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IAC Names Winner of Responsible Practice in Jewelry Leadership Award

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(PRESS RELEASE) Initiatives in Art and Culture will present its inaugural Responsible Practice in Jewelry Leadership Award to Toby Pomeroy, designer, goldsmith and activist for social and environmental responsibility in the jewelry industry. He is the founder of the sustainable jewelry brand Toby Pomeroy in Corvallis, OR.

The new award, which will be given annually, recognizes a member of the jewelry industry or jewelry-focused organization that has made a transformational contribution to ethical sourcing and responsible practices in the worldwide gem and jewelry industry. The award will be presented to Pomeroy at IAC’s Eighth Annual International Gold Conference, Gold: Vortex, Virtues, and Values, during the April 12-13 event, being held this year at a new location, Bohemian National Hall in New York City.

A leader in the responsible sourcing movement, Toby Pomeroy committed to the possibility of reversing the environmental and social impacts of conventional gold mining in 2005, and was one of the first jewelry designers in the U.S. to use and promote the benefits of reclaimed gold and silver, via a pact with his refiner, Hoover & Strong, which subsequently became a third-party certified refiner/manufacturer of solely recycled precious metals products.

Realizing that he wanted to do more to source newly mined gold from a traceable and responsible source, Pomeroy joined the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), a nongovernmental organization based in Colombia, South America, which created the Fairmined Gold Standard. He began purchasing gold from the miners certified by this standard, which, among many requirements, mandates they be organized and legal, employ safe and fair labor conditions, and provide socio-economic development within their mining communities through the Fairmined premium that jewelers pay to purchase the gold. Pomeroy continues to serve as the only American on its international board.

Today, Pomeroy sources gold for his entire collection of engagement and wedding rings using Fairmined Ecological Gold – an even stricter version of the Fairmined Gold certification, which additionally requires miners not use any toxic chemicals in the processing of gold, such as cyanide and mercury (the regular standard requires the gradual reduction in the use of these chemicals). Presently, only two mining communities are certified to sell Fairmined Ecological Gold.

The jeweler quickly realized that most artisanal and small-scale gold miners remained tied to mercury use because an efficient, easy, cost-effective alternative doesn’t exist for this worldwide community of workers, most of whom have no other way to make a living.

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Although large, industrial gold miners don’t use mercury to separate gold from its ore, “it is still one of the greatest worldwide threats society faces today, because of the 20-30 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners who depend on it,” says Pomeroy. By current estimates, more than 2,000 tons are dumped into the environment every year. “Mercury, which never breaks down to a non-toxic state, impacts the development and function of the central and peripheral nervous systems in both people and wildlife and is particularly dangerous for the youngest among us,” says Pomeroy.

As a result of what he learned, Pomeroy founded the Mercury Free Mining Challenge, a global challenge to engineers, scientists, and academics to discover a mercury substitute that is effective, safe, affordable, and adoptable by artisanal and small-scale gold miners. The challenge incentivizes research with the offer of a $1 million prize. “We are a growing, global team of passionate players,” says Pomeroy, “committed to ending artisanal miners’ dependence on mercury.” To learn more about the challenge, please visit here.

“We are delighted to bestow the inaugural Responsible Practice in Jewelry Leadership Award on Toby Pomeroy,” say the chairs of the award’s selection committee, Lisa Koenigsberg, president, Initiatives in Art and Culture; and Christina Miller, independent consultant and co-founder/former executive director of Ethical Metalsmiths. “Toby epitomizes the kind of person for whom we created the award, and we are honored and delighted to be conferring it on him at the event.” Other members of the selection committee include Peggy Jo Donahue, owner, Peggy Jo Donahue, Writer; Monica Stephenson, founder of idazzle and ANZA Gems; and Ronnie Vanderlinden, president of Diamex Inc., Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America, and the United States Jewelry Council.

Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Eighth Annual International Gold Conference, Gold: Vortex, Virtues, and Values, takes place Thursday, April 12 and Friday, April 13, at Bohemian National Hall in New York City. It will explore the range of gold’s subject matter, from responsible business practices throughout the worldwide supply chain, to new trends in jewelry manufacturing, design, and apprenticeship. New frontiers in social media, government and legal affairs, and presentations by some of goldsmithing’s greatest artists round out the two-day event.

Of special note is a champagne reception, followed by a panel discussion, taking place on the first evening of the conference, entitled “A Rising Tide: Women and the Jewelry Industry.” Panelists include Jenny Luker, president of the Platinum Guild International and the Women’s Jewelry Association; Wendy Brandes, jewelry designer and writer at Wendy Brandes Jewelry; Brandee Dallow, founder and president, Fine Girl Luxury Brand Building & Communications; and Barbara Palumbo, writer and founder of Adornmentality.com and What’sOnHerWrist.com. Moderator is Hedda Schupak, editor, The Centurion newsletter, with opening remarks by Koenigsberg and Vanderlinden.

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“I’m delighted to announce that Monica Stephenson, president of ANZA Gems, is sponsoring our champagne reception,” says Koenigsberg. “As a woman-owned business, ANZA Gems is a perfect partner for our celebration of women during the Eighth Annual International Gold Conference. We thank Monica for her generous support.”

To learn more about the Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Eighth Annual International Gold Conference, and to download a PDF of the full conference line up and biographies of speakers, click here: http://artinitiatives.com/. To sign up for the two-day event, click here.

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