PETALUMA, CA (April 12, 2007) â€“ We've all heard the terrible tales associated with â€œbloodâ€ diamonds, but what many consumers may not realize is that the silver and gold adornments that make up many a jewelry box in the U.S. have also had a start that's somewhat of a dark secret â€“ and have served to accumulate severe environmental and economic scars.
Silver and gold production â€“ together resulting in nearly 50 billion ounces a year â€“ is almost always the result of heap leach mining â€“ a process utilized since the 1960s that starts with the low grade ore being dumped into large piles and sprayed sprinkler-style with a cyanide or acid bath solution, helping to separate the precious metals from the ore. The result? Polished pendants, pricey rings and earrings â€“ and large toxic waste pits that remain indefinitely contaminated, polluted lakes, streams and aquifers, and the untimely death of the surrounding wildlife.
â€œSilver and gold mining practices are harmful to the environment,â€ explains Sky George, co-owner of Tarma Designs â€“ a company that designs and sells high-quality, stylish jewelry made from recycled 316L stainless steel.
â€œIn the U.S., most mining takes place on public lands, which are also home to important species including wolves and bears. The practice not only disturbs the habitat for these animals, but also leaves unsightly open pit mines, abandoned leach heaps and tailings ponds laden with acid solutions and heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. And, in almost all cases, following closure of these mines, the sites have to be monitored and controlled for decades, often at the expense of the taxpayers.â€
For George and his wife, Stephanie, learning about the environmental concerns of this process stimulated more than outrage â€“ it sparked a solution. Aside from just being aware, they wanted to provide an alternative.
â€œLike many in the U.S., the effects of global warming have brought the ideas of sustainability, recycling, social conscience and ethics to the forefront of our daily lives,â€ says George. â€œHaving worked many years ago for a company that was involved in electroplating and chroming, I'm aware of the long-term harmful effects of toxic industrial waste. More recently, having served on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association, I'm much more informed about industries that impact our public lands and the need to have a conscientious political voice.â€
So, in 2005, the Georges started Tarma Designs â€“ a company that effectively blends their love for adventure and the outdoors (as depicted in their jewelry's unique designs) with their commitment to sustainable materials and socially responsible business practices. Best of all, Tarma offers consumers high-quality earrings, wristbands and pendants in finishes that closely match the look of silver, but are made from recycled materials that don't necessitate environmentally harmful mining practices.
â€œIdeally, it would be great to see recycled silver and gold, but this will be a much more long-term effort,â€ says George. â€œInitially, people will have to move away from gold, silver and additional mining, and into other metals that already have a high-recycled content. Tarma is offering an alternative to silver and gold in recycled stainless steel.â€
With the current increase in awareness surrounding environmental concerns and a movement toward consumer interest in sustainable food and clothing, retailers are also beginning to pay attention to the importance of offering eco-friendly alternatives in these categories. For the jewelry market, however, this has been a slower process.
â€œMajor retailers don't currently have a good alternative to gold and silver jewelry, and they are also committed to the high price points these precious metals carry,â€ says George. â€œWith increased awareness regarding materials like stainless steel and environmentally-friendly finishes, sustainable jewelry will gain more acceptance.â€
Tarma has, in fact, already seen success with numerous reputable retailers. The company's jewelry line is currently offered at Whole Foods, Backwoods and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports stores, in addition to individual retailers, and will be available in REI stores this spring.
With its commitment to environmental consciousness, Tarma Designs has even been asked to make exclusive commissioned jewelry pieces for gift shops at national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.
â€œWhen you work in a National Park, it just makes sense to carry earth-friendly products,â€ says Karen Dickson, outdoor recreation manager for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts at Grand Canyon National Park.
"When I first saw their jewelry, I really liked the styles, but when I read about their commitment to using recycled materials, I liked the whole "package" they were selling: beautiful jewelry with a message. Offering earth-friendly jewelry side-by-side with jewelry traditionally found in souvenir shops lets our customers know that we are environmentally conscious and not just interested in making a sale."
Despite Tarma's quest to offer sustainable substitutes to jewelry materials that are mined by environmentally harmful methods, the George's also realize that consumers generally just want to feel good about the jewelry they wear â€“ not just to appease their conscience, but also to enhance their physical appearance.
â€œUltimately, people purchase jewelry because of its design and style,â€ says George. â€œThe use of sustainable materials is an added benefit. When alternative materials such as stainless steel offer the variety and popular styles that consumers want, I believe green alternatives will significantly displace the current environmental and socially unfriendly offerings in the next four to six years. We're doing our best to help facilitate that.â€
Sky George has 20 years of experience in marketing and product development, with past employers including True Temper, United Sports Technologies and CamelBak Products. Early in his career, he was involved in the metals market, fabricating steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, and was trained in multiple finishing processes, including chroming and electroplating. George holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University and an ABJ from the University of Georgia. An avid hiking and cycling enthusiast, he rode his bike around the U.S. with his twin brother following high school and has hiked more than 2,000 miles on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. George resides in Petaluma, CA with his wife, Stephanie, and their two children.
Tarma Designs blends sustainable, high-quality materials, distinct design elements and the spirit of adventure and exploration to create its line of fashionable and environmentally conscious personal art. The Active line brings a love of the outdoors to life for men and women with symbols inspired by active adventures immortalized in recycled stainless steel pendants, earrings, wristbands and bottle openers. For more information, visit www.tarmadesigns.com. Editorial media may contact On the Horizon Communications at (805) 773-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information, images or product samples.