Can you imagine walking into a bridal expo with vendors who will turn you away based on who you choose to marry? Unfortunately, this may be easy to imagine, because it’s not abnormal for vendors to decline services to same-sex couples. Co-owner of Rainbow Wedding Network, Cindy Puechl-Sproul, often says, “LGBT couples can walk down the aisle in the morning and in many locations still get fired from their jobs that same afternoon for who they’ve married.” In today’s world, we’ve come so far as a nation in regard to equality; however, in many ways we’ve taken steps back. Even though gay and lesbian couples can now legally get marry in all 50 states, since the SCOTUS decision in June 2015 there have been over 200 anti-LGBT pieces of legislation proposed in locales all across our country!
Did you know that many wedding expos actually have an employee walk around with a piece of paper that has an equality sign printed on it? These employees are tasked to ask vendors if they support equality and same-sex couples getting married. If the vendor does support and accept LGBT couples, they will put the equality sign on their booth. If a vendor declines and chooses not to put the sign of equality on their booth, they’re making it known that same-sex couples are not welcome to do business with their company.
Joel Bagnal with Joel Bagnal, Goldsmith experienced this when he participated in a larger bridal expo in the Orlando area. At first, his immediate response was shock that he was even being asked if he would turn same-sex couples away and quickly replied, “Yes, I want the equality sign on my booth! Why would you NOT want to be a part of EVERYONE’S wedding?!” He was so dismayed by the amount of vendors who did not accept same-sex couples, that Joel himself decided to create jewelry to specifically honor the LGBT community.
Joel is an expert goldsmith with an M.Ed. and an M.F.A. in Metalsmithing, he teaches and creates metals programs for Cedar Crest College and Boston University, and he is a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient. You can find his work in the Smithsonian Institute Collections, the Collections of the Minnesota Museum of Art, and at his current shop located at 11C, Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL.
Joel has also worked with LGBT couples for many years to create that perfect wedding ring.“For over 40 years, we have offered distinctively handmade designs in gold and silver jewelry. We commemorate marriages, partnerships, and any special occasion or relationship with collaboratively designed objects of adornment. We provide expert advice in diamonds and gemstones. We serve clients,” he emphasizes, “not customers.”
Needless to say, Joel was ecstatic with the recent inspiration to get started on his new equality line. Immediately after the bridal fair, Joel got to work on his fresh ideas. Shortly after, the Heart of Equality line was created. Together, Joel blends a heart symbol with an equal symbol inside to represent love and equality. This uniquely delicate design is a timeless piece that one can wear at any time with any wardrobe. The Heart of Equality line is offered in studded earrings, beautiful earrings that hang, charm bracelets that can also be worn as an anklet, and as a necklace pendant. This exquisite jewelry line can be worn by all genders in any walk of life - anyone who supports the LGBT community’s right to equaity.
You can find Joel’s Heart of Equality line on his website, https://www.joelbagnalgoldsmith.com/. Also, if you’re looking for unique wedding rings, Joel creates custom wedding bands that are designed specifically for you and made to reflect your personalities as individuals as well as your union as a couple.
Joel Bagnal, Goldsmith
For many LGBT couples, it is not possible to have parents or grandparents join the festivities of the wedding day. Many LGBT couples marry later in life, and parents or grandparents are unable to travel or perhaps have passed on. Or for some couples, there are still parents, godparents or other relatives who don't agree with their lifestyle, and choose not to attend the wedding in person.
And yet many brides and grooms still want to find a way to include their loved ones, and share the special moment of getting married at least symbolically with those who cannot attend the ceremony.
Keepsake lockets are one beautiful way to ensure such a wish can come true. The company With You offers a beautiful line -- a collection of modern lockets with a vintage look -- including mother of pearl necklaces, sapphire bouquet pins, broaches, bracelets, anklets and rings. There are a variety of striking styles that can appeal to many different tastes, and are fitting for both women and men.
The LGBT-friendly company With You was co-founded by Mikki Glass, who lost her father to brain cancer in 2002. While searching for a way to include him in her sister's wedding that was both meaningful and private, she created an anklet locket for her sister to wear so their father could "walk her down the aisle,” and then wore it at her own wedding a few years later.
In addition to beautiful craftsmanship, With You has created an easy way to help fill each locket with the perfect image upon arrival so the stress of resizing, printing and cutting a photo is gone. When the locket arrives, the image (which can always be changed) will already be inside – making it an even more meaningful piece.
