Jewellery workshops can contain a lot of potentially harmful chemicals – make sure you know what is biodegradable and how to dispose of left over chemicals
The pickle usually used to clean your metal is safety pickle, despite it’s name, it is still a polluting chemical and if you’ve ever got some on your clothes, you’ll have found the holes it creates. A safer and more environmentally friendly alternative is citric acid which you can get from a supermarket or pharmacy. Use it warm and it will do the same job as a standard pickle. Also think about what you do with your used pickle – whatever it’s made of, it should not be disposed of down the sink because it will contain residue of heavy metals – let it evaporate, then wipe out the residue with a tissue.
Standard resins are toxic and manufactured from potentially dangerous chemicals, bio-resin is a more ethical alternative, without the toxic fumes, formulated from sunflower oil, it is used in museum restoration because it will stay clear and not yellow with time as some other resins do, it is also non-toxic and food safe. It makes more bubbles than standard resin, which can be used for effect in your designs.
Lead is often used in enamels, but is a poison and there is now regulation regarding lead content for consumer products – to avoid any risk to yourself or people wearing your jewellery, look for lead free enamels.
Always make sure to save your offcuts, filing dust and any other metals – you can take them to a metal dealer to be recycled and you will be surprised how much money you get for them too!
If you’re interested in casting your own pieces, silver can usually be melted up to twice before the alloy degrades and it needs to be sent off to be re-processed.
Use a separate hand vacuum to clean work areas and always use a bench skin to catch your waste, then re-claim the metal from the contents. Keep all your waste sandpaper, sweepings and other waste (if you work in silver clay – keep all those used baby wipes too) in a bag which you can then send away to reclaim the metal. Not only will you be recycling metal and getting some money back for new supplies, but keeping your work area clean will help you work more efficiently, there will be less dust that you could be breathing in and it will also prevent any contamination between different metals.
These are just a few ideas to get you started – look out for more articles here in the future, and in the meantime, for more information and links to lots of other useful sites – check out http://www.utedecker.com/ethical_jewellery.html#tips. Ute Decker is one of several jewellers leading the way in creating beautiful jewellery that is ethically produced and she has collected together a huge amount of information to help other jewellers looking for greener or more ethical options.
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve made any changes or are interested in green or ethical jewellery issues – please leave a comment here.