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Ethical Mines

Hello, I am currently working on the design of an engagement ring for
a customer who would like a blue stone of some sort - at the moment
the brief is still quite open so we are looking at everything from
sapphires to aquamarines and sky blue topaz. He would very much like to
know that the stone that we choose comes from somewhere where the
stones are mined in an ethical way. He is keen to ensure, if possible
that the stone does not come from somewhere were there are any big
land or environmental issues, or where workers may not be treated
well. Of course this is a huge subject and one which I could never be
100% sure about but does anybody have any or suggestions
on how to find this out? Thank you and best wishes, Harriet Kelsall,
Hitchin, Herts, UK ( @Harriet_Kelsall

there are certainly blue American stones available which would answer
most of the questions.

Harriet; In order to not offend your client’s PC sensibilities,
perhaps your best bet would be Montana Sapphire or a synthetic. Jerry
in Kodiak

Harriet Kelsall was requesting “ethically mined” blue gemstones…

Um. It’s my impression that if you really want to deal with
"environmental" issues with mined stones…

Mining by its very nature leaves permanent effects on the environment.
Perhaps what your client should really be looking for is a
synthetically “mined” stone, with the knowledge that the environmental
harm is dealt with in as EPA (at least in the U.S.) approved a manner
as possible?

Gemstones tend to come from the ground. That means ripping up the
ground somehow. Rather unavoidable.

Unless…something alluvial?

–Kat Tanaka

Dear Harriet,

I’ve met some sapphire miners from Montana. The impression I got was
that many of the mines are small operations that observe US labor and
environmental regulations.

Good Luck,

Hi Harriet, You may want to contact the New York Times on line. They
have written a couple of articles on that subject in the past 2-3
months. Diane Sadel
Coming Soon:

For an engagement ring, which I would suppose will be worn
continually, you should look into a stone that is fairly rugged. I’d
suggest a saphire, and to make it more interesting, why not consider
an American saphire, mined in Arizona? There are sure to be some
members here who can give you more about the mining
impact, both sociological and ecological.

David L. Huffman

harriet - suggest he try a ‘prize’ from a box of cracker jacks. sorry,
but you just can’t get ‘there’ from anywhere - all stones come from
areas where there is one or more of his concerns; the best we can do
as designers & makers is to START a chain of ethical practice with
our work. your other choice is to find material from a local
lapidary/rockhound club that has been collected domestically. good
luck -

Hi Gang,

   Gemstones tend to come from the ground.  That means ripping up
the ground somehow.  Rather unavoidable. 


Everything we use in this world has either been mined/pumped or grown
sometime before we get it. Even if it’s grown, mother earth may have
been disturbed in some way because of it’s growth.

All we can do is keep the unnecessary damage as low as possible. We
need to think in terms of geologic time, not human time.


I would hope the client wanting a blue, “ethically mined” stone is
not driving a car, using pots or pans, or a stove and is living in a
wood house with no nails or other metal fixtures. It’s pretty hard to
get away from mined materials. Once we passed the stone age we were
defined by what we were mining. Bronze age, iron age, aluminum foil
age, etc.

If it can’t be grown, it must be mined!

John McLaughlin
Glendale, Arizona The Copper State

Ive, Great suggestion. Many club field trips collect great materials,
some of which is fine for faceting.

Another thought is those who go to fee digs for precious rough. I
have personally seen fine quality Tourmaline right at the Himalaya
Mine, and also fine Emerald at Hiddenite, North Carolina.


 I'd suggest a saphire, and to make it more interesting, why not
consider an American saphire,  mined in Arizona? 

Gee, Don’t know about American Sapphire from Arizona. But do have
some Sapphire that I collected and cut myself from Montana. Most of
the Montana Sapphires tend to be cut as Rounds, but I do have a few
Ovals also. You can Email me at: Or
visit the website at

I have worked at mines that were primarily operated for metal ore
with gemstones as a byproduct (copper-turgquoise, etc.) and at mines
that were only for gemstone recovery (turquoise, chrysycolla, fire
agate, gold). Every operation leaves scars upon the earth and usually
the efforts made to mitigate the damage were minimal and forced upon
the mine owners only by law. Some mines are operated in more
environmentally benign methods than others but extensive research
would be neccessary to identify them. The mine owners and sellers of
gemstones aren’t going to advertise their dirty laundry. One question
of morality and ethics I have seen little discussion of is the effect
of the mining operation on the miners, those who do the work.
Conditions in some mining locations are extremely oppressive and
often little better than slavery (rubies in Cambodia/Vietnam, gold and
emeralds in Brazil). Even the better operations where a man could make
an upper poverty to low-middle class living often ignored the
immediate physical hazards and the long term health risks of the work
(silicosis, heavy metal poisoning, hazardous chemicals). “Most
articles of value, if examined closely, bear the marks of blood and
pain.” Not a condemnation, simply an observance, people die even for
the right to a plot of vegetable garden.