by Jackson Bicknell, staff writer
“They are like the underground flowers of the earth,” says Dan Ellis on gemstones. Dan began mining for gemstones four years ago, when he first came to the college.
“Asheville is one of the best areas in the country to go mining,” he said. ”I go anywhere within a two hour radius of this place.”
Dan is fascinated by both the physical aesthetics of gemstones and their healing properties. His jewelry work includes everything from a single-stoned cage wrap to complicated pieces containing up to 23 gemstones. Dan’s favorite piece is a “wire wrap with an eight gram flawless heliodor with two emerald crystals and tri colored tourmaline.” The necklace was hung from silver and given to Dan’s friend upon completion. “He wears it all of the time, so it is in a good home,” he said.
Dan began creating wire jewelry during the beginning of his sophomore year here at Wilson.
“I had a lot more money for wire from selling wraps I had made. This gave me the ability to buy higher quality stone and silver, and influenced me to try new things.”
Since he began selling his work, he has always been able to make a profit, which allows him to subsidize the expenses required for his hobby. Cutting out gem expenses by mining his own stones helps Dan to make more money than he would otherwise.
“Corruption within the trade and their expensiveness” is a prime motivator for Dan to mine for his own gems. Most of the gemstones around the world are imported from Burma. Burma is known for their disreputable mining practices including forced labor, land confiscation, unsafe working conditions and child labor. Unfortunately, roughly 90% of gems sold in America are imported from Burma. Burma, aware of their bad reputation within the gem industry, sends their stones to other countries for cutting and polishing before being sold to the US so it’s more difficult to trace the origin of the product. Gem stones coming from Burma are already being boycotted by industries such as Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jeweler Inc.
“An Intention of my business is to provide American self-mined crystals,” said Dan. “I like the people who buy my jewelry to know where my gems come from.”
Dan’s stance against the cruelties within the gem trade hopefully will inspire others to look into the origin of their jewelry. Dan can now manage and mind his own business without feeding into the corruption surrounding the gem industry.
“I like knowing that my trade isn’t supporting something I don’t agree with.”
In short, Dan is free to mine his own business.