My Commitment to Ethical Jewelry Making

I'm a small-town girl with a big-time need to create beautiful things. I live in rural Humboldt County, California, with my family - my husband of 19 years, our 10-year-old son, 5-year-old daughter, and our menagerie of rescued critters - dogs, chickens, and rabbits.

In all that I do, I strive to minimize harm to people, animals, and the environment, and to leave the world a better place than I found it. In my personal life, this philosophy guides my choices about food, clothing, and entertainment, and of course it extends to my work as well.

I use 100% recycled Harmony Metals and fair trade stones in my designs. I realize that the terms ‘ethical’ and ‘fair trade’ are somewhat subjective at present in the jewelry industry, as there are no established guidelines yet for fair trade metal and gemstone mining; therefore, I believe that the best way for me to be true to my ethical intentions is to offer complete transparency to my customers. I pass along to you every bit of information I can find about the origins of my materials, so that you can make your own fully informed judgments and decisions.

Please check out my Hoover & Strong page to learn more about where my metals come from.

The situation with gemstones is a bit more complicated. Everyone has different ideas about what the best ways are to protect workers and the environment, and as with many other ethical conundrums, it can be tough to know what the right decision is. While I am always open to considering other perspectives, here’s what I’m comfortable using right now – (1) lab-created stones, (2) stones that are mined and cut in the US, and (3) stones obtained from outside the US through channels that can be verified to be promoting environmental health, worker safety, and local community development.

Lab created stones are, to me, a no-brainer. I’m not talking about fakes (no cubic zirconia for me, thanks) – lab created stones, also called synthetic, cultured, or man-made, are physically identical to their mined counterparts. Just as gemstones are formed in nature through heat and other forces within the earth, man-made stones are cultivated through applying similar forces within a laboratory, resulting in a stone that is optically and molecularly identical to a mined stone. Lab created stones’ main impact on the environment is in the power used to run the laboratory, an amount far less impactful than what is incurred with traditional gem mining.

I also like to work with stones that are mined and cut here in the United States; that way I can be assured that US laws about workers’ rights and environmental protection have been observed. (Yes, I know that our environmental protection laws leave much to be desired, but it’s something.)

There is only one company that I know of currently working to supply jewelers with verifiably fair trade stones from outside the US, and that is Columbia Gem House (CGH). Please click through to read more about CGH's commitment to fair trade. CGH has ranked the stones that they offer into four fair trade categories. At this time, I have chosen to work with stones from categories one and two.

[ View all available fair trade gems. ]

[ Find out how to request a custom piece. ]

Around the Studio

Wherever possible, I make decisions in my studio that take into account the environment and my commitment to conservation and animal rights. I use recycled office paper, ship my jewelry in boxes made from recycled materials, and I use as much up-cycled packing material as possible with my outgoing shipments. My studio is powered by on-side solar panels.

Each month, I donate 5% of my gross sales to a different charity. These are often animal-related causes, since these are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I've also featured international women's rights groups, children's health organizations (only those that don't test on animals, of course), marriage equality efforts, and more. I consider this to be an integral part of my business, and a way to bring more meaning to my work, and to the jewelry I sell.

Want to Learn More?

If you're interested in reading more about the ethical jewelry movement, please take a look at some of my favorite websites and articles -

If you have any questions or comments about the information I've provided here, please get in touch.

Tamara McFarland
Owner/Designer, McFarland Designs

This month's featured charity:

5% of April's gross sales will be donated to Cooperation Humboldt.
Since May 2007, I've raised $111,465 for charity. Thank you for supporting my work!