Posted on

Customer Ring Highlight | Alaskan Heritage Gold

Alaskan Heritage: Materials with Grit and Heart

Family Mine in Alaska

The family mine in Alaska

The Story


In early February, we received a commission from a client, Diana, who wanted to design a pair of unique and meaningful rings for herself and her boyfriend. We worked together over the next few weeks to draft the perfect ring for Diana that incorporated Alder wood (abundant in the Pacific Northwest), Purple Agate--her favorite color, a guitar string, and gold flakes that her grandchildren panned from their family gold mine in Alaska. 

We thought the history and meaning of the gold was beautiful and asked Diana if she would provide us with some more information about this special material. Here's what Diana's daughter wrote to us: 

My husband comes from a family of gold miners. They have a family-owned and operated mine in the middle of [an] Alaskan peninsula. It’s out in the middle of nowhere--very remote. They fly small airplanes to get there. The family all goes during the workable months of Alaska, those being May-October. They work hard all summer mining, with up to ten family members operating the mining operations and preparations. Other family members (like my kids) hang around, and learn, and play, in the dirt all summer long.

The gold is mined with a floating dredge. There are not really too many of these in operation these days. In fact, this may be the only floating dredge in operation in North America. We always say “maybe” on that because I guess there could be one somewhere out there. You never know.

Their dredge is a giant boat kind of thing with huge metal buckets. It floats along the river (a small section each season) and scoops up the gravel bringing it into the dredge where it’s tossed and turned separating out rocks and dirt…..and the final product is the gold. It’s pretty spectacular.  

The gold I sent you was some that my kids helped to sort one summer while they were out on the mine. I can’t wait to see my mom’s final product. She is very excited about it.
heritage gold mine alaska

The family's floating Dredge

The Ring


custom wood ring

Alder Wood Ring with Purple Agate, Guitar String, and Heritage Alaskan Gold

We began by using Alder Wood for the ring base and inlaid Purple Agate that was sourced and donated by an employee. We then inlaid a salvaged guitar string and finished the ring design with Diana's heritage Alaskan gold flakes. We think the result is stunning. 

If you would like to work with us to create a truly one-of-a-kind ring, don't hesitate to contact us via our commission form or reach out via email or telephone. We love crafting rings by working with you to create something we could never have come up with on our own. 

custom wood ring

Alder Wood Ring with Purple Agate, Guitar String, and Heritage Alaskan Gold

Posted on

Wooden Rings as an Ethical Wedding Ring Alternative to Mined Metal

Simply Wood Rings are an Ethical Wedding Ring Alternative

Grasberg Mine in Papua, Indonesia

Grasberg Mine in Papua, Indonesia

There is no avoiding the fact that wooden rings are more fragile than their metal counterparts...we think that's just fine. Simply Wood Rings don't represent forever: they symbolize reality. Our lives are inherently impermanent and it seems a little bit deceptive to buy into the idea that love is static. Love seems more about being mindful of the present moment. We hope to offer an ethical wedding ring alternative to gold and silver rings that doesn't sacrifice the romantic and intimate nature of these commitments.

Love is Now

Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton wrote last year's infamous New York Times article "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person" about this concept. It isn't surprising that his 2016 essay was the most read New York Times article of the year. Botton writes that loving imperfectly is perfectly human. In fact, many of us grow up with the idea that perfect love exists and requires no work and no care. The phrase "a diamond is forever" capitalizes on this idea; however, we at Simply Wood Rings believe that love radiates from each present moment. Maybe, wooden rings are a more appropriate symbol in that they require care and attention in the same way "true love" asks this of us.

In addition, we offer wooden rings as a unique alternative to the harmful impact of mined metal jewelry because the result of mining is hard to ignore. Unfortunately, gold, silver, and copper mining contributes to deforestation, acid/chemical run-off, the eradication of river ecosystems supporting a wide variety of beneficial organisms, and takes advantage of those native to the land that mining companies are exploiting. We're not a large company by any means but change begins small. 

Ethical Wedding Ring Alternative

Prong-set Ruby with Mother of Pearl Inlay

Using Vintage and Recycled Metal Rings Helps the Environment


Often, the environmental and ethical impact of precious metal mining is not considered when choosing what might become a family heirloom. Simply Wood Rings encourages purchasing vintage rings. Alternatively, we suggest recycling the beautiful heirlooms that already exist within your family. In fact, we often have customers bring us vintage rings that we cap with sustainably sