By now you’ve heard of blood diamonds- diamonds mined by force to support civil war in Africa. Gold is being mined by small children in west Africa for almost no pay for the kids. Miners in Myanmar get almost nothing for the rubies they find in rivers. Mining has always been a hard way to make a living, and often for very little pay. Jewelers have always been aware of the hard work and suffering by the miners to provide us with the gems and metals that we make into beautiful adornments, and admire their tenacity. In the late 1990’s there was a flood that killed a number of tanzanite miners in east Africa, and the entire jewelry industry went into mourning, though the public was unaware of the tragedy.Nowadays the public is becoming aware of the high price to create jewelry, and they feel the concern we jewelers have felt for a long time. People are asking questions, and expecting their jewelry to be produced in an ethical fashion. Gem producing countries are finally being forced to protect their mining citizens. The mantra of Conflict Free Gems is all over the media. This means gems and metals are mined ethically with respect for people and the environment.Imagine my confusion, though, when the young lady at my jewelry counter asked if our Mason County topaz was ethically mined. I could not hold back a smile, and thoroughly enjoyed her confusion at my answer. I told the lady that not only did the rockhounder that picked up that topaz not get paid a damn cent, he paid the rancher for the privilege of picking the topaz off his ranch. So all you Mason ladies, wearing your beautiful Lone Star cut topaz, feel comfortable in the knowledge that your gem was ethically mined- after a fashion.
B. Diane Eames, GG
Graduate Gemologist (GIA)