This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece have been acquired from a previously mined reserve, sometimes over 30 years old! This could mean that the stones came from an abandoned mine, a retired gem cutting operation, or a particular high quality turquoise mine, which is often the case. Using stones from old reserves helps preserve the future of the environment in the sense that there is not further damage being done to the land to mine additional material.

More Information About Turquoise
Bisbee Turquoise - Image Source: Waddell Trading Co.

Bisbee Turquoise – Image Source: Waddell Trading Co.

The most highly prized Turquoise in the world is mined in the Southwestern United States. NKS always purchases Turquoise from reputable sources that can verify that the stone was US mined and refined. Only about 20% of the turquoise on the market worldwide originates from US mines while all commercially created jewelry is likely made using Chinese or Tibetan turquoise. That is why handmade jewelry using high quality turquoise from US mines is so invaluable! Especially when it comes to certain turquoise localities, but more on that in a minute. If you’ve taken any sort of dive into the world of Turquoise, you may have noticed there are ALL SORTS of different colors, patterns, and shades of turquoise. There are over 200 different turquoise mines in the US alone.

Turquoise is named after the locality that it originated from, e.g. Kingman, #8, and Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes these names come directly from the name of the mine it originated from, such as Kingman turquoise from the Kingman mine, and sometimes they are the name of the geographic region it came from, such as Carico Lake turquoise, which is a series of mines located in Carico Lake, Nevada. However, different types of turquoise can look very similar, though they originate from different mines. Unless there is a very specific chain of custody that comes with the stone, exact origins can be unknown. Unless you are being told that the turquoise jewelry you are purchasing is incredibly rare and therefore very expensive, don’t get too caught up on locality. High quality turquoise is of course produced in other parts of the world, but if you are looking to own a US mined stone, the important thing is that your jeweler can verify that the stone originates from the US and supports US miners and lapidary artists.

There are a LOT of different turquoise mines all over the world, but the most sought after stones come from mines that are very little producing or no longer active. These stones and slabs that you see left in circulation are the last of their kind and as a result are highly priced. You should definitely nab a piece of jewelry featuring them if you get the chance! They may not be around for much longer. Here are several types of high prized turquoise mines that have been closed:
  • Sleeping Beauty – Arizona
  • Blue Gem – Nevada
  • Bisbee – Arizona
  • Blue Moon – Nevada
Two of my personal favorite types of turquoise are New Lander and Damele, which are becoming increasingly more collectible and rare.  The Damele mine is located in Nevada and its stones are usually comprised of the mineral variscite, which is not technically turquoise at all. Unfortunately this mine is very small and difficult to work with. The stones are typically a beautiful shade of green or yellow and have very high webbing which can make them look spotted with color. Because of this and the limited mining, this type of turquoise is highly collectible.  The New Lander mine is also located in Nevada and is comprised of a mix of the minerals variscite, chalcosiderite, faustite, and turquoise. Because of this mineral mixture New Lander turquoise comes in a very wide variety of beautiful patterns and colors.
  • Even though New Lander and Damele are usually made of the minerals variscite and chalcosiderite, these types of minerals are very closely related to and occur in deposits mixed with or alongside turquoise, so they are marketed as such.

This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece have been created in a laboratory. This method of creating gemstones and diamonds is far less environmentally destructive, far more ethically responsible, and very comparable in price to their naturally occurring counterparts. While this method of production solves a lot of issues that often come with gemstones, it does have one important caveat: it doesn’t help support the miners that rely on their gemstones as their sole source of income, which is commonplace in many countries around the world. However, insuring that gemstones have been acquired from miners that are fairly treated and compensated is a difficult process, which is exactly why we all need to push for a more transparent and responsible supply chain. With this complex issue, NKS errs on the side of caution. I am always working to connect with new suppliers, but until I can find a dependable environmentally and ethically responsible supplier, permanent NKS collection pieces will always contain lab-created gemstones and diamonds.

More Information About Lab-Created vs. Synthetic Gemstones
It’s a common concern that  lab-created gemstone or diamonds are going to be of inferior quality to their naturally occurring counterparts. This however is totally not true! The quality of your lab-created stone depends on its method of production. If you would like to purchase a piece of jewelry that features lab-created gemstones, it will be helpful to know a little about the different production methods to assure you are getting a high-quality stone.
The following chart breaks down the 3 methods of production along with the most common gemstones created with each method:
Lab-Created Gemstones and DiamondsNo Kitchen Sink uses lab-created precious gemstones and diamonds created using the flux-grown method of production, unless otherwise noted. This method of production uses a flux to “grow” the gemstones  over the course of 6 months to a year in a laboratory setting that recreates the natural environment that they occur in. The result is the gemstone rough that is in its naturally occurring crystallized structure that can then be cut and faceted. Gemstones created using this method are physiologically, chemically, and optically identical to their nature-found brethren and it would take a well trained gemologist and a powerful microscope to discern the difference between the two.

The most common synthetic gemstones on the market fall under the “melt” production process, and even further an estimated 90% of lab-created ruby and sapphire on the market are made through flame fusion. However, unlike the solution produced gemstones, melt produces gemstones with structural flaws making them easier to identify. Melt processes typically create an even more affordable alternative option (than solution grown), and has necessary product applications (especially outside of jewelry), but the downside is that they are, even if only slightly, optically and structurally inferior.

