artisan jewelry maker participates in burgeoning slow gold movement

Todd Pownell of TAP Studios in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood has always purchased recycled gold. He fashions the raw material into unique wedding rings for Cleveland couples, or helps people to make their own through his unique, do-it-yourself workshop.

Yet as the price of gold has risen from $300 per ounce five years ago to more than $1,600 per ounce today, Pownell has also observed an increase in exploitative mining operations in various corners of the globe. At the same time, there has been a steady uptick in general consumer awareness of supply chain issues, and a rising interest in where our gold comes from.

These two factors provide a unique opportunity for jewelers to highlight where their materials come from and educate consumers about sustainable sources, says Pownell. He is a member of Ethical Metalsmiths and involved in the "slow gold" movement, named after the sustainability-focused slow food movement.

This past summer, Pownell participated in a unique videography project. He traveled to South Dakota with another jeweler and a couple from New York City to try to mine enough gold for a pair of wedding rings. In the end, the weeklong trip yielded only about a dollar's worth of gold. It also shed light on the resource-intensive process of mining, exposing problems in the global supply chain.

Fellow jeweler Gabriel Craig documented the trip on a series of videos he posted on Vimeo, and participants spread word of their trip through social media websites and blogs. An article about the trip entitled "The Real Cost of Gold" also appeared in the March issue of American Craft Council magazine.

"As consumers, we need to be a little more aware of supply chain issues," says Pownell. "There's been a groundswell of change with the buy local movement, and with that, people are paying more attention to where products come from. Craftsmen are at the forefront of trying to look at supply chain issues."

Source: Todd Pownell
Writer: Lee Chilcote
Signup for Email Alerts