The thing you should know about the conventional jewelry industry is that it’s big. Big ‘n’ dirty. In the United States, jewelry is a $71.3 billion a year industry. That’s a lot of jewelry, and every piece of it — every karat, every inch of metal chain, every gorgeous chunk of turquoise–must be mined from the earth. And mining is, of course, profoundly destructive to the environment. Even in the United States, where laws that protect the environment are actually a thing, the metals mining industry releases more toxic chemicals than any other industry–that’s 47% of the total toxic emissions from all industries in the US, and 3.93 billion pounds of persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic waste in 2010 alone. Once extracted, purifying and processing metals and gems requires chemical processes with their own environmental impacts.

In countries with less stringent emissions restrictions, the effects are that much more severe: the river that runs through Xiaojin, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, literally runs red, purple, and blue with the byproducts of unregulated processing of semi-precious stones. And in 2013, the Ministry of Environment Protection in China confirmed the existence of the “cancer villages” that had been previously reported by environmental activist Deng Fei and other news outlets. Even most handmade jewelry is put together from components that are conventionally mined and made in China.

Lovehewn is different because each piece is made of recycled, repurposed, vintage, or sustainably sourced materials, to eschew conventional supply chains. We use 100% recycled metal wire for all of our wire-wrapping and handmade findings. All of our metal chain is vintage or repurposed, except for our sterling silver chain, which is recycled. Our semi-precious stones are from vintage or repurposed jewelry. Our terrarium vial necklaces are crafted from little glass bottles reclaimed from the veterinary industry, where they’re used to carry the sterile diluent to deliver vaccines. (This has an added benefit, too, in that the bottles are shatterproof!) We also use old wine corks, which we whittle down to tiny town to cork the terrarium vials. We use a wind-powered web host. We use 100% recycled packing materials.