Select favorites include:
Luminous white topaz and oxidized sterling silver come together to give the illusion of black diamonds in this beautifully crafted round locket. ($149)
Claire’s luminous pearls exude grace. The mother of pearl and quartz center stone is a timeless touch—surrounded by shimmery white topaz, the effect is as precious as the photo inside. ($329)
Gloria Bouquet Pin
A sweet—and elegant—finishing touch, this timeless pin is destined to be a treasured addition to any collection. After the wedding, the locket can be converted to a sweet bracelet – a forever reminder of your special day. ($209)
Esther Bouquet Brooch
A modern update on vintage elegance, this ornate yet streamlined brooch features three mother of pearl and quartz doublets, accented with tiny white topaz hearts. It’s completely feminine and one of a kind. ($199)
Stunning as part of a bridal ensemble but appropriate for any occasion, this locket ring’s diamond pavé filigree finishes your look with a delicate touch. Elegant and refined, you will find it difficult to take your eyes off of it. ($329)
Puts a feminine spin on the classic dog tag, inspired by and honoring those who have served. Sterling silver and shimmery white topaz gemstones.
10% of proceeds from sales of our Meagan are donated to The American Fallen Soldiers Project, an organization dedicated to providing comfort and healing to grieving families of fallen military in the form of original portraits. ($149)
This beautifully detailed peek-a-boo locket is a modern take on tradition. A petite center diamond is a luxe finishing touch. A perfect everyday piece destined to become a family heirloom. Available in Yellow or Rose Gold plated sterling. ($229)
Inspired by the cufflink’s early history, when royal families commissioned the pieces for special events, our Ryan cufflinks are quite royal indeed. With sleek black onyx studded with a bright white topaz, these cufflinks will turn heads. Add personalized photos inside and they are truly extraordinary. ($209)
A double row of freshwater pearls makes this classic piece a beautiful addition to any bridal ensemble, from traditional gown to custom pantsuit. Finished with a brilliant sky blue topaz, a ring of white topaz accent stones, and delicate silverwork that lets your photo peek through. ($249)
For more information, and to see the full collection, visit: http://www.withyoulockets.com/
When choosing a wedding ring, many in the LGBT community simply do not like yellow gold. Instead, more and more couples prefer the cooler tones of white metals, which enhance the sparkle of diamonds or sapphires. But how do you sort out issues such as whether to go with 14K or 18K white gold? What about palladium, the alternative white metal to platinum? One jeweler you visited suggests 18K white gold with rhodium plating instead of 14K white — is that worth the extra money?
Here is some unbiased information that will help you make an informed choice about which white metal to choose.
The first issue is that of actual color. If you consider 1 as pure white, any metal under the index of 19 is considered "good white" in the jewelry world. The whitest metals are platinum and palladium — both of which are given scores of 11. Fourteen karat white gold is at 15 and 18K white gold is at 18.
Color is determined by the composition of the ring and the natural color of the metal. Both palladium and platinum are naturally white metals. Ninety-five percent of a platinum or palladium ring is pure platinum or palladium. This notion of purity has strong appeal to many people who want white metal; especially compared to a white gold.
Of course, an 18K white gold, which is 75% yellow gold, will not be as white as a 14K white gold ring, which is 58% gold. More white alloy means a whiter ring. Many jewelers compensate for this through rhodium plating and will try to up-sell you 18K white gold. We are against this practice because it is extremely toxic and eventually the rhodium plating does wear off. Our recommendation: if you want to go white gold, go with 14K white gold because it is more white and a more durable ring. It will also be less expensive.
Some jewelers believe that the optimal setting for diamonds is platinum. Because it is a naturally white metal that does not reflect color into the diamond, it is said to enhance the brilliance of diamonds and other gemstones. However, diamonds and other gemstones also look very fine in white gold.
If you are want a white metal that is beautiful and durable and less expensive, you can also consider stainless steel wedding rings, which can look similar to white gold but are less than half the price.
The next issue is durability. One of the benefits of a platinum ring is its hardness. However, palladium (which is in the platinum family) is slightly more durable than 14K white gold. A well made, 14K gold ring will last a lifetime. Eighteen karat white gold is considerably softer, reflecting the malleability of gold. There are many types of stainless steel used in rings, we recommend type "316l". This steel type is most commonly used in medicine for implants. It will never rust, is highly durable, nickel free, light weight, extremely resistant to damage and nearly impossible to scratch.
Another issue is metal sensitivity. Platinum, palladium and stainless steel are all hypoallergenic and rarely tarnish, making it easy for sensitive people to wear. White gold has a small percentage of nickel in the alloy, so there may be rare cases of allergies when wearing this metal, However it is possible to have white gold alloyed with palladium, although it will be more expensive.
Two other considerations are cost and weight. Cost is often a determining factor in purchasing a wedding ring. Platinum is the most expensive choice and the heaviest metal, and it is actually rarer than gold. Stainless steel is the lightest metal and the least expensive material. Fourteen karat white gold and palladium are comparable in price. These days, many people end up choosing palladium because it is a metal in the platinum family that does not require alloying and is about the same cost as white gold. Platinum and palladium have the "purity" which alloyed gold lacks, which leads to the last point: feeling tone.