It is worth mentioning that Cubic Zirconia is a lab-created imitation gemstone that has its very own production method called Skull melting. This falls under the melt category, but is used solely for production of Cubic Zirconia. Though lab-created CZ is considered an imitation, because it was made to imitate a diamond, it is considered a high quality alternative option because of its hardness and dispersive (aka: blingy) qualities. Because it is it’s own crystallized structure, and not a synthetic version of another gemstone, it very rarely contains imperfections, and does not contain structural flaws lessening its value.

This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece have been acquired from an artisanal mining operation that insures the ethical treatment of its workers, environmental protection, and that the income generated from the production is used to promote community and local economic development.  Efforts like the Kimberly Process for diamonds (which you can read about below) have made some strides forward in stopping the corrupt mining and trade for large established diamond mines, but this has its pitfalls and also leaves artisanal miners vulnerable.  On the very bright side, effective efforts to change “business as usual” have surfaced in the form of grassroots organizations working one on one with these workers to protect them in ways that laws alone have not! This is another example as to why we all need to work together to demand change in a historically dangerous and destructive industry. Not only is our physical environment at risk, but the people involved as well.

More Information About Organizations That Protect Small Scale Miners

This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece have been acquired through direct trade. That is, a supplier has traveled to work one on one with gem producing countries to ensure that they are helping fund a mining operation that is fairly treating their workers, and that the gemstone profits stay within the community.

The difference between Responsible Small Scale Mined Stones and Stones Acquired Through Direct Trade is the inability for me to assure the minimal environmental impact of the stone at the mine location. Artisanal mines are extremely common throughout the world and while in many places it is illegal to continue mining without repairing the damage done to the land elsewhere, this requires funding that is not feasible for the small scale miners that are not being fairly compensated. Additionally, political climate of a country plays a large role in this complex issue as well. If the price of a piece of jewelry with a naturally occurring precious gemstone seems too good to be true, it’s highly likely that somebody’s efforts were undercut during it’s creation. This affirms the importance of purchasing fairly priced gemstones, and of the organizations that are working to help these small scale mining operations ensure that the land that is their livelihood is being taken care of.

This icon signifies that the gemstone or diamonds used in the piece were previously set in another piece of jewelry, removed, and recycled to be used elsewhere. Similar to old stock stones, recycled stones help preserve the future of the environment in the sense that there is not further damage being done to the land to mine additional material. If a beautiful ruby or diamond is sitting in an unused piece of jewelry it only makes sense to remove it and give it new life!

This icon signifies that the metals used in the piece come from recycled sources, unless otherwise noted. While No Kitchen Sink believes it is important to utilize all previously mined metals, gold is known to have the most tumultuous and important history. Gold is still used as currency because of its rarity and guaranteed value, and is often collected in the form of coins and bars. It is also used in electronics, dentistry, and even has applications in aerospace! Despite its broad range of lesser known uses, an estimated 78% of gold in the world is used for jewelry. That’s quite a demand, and a lot of opportunity to bypass potential toxic substance release, unethical mining conditions, and further destruction of the land.

Gold Mining: High Risk, High Reward
There are several methods of gold mining;
  • sluicing
  • panning
  • dredging
  • hard rock mining
Contrary to the iconic golden nuggets panned from a California stream, by and large gold exists in microscopic amounts embedded within a host rock where it is extracted using the hard rock mining method. This means that a LOT of rock is needed to produce a profitable amount of gold and thus a lot of waste. In fact, producing enough gold for one wedding ring generates about 20 tons of waste.
Today, hard rock mining is the predominant form of extraction. Unlike sluicing, panning, and dredging, hard rock mining utilizes chemicals to extract the gold ore from the host rock. Using mercury to separate gold ore from the host rock was the original chemical method of extraction, and it still the method used by small-scale miners. Today large scale mining operations use cyanide to separate the gold ore from the rock host. In either case, the release of the mine tailings is extremely damaging for the environment, especially with mercury as it is highly bioaccumulative in fish. According to the EPA’s 2012 Toxic Release Inventory, metal mining is the world’s #1 toxic polluter, by a whopping 1,000,000 pounds.
Refining recycled gold has it’s pitfalls as well, but the energy usage and emissions of a refinery can be improved with technology. In many cases entire ecosystems are destroyed by the mine tailing releases, and the people involved in small scale mining have irreversible damage done to their bodies.
You can find more information on gold mining “Resources” tab below. The issue is quite complicated and messy, but it remains that if more people demand more responsible metals, these destructive and unethical practices can be a thing of the past!

This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece have been mined, refined, or created in the US. This will most often apply to pieces that contain turquoise or Herkimer diamonds. “True” Herkimer diamonds are double terminated quartz from Herkimer County, NY. They can be found all over the world, but I make a conscious effort to support US economy.

This icon signifies that the stone or stones used in the piece come from an origin that has no known political and ethical issues tied to the type of stone it is. Political and ethical issues most often come into play when mining precious gemstones (emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds), so this icon will only be applied to pieces using semi-precious stones, as the risk of not knowing the history of a precious gemstone is too high. However, simply knowing the origin of the stone is, in my opinion, not enough due diligence and is therefore very seldom used. You will most often see this icon used in one-of-a-kind pieces.