I get inquiries about making a piece in gold sometimes and I wanted to write about why I don't work with gold and instead use bronze. Bronze jewelry is a sustainable alternative to gold and looks just as beautiful! Below are 5 ethical reasons followed by 5 practical reasons to choose bronze instead of gold!
1. Gold is Very EXPENSIVE
The cost of gold changes minute by minute, like the stock market. As of writing this, the cost of gold is $1925 per ounce. Meaning that this dainty opal ring I make would cost closer to $600 just in material alone not including the cost of the stone. 'Sustainable fashion' isn't sustainable if it's only accessible to the wealthiest among us.
2. Gold is not Environmentally Sustainable
Gold mining is recognized as one of the 'world's dirtiest industries.' The process contaminates drinking water with mercury and cyanide, destroys entire ecosystems, and displaces populations. There is a mine in Utah that is so big it can be seen from space. Gold is a finite resource.
3. Historical Impact of Gold + Colonization
Along with most of US history, the Gold Rush period has been largely whitewashed. The reality is that gold claims brought a massive influx of thousands of people into Native American territory, leading to widespread starvation, slave labor, disease, and ultimately genocide and the theft of their land. To this day, populations that are displaced are disproportionately indigenous.
4. Gold's value is 'Based on Fear'
According to Forbes, people buy gold when economies/currencies look unstable. Brokers prey on uncertainty: the thought that and that things are bad could get worse. So situations like COVID and political unrest are making rich gold investors a lot richer. Just something to think about.
5. The Human Cost of Gold Mining
Despite gold being so pricey right now, the workers who mine it aren't seeing any of that extra $, and many live in poverty. The mining labor in other countries is largely unregulated. Numerous human rights violations, unsafe mining conditions and ongoing exposure to toxic metals mark the lives of the people do this work.
6. Gold and Bronze Look the Same
Most people can't tell the difference between gold and bronze from looking if a piece is well polished and cared for. The bronze we use mimics the color of 14k gold instead of a yellower finish, and it's beautiful.
7. Every Metal Oxidizes
Even gold and fine silver. When metal is exposed to air and water, it forms a slight patina over time. All of my pieces are sealed with Renaissance jewelers wax, an invisible, museum-quality protection to seal and prevent metal from oxidizing. This keeps the finish looking brand new for a long time.
8. Easy to Clean
When oxidization does happen, don't worry! I include little polishing cloths in all orders that have cast brass components. Any tarnish comes off in just a couple of swipes and looks brand new!
9. Bronze is Harder
No jewelry is made of pure, 24 karat gold, because it is so soft that it can easily be bent out of shape. Jewelry that is plated in gold or made of an alloy of gold (14k, 18k) are still soft and will wear down over time. Bronze is hard - it will take a lot more to break a piece made in bronze, or for a stone to fall out. Bronze jewelry is likely to last a lot longer without needing repair.
10. Jewelry Made with Recycled Metals
We work with Portland casters and metal refiners who buy back scrap from people to recycle these materials. When I get my bronze castings, any ones that don't end up selling I am able to return to my caster to be melted down to make new designs!
and one last one:
11. But Will Bronze Turn My Finger Green???
Actually yes, but only slightly! Bronze is an alloy (mix of metals) that has a very low amount of copper that gives it it's color, and also causes the green. I've noticed that bronze we work with hardly leaves a mark though, because the level of copper is so low. I've worn my ring through the summer (hand sanitizer, water, sunscreen, lotion - all of these things cause oxidization in metals)
Metal reacting with the skin varies widely person to person. Based on the pH level of your body and how much you sweat will determine if metal turns green when you wear it.
Check out some of our favorite designs made in bronze here!