There is not a lot of difference in the feeling between palladium and platinum. However, gold feels different than natural white metals. This is very subjective, but many in the LBGT community are extremely sensitive to the energetic quality of metal. Gold has always been associated with the sun and warmth. Some people choose gold because it feels better to them. However, others choose platinum, palladium or steel because they like the cooler sense it conveys, as well as it's elegance.
______Marc Choyt is Director of Fair Jewelry Action, an environmental justice and human rights network within the jewelry section. He is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company and manufacturer located on Baca Street in Santa Fe that sells Celtic jewelry including Celtic wedding rings and unique designer conflict free diamond wedding and engagement rings. His book on sustainable business practices, The Circle Manifesto, was published later in 2012. www.ArtisanWeddingRings.com / www.CelticJewelry.com
Finally, the time comes for you to buy the rings...
You and your partner pass through the glass doors of your store. The jeweler knows why you have come—he can see it in the light in your faces, how your bodies casually lean into each other as you look into the cases.
“We’re looking for a unique wedding and engagement ring set,” you say. Already, she is pointing to a white gold designer ring with a floral pattern and a one-carat diamond.
For years you’ve dreamed about getting married and now, with the ring, it can feel a little scary. But you can feel the beauty of what you have together and the mysterious connection you share that make life a miraculous gift.
Yet as she picks up the ring, she expresses some hesitation. It was hard enough for you to even get her to come into a jewelry store. You had to tell her, this store is different—really.
“What about the issue of blood diamonds,” she asks.
“Our Canadian diamonds are traceable straight to a mine that has third party oversight,” he says.
She likes diamonds, but for yourself, you’re not 100% percent sure about getting one.
“If you prefer a colored gem, we have fair trade sapphire from Malawi,” he says, pulling out a tray of gemstones.
“What about the gold?” she asks, mentioning the news magazine television shows about conflict gold… dirty gold….child labor gold.
“You have a choice—wedding rings made with recycled gold, or fair trade gold wedding rings, where the gold is traced straight back to a small-scale mining community in Peru that is third party certified.”
The jeweler pauses a moment, and looks you in the eye and asks, “Shouldn’t the sourcing of the ring reflect a life-giving, hopeful future?”
Of course. It makes total sense. And the amazing thing is, for the first time, such rings are available.
How we got here
Until the last few years, with the birth of the ethical sourcing movement within the jewelry sector, the material from which jewelers make their products was viewed only as commodity-- no different than lumber or oil.
That material that makes up jewelry is sourced from mines and what usually comes to mind when most people think of mines are huge open pits and earthmovers with ten-foot tall tires. Yet between 13 and 20 million men, women, and children from over 50 developing countries work in small scale artisan mines, often in impoverished areas associated with corruption, war, and terrible environmental conditions.
According to the World Bank, over 100 million people depend upon small scale mining for survival. These artisanal miners produce more raw materials and benefit more people than all the large scale multinational operations combined. The small-scale miners around the world supply 20 to 30 percent of newly mined gold and up to 90 percent of all colored gemstones. Almost all of them live in abject poverty.
The gold mining by small scale miners, in particular, is an extremely toxic activity. Mercury, one of the most dangerous of all neurotoxins, is used to extract gold from ore. Once it gets into an ecosystem, it wreaks havoc on human and ecological communities.
Over the last few years, a few jewelers around the world have begun to create wedding rings made from recycled precious and fair trade gold. These jewelers are passionate about creating ethical jewelry that really benefits small scale producer communities.
How To Buy Ethical Wedding Rings
These days, the ethical movement in the jewelry sector represents only a tiny percentage of its overall sales. Few mainstream jewelers will truly be concerned about the sourcing issues until they feel they can make money from the trend. You can actually make a difference by choosing to work with an ethical jeweler, or even by walking into a mainstream store and asking about mine-to-market traceability and transparency. In doing so, you will bring your humanistic values in alignment with your purchasing decisions.
The challenge for the conscious customer is that the market is a bit like a jungle. There is a huge amount of spin. The term, “conflict free” actually is meaningless. In fact, about 15% of diamonds entering the supply chain are conflict diamonds labeled as “conflict free diamonds.” These include those from Zimbabwe, where human rights atrocities are common.
What you need to do is actually pretty simple. When you go into a store or visit a jewelry website, you simply need to know where exactly the gold, diamond or gemstone actually comes from. If the jeweler cannot tell you this simple information, just assume that their product is not conflict free.
The good news is, there are many small jewelry companies that are actually making ethical jewelry. Their unique wedding and engagement rings are not only truly conflict-free, they are also competitively priced. By supporting these companies, you not only will have an artisanal wedding ring that is beautiful—you will also be helping to create a more beautiful world.
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, an ethical jewelry company that selling unique designer wedding rings online and conflict free diamond artisan wedding and engagement rings at Artisan Wedding Rings. His company produces eco-friendly, recycled gold, platinum and palladium wedding and engagement rings and ethical Celtic wedding and engagement rings. Marc also a jeweler activist and Director of Fair Jewelry Action, USA, supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.