Happy Birthday Charleston, New Zealand!

The Charleston beach where we get our ethical gold

I heard on National Radio this morning that Charleston, New Zealand is celebrating it's 150th birthday this weekend and thought, "this will make for some great blog and social media fodder!  We love Charleston!"  Here's why.

Hopefully, it's pretty obvious that ethical wedding and engagement rings are our bag around here.  It was a major turning point in our business when Ash first started looking into worldwide gold mining practices.  What he found was shocking.  So many people were aware of the atrocities surrounding diamonds, but not many people understood the huge environmental and cultural toll that precious metal wreak on the world.

He knew he couldn't just bury his head in the sand and ignore the situation.  He reached out to his suppliers and found out that they only source gold from New Zealand and Australia, which have relatively good mining practices, BUT the majority of it comes from traditional mines, which can create up to 20 tonnes of mining waste to extract enough gold for a single wedding ring.  Uh, not so great.

This is what a traditional goldmine looks like.  Yuck.

Then!  He remembered that his Dad, Jim, had done some work for a guy collecting alluvial black sand gold from a beach on the West Coast.  This is where Charleston comes in.  Charleston was a big gold mining town in the 1800's.  All the gold mines are long gone, but not all the gold is!  Gold from the mines has washed down the rivers and mixed in with the black sands of the beaches.  Jim's mate had purchased the rights to a gold claim in Charleston to collect this black sand gold.

A much better scene than an open pit mine.

It's basically bigger-scale gold panning involving a tractor and rubber matts and a slurry of sand and water.  Two people operate the plant right on the beach.  They do use mercury in the process, which we were concerned about, but Jim told us that they always end up with more mercury than they started with, so they're actually removing mercury from the beach that's washed down from the old mines.Sparkles of gold in the sand!

I just love this whole story.  Ash wants to make ethical jewellery, but can't find a supplier that can help him out.  Jim has gold fever and thus was one of 3 people to work at this little gold lease.  Ash is able to visit the set up, see how it all works and know 100% that it's all up to snuff.  Ash can make wedding rings for people from gold that comes from the same place he grew up knowing that it in no way messes up the environment or screws people over.  

Our ethical wedding rings sometimes have surface imperfections as the metal isn't refined in the traditional way, but alloyed by Ash in our workshop.

If you're in New Zealand, go to Charleston this weekend for the party!  You can go and try out black sand mining for yourself, see the old goldfields and ride the train up the Nile River.  More info here:  http://www.westcoast.co.nz/events/150th-anniversary-charleston-goldfields/