Jewelry is unique in that it is not a necessity, yet it holds sentimental and material value to the owner. Jewelry sales in the US have increased throughout time, meaning the demand for gold has almost always been increasing, as well. With more than half of the gold mined going towards the production of jewelry, it is the product with the highest demand of the resource. However, mining for the metals to produce a piece of jewelry, specifically gold, has negative consequences on both the environment and the people working in or living near mines. This study is a life cycle assessment using OpenLCA to determine the global warming impacts of the mining process of metals used in jewelry production. Our results are surprising in that the global warming potential of a 14 carat gold 8 g piece of jewelry (288.2 kg CO2 eqivalents) was more than 100 times that of an equal mass piece of jewelry made from sterling silver (2.68 kg CO2 equivalents). Gold mining has a high environmental impact, therefore conscious consumerism and purchasing jewelry made of sterling silver may be the better option.
Fernandez, Jessica and Klimas, Christie
"A Life Cycle Assessment of Jewelry,"
DePaul Discoveries: Volume 8, Article 6.
Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/depaul-disc/vol8/iss1/6