashion becomes a necessity, designers and organizations dedicated to conservation are joining forces. In the past, Pure Earth has made headlines by working in some of the world’s poorest communities to combat toxic pollution, a problem linked directly to manufacturing processes. To prove once and for all that rethinking material sourcing doesn’t mean sacrificing design, the nonprofit enlisted some of the coolest jewelry labels around for its latest endeavor…”
“Pollution knows no borders. When artisanal gold miners in Indonesia, Peru or Ghana use mercury to extract gold, they are not just poisoning themselves, their families, and their environment. Everyone is affected because mercury moves through the atmosphere, dropping into oceans and rivers worldwide. That is why pregnant women worldwide are often advised not to eat too much fish and sushi. Pollution is a global public health crisis, like the pandemic. We all must realize how interconnected our lives are and take steps to demand change.”
— Richard Fuller, Pure Earth President.
What is the Pure Earth Pure Gold Jewelry Collection and Auction?
Over the past five years, Pure Earth has collaborated with jewelry designers and others in the industry to raise awareness about the global impact of mercury pollution from gold mining, and the plight of artisanal and small-scale gold miners who risk their health to make a living.
A centerpiece of this effort is the annual Pure Earth Pure Gold jewelry collection, which features beautiful, unique pieces of jewelry crafted by designers who are passionate about the issue. The collection features responsibly-sourced gold and stones, some of which have been donated by Hoover & Strong.
Funds raised from the auction of the annual collection support Pure Earth’s pollution cleanup efforts around the world, including work directly with artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) communities to help them go mercury-free and restore land stripped by mining in the Amazon rainforest.
Last year’s Pure Earth Pure Gold 2019 collection featured members of the Model Mafia, a collective of activist models brought together by Cameron Russell and Áine Rose Campbell. Previous Pure Earth collections were presented by modeling sensation Molly Bair and Colombian actress, model and philanthropist Taliana Vargas.
The 2020 Collection: 25 Designers, 1 Cause
The 2020 Pure Earth Pure Gold jewelry collection auction featured works from 25 designers including:
Alexandra Hart, Ani Khachian Fine Jewelry, Bario Neal, Brilliant Earth, CASA COLLAB, Chandally, Christina Malle Jewelry, Dana Bronfman, Emily Chelsea Jewelry, Futura, Gardens of the Sun, Grove North Ventures, Hi June Parker Jewelry, KBH Jewels, Marth Cristina, Melissa Joy Manning, Merzatta, Mina Stones, MOCIUN, Shahla Karimi, Steven Jacob, Susan Wheeler Designs, Tobey Pomeroy, Made Line, WEND Jewelry, Wwake.
Joining Forces: Pure Earth, Model, and Designers
“It’s our job as designers and educators to make strides toward meaningful change in jewelry-making standards and practices… We need to push the industry to be as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible,” designer Pamela Love told Vogue about her collaboration with Pure Earth.
Model Molly Bair added: “We should all be more aware of how our products are made, and if we see issues, we should demand changes. We have the power, as an industry, to support environmentally responsible mining and production without pollution.”
“Consumers have probably heard about ‘blood diamonds,’ but few know about gold’s connection with toxic mercury… Increasing the demand for mercury-free gold will help persuade more miners to make the switch. Consumers should realize that they are part of the solution…” — Pure Earth President Richard Fuller.
The High Price of Gold
About 10% to 25% of the world’s total gold supply comes from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). It is the leading cause of mercury pollution in the world, accounting for over 30% of global emissions, making it one of the world’s worst pollution problems.
Artisanal gold miners work in dangerous conditions to earn a meager living. To help them extract small grains of gold from ore, miners add mercury, which binds with the gold to form an amalgam. When burned, the toxic mercury evaporates into the atmosphere, leaving behind gold.
Artisanal miners (including some 4.5 million women) and their families are often the first to suffer from mercury poisoning, but everyone is threatened because mercury travels far and wide, dropping into oceans and rivers, poisoning seafood we all consume.
Today, an estimated 19 million people are at risk of mercury poisoning. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and many organs. It passes through the placenta and travels into developing fetus, causing birth defects and brain damage.
Increasing demand for mercury-free gold will help more artisanal miners go mercury free, ensuring their livelihoods while reducing mercury emissions, and preventing mercury poisoning globally.
What Is Being Done?
On the ground, Pure Earth has been working to reduce and prevent toxic mercury pollution in artisanal gold mining communities in Peru, Indonesia, Mongolia, and other countries. Pure Earth works to raise awareness among miners and their families about the dangers of mercury, train miners in mercury-free mining techniques, and work with local governments to scale up sustainable mining practices.
Reducing mercury use: Pure Earth has been working with Filipino miner Leoncio Na-Oy for nearly a decade to test and teach a century-old mercury-free mining technique to artisanal miners worldwide. Other solutions include the responsible use of mercury-recapturing retorts. Because different methods are viable in different mining locations, Pure Earth is exploring a variety of techniques to reduce mercury that can be used in mines globally. In Mongolia, Pure Earth has trained over 1,000 miners to go mercury-free, with many more on the waiting list.
Reforestation: Pure Earth is also the only organization working directly with miners to restore land stripped by gold mining. To date, Pure Earth and partners have planted over 5000 seedlings and started the reforestation of about 3.5 hectares of rainforest at the two sites in Peru.
Empowering women miners: In Indonesia, Pure Earth is working to empower women gold miners, and connect them directly with local jewelers wanting to use mercury-free gold.