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VeggieGlobal's Guide

VeggieBite ...
THE number of animals killed for food worldwide in 1998 was 43.2 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture organization.
This included: *290 million cattle, buffalo and calves *1.1 billion pigs *802 million sheep and goats *41.1 billion chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese The figures exclude some small countries and 'non-slaughter' deaths that are not generally reported.

Jewellery and Veg*ns

Q. Is all jewellery suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans?

A. No.
In the past years, VeggieGlobal has become proactively involved in investigating greenwashing within the jewellery industry. Therefore, you will find a detailed answer below as to what should truthfuly define jewellery as "vegan" or not. This page also contains more useful information along with our
solutions via a unique collaborative project to create the world's first "bio-vegan" goldsmith environment.

Pearls, coral, leather and even more controversially elephant hair are all used in the jewellery industry. Along with this, there are many aspects of the jewellery making process which involves the use of tools and supplements derived from animals. The environmental impact linked to jewellery crafting, and thus the displacement of animal life, must also be considered before a vegetarian buys a piece of jewellery which may superficially appear to be veg*n friendly.

Both natural and cultivated pearls are harvested from mussels, oysters or scallops. All such clams (bivalve molluscs) are killed to retrieve the pearl. Even some imitation pearls can be made from coral or conch - both which are sea creatures.

Although elephant hair jewellery has traditionally been harvested from the ground around trees where elephants have rubbed their bottoms on the tree-trunks, there is a considerable risk that the hair has also come from poached elephants. You can read the VeggieGlobal / Looking-Glass exclusive report about the ethical risks of using or wearing elephant hair jewellery here.

Although not directly animal related, a lot of amber for jewellery is extracted from the Baltic region in a manner that's very harmful to the environment. Apart from the mining process itself, the sea in the locality of the mining process is heavily polluted by millions of tons of waste, destroying sea-life in its wake. The destruction caused by one of the largest amber mines has been measured as "one of the biggest culprits in the environmental crime of anthropogenic suspended material explusion", according to a report by the Trade and Environment Database.
As you may know, VeggieGlobal regularly reminds its visitors that detrimental effects to the ocean is a major cause of planetary deterioration. When buying amber products make sure it has come from traditional gathering methods and ethically processed for use as jewellery.

The mining of gems and precious metals is now commonly known to be associated with human rights issues ... but dig deeper and the environmental cost to the earth caused by any form of gem and precious metal extraction (fairtrade or not) continues to cause a ecological catastrophe which is cumulatively destroying once pristine environments and causing massive displacement of wildlife habitats; a combined area easily the size of two large European countries. Is it worth it ... all for the sake of vanity?

Greenwashing the Gold Rush

Ethical jewellery craft should, you would think, be defined by the responsible use of recycled precious metals, and not by promoting the continual extraction of raw materials and the subsequent environmental disruption it causes. To describe any form of new-mined gold in jewellery as sustainable and green is contradictory and misleading, and perhaps the most blatant example of greenwashing to date. Gold mining by nature is not an ethical practice. This also applies to "fair-trade or "fair-mined" gold, platinum and silver which should also not be termed as "green" either. Mining disrupts and destroys essential life-sustaining, interdependent ecosystems by displacing previously untouched environments containing fragile flora and fauna, right down to the micro-biological level. Mining is detrimental to the ecology of our planet, and there is no form of raw extraction for the jewellery industry that can genuinely claim to the contrary. As from 2011, Fair-trade's new undertaking increased the demand for mined gold as many "ethical" jewellers (and even standard jewellers), who were originally only sourcing ecologically-friendly recycled gold have jumped on the fair-trade bandwagon and are now clamoring for Fair-mined gold, platinum and silver instead. (The surge in demand for such "fair-trade" precious metals is considerably more than what is available.) Subsequently, the amount that is mined is set to rise dramatically ... a major drawback for earth's ecology and for those environmental organisations whose aim is to save it.
To summarize: Recycling gold is an environmentally friendly practice. It can comfortably be termed as an ethical process because disruption to our fragile, natural environments has effectively been eliminated from the procedure of refining pure gold for use in the jewellery industry. Mining gold is a practice which destroys or displaces the long-established natural ecology of the areas where it is extracted, and therefore offers no environmental benefit.
As far as responsible vegans and veggies are concerned, we clearly advise you to avoid new-mined gold and always opt for recycled when buying jewellery. Mining always devastates the ecology of the land, and displaces and destroys life. If you don't condone the decimation of wildlife for the sake of vanity then recycled gold and silver is your only natural choice. If any jeweller attempts to convince you otherwise you are being "greenwashed".

VeggieGlobal's Solution for Jewellery Lovers

VeggieGlobal and our sister site Looking-Glass has been researching the ethical / eco jewellery hyperbole spreading across the internet for some years now and have discovered a myriad of jewellery web sites claiming to be "responsible". But scratching beneath the sparkly, galvanized surface, we have found an astonishing number of pseudo-ethical claims in jewellery making practices; riddled with contradictions, half-truths or plain lies. With no proper regulation of how a jewellery seller, goldsmith or their suppliers can use the term "ethical", they lavish the customer with marketing jargon (greenwash) while keeping quite about the bulk of their business practice, which can prove to be so unethical it would be even impossible to "green" it up however much they try to spin it.
VeggieGlobal felt that if no jewellery business was able to provide a genuine ethical service to jewellery lovers with real environmental concerns, we would (in a non-profit capacity) initiate the world's first bio-vegan goldsmith atelier. The result is a unique ethical collaboration between VeggieGlobal's philosophy and goldsmith artist
Kerstin Laibach.
The Laibach Principles embrace the true meaning of "environmentally friendly" goldsmithing by eliminating every unethical aspect of the making process down to fine details that most wouldn't even have considered - and all without any compromise in quality.
With Atelier
Laibaich we have also pioneered the world's first truly cruelty-free bio-vegan goldsmith standard designer jewellery; a sincere and highly advanced ethical approach, offering ultra-fine quality bespoke, sculptural jewellery based on unique principles. All Laibach jewellery is made in a vegan work environment with no animal-derived materials or work tools... and of course nothing newly-mined - only recycled precious metals, with 15% of profits donated to wildlife protection, renaturing projects and land-care education in developing countries.
"The reality is that all raw extraction of stones and metals leave environmental scars and displaces / destroys habitats and ecosystems wherever and however it takes place. There is absolutely no process which can genuinely claim to the contrary" ... "the only way in which ecological full-proofing can be achieved is if gold and precious stone extraction ceases completely" Kerstin Laibach.
Atelier Laibach
Here is just one example of how Kerstin Laibach's bio-vegan goldsmith environment was developed; For months, VeggieGlobal researched and finally sourced a polishing paste made without animal derivatives. Until then no jewellery maker had ever considered this aspect that their polishing paste and other workbench materials may not adhere to vegan principles. Jewellery workshops have always used paste with animal fats to polish their finished jewellery - even those claiming to make vegan jewellery. Laibach became the first goldsmith to aquire and use this paste and recently one or two other makers are now following this initiative. Laibach has also created felt-free natural plant fibre polishing wheels/buffs - another vegan jewellery first.

As a general rule of thumb based on the principles VeggieGlobal has established for bio-vegan jewellery and of which goldsmith Kerstin Laibach uniquely offers, a jewellery piece should be considered not suitable for vegans if it does not adhere to the Laibach Principles checklist as goverened by VeggieGlobal:

First ... some of the obvious animal parts Kerstin Laibach atelier does not use are:

  • Pearl.
  • Coral.
  • Leather.
  • Snake.
  • Lizard.
  • Elephant Hair.
  • Ivory.
  • Feathers.
  • Horn.
  • Bone.
  • Porcupine Quill.
  • Shell.
  • Any other product derived from animals.

The Kerstin Laibach atelier also does not use these less realised habitat destroying/damaging ingredients and animal-derived ingredients, tools and processes:

  • No newly-mined gold, silver, platinum, paladium, precious or semi-precious gems or any other newly extracted metal or stone which destroys ecosystems and habitat including commercialy harvested amber.
  • No cuttlefish (Cuttlebone casting is commonly used to create patterns in jewellery making).
  • No ebony or any other woods from endangered forests.
  • No shellac.
  • No leather, felt* and hair/fur based tools. (Laibach has replaced these with own-made non-leather / non-felt alternatives.)
  • No egg (for patina effects)
  • No animal fat polishing paste. (VeggieGlobal specially sourced an alternative polishing paste without animal derivatives. Laibach atelier is the first goldsmith workshop to use this ... Some other vegan-based jewellery makers are now beginning to follow this principle)
  • No crafting plastics (neither new or recycled) (i.e. microplastic material which damages ocean-life and animals dependent on it)
  • No commercial modelling clays which include PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Such manufactured clays leach plasticizers and their constituent chemicals, which upon disposal pollute land and marine environments (ingested by various species) and thus are not safely biodegradable. PVC within such clays is not industrially recovered for recycling.*
  • No bioresin. Although the resin itself is sourced from plant materials, the hardener contains highly hazardous isocyanates. The effects of this irritant may be blocked when working with the resin, but the causative agent remains in the non-reusable material, subsequently becoming an environmental hazard upon disposal.*
  • No type of product which is animal tested, or product containing hazardous chemicals which can damage the environment.

*Very often, even with jewellery making, the best environmental solution can be to stick to a natural / traditional path with a few environmental tweaks instead of contrivances misleadingly marketed as a greener choice.

With critical acclaim for Kerstin Laibach's jewellery collections growing, she is often commented as the world's most ethical goldsmith. ... but Laibach (and VeggieGlobal) considers "gold" and ethical" an uncomfortable combination of words in the same sentence and it should be pointed out that gold will only become ethically stable when it is no longer mined at all.
You can see Kerstin Laibach's specific collection of veg*n inscribed jewellery here.
After our extensive research into greenwashing associated with ethical and vegan jewellery, Atelier Laibach clearly proves to be genuinely sustainable and cruelty-free, with an unprecedented array of ecological principles.

In the meantime, there's a shameful number of "ethical" jewellery makers who urgently need to fix their moral compass; self-proclaimed as leading exponents and pioneers, but actually using new-mined gold and gems, animal derivatives and non-biodegradable materials. We've observed that in the world of unscrupulous jewellery marketing, it's frighteningly easy to mesmerize customers, not just with sparkle, but also words like "pure", "responsible", "sustainable" "organic"... and of course "green".

Useful external link on amber extraction:

What is Bio-Vegan (or organic-vegan) Jewellery?
This is a term created by VeggieGlobal and ethical goldsmith Kerstin Laibach.
With food, bio-vegan describes a vegan who only eats organic foods - nothing chemically sprayed, artificially fertilized or GM modified. Coining this term for Laibach jewellery, it means that (as well as being free of animal derivatives in the jewellery and the tools used to make it) everything that Kerstin Laibach makes is biologically earth-friendly, so that if ever disposed, the parts it is made of will not cause detriment to the environment as there is no chemical residue in the pieces - no plastic parts etc. It also means that additional solutions Laibach may have to use when making her pieces are over 95% organic (95% being in compliance with organic certifications as well as The NOVA Key)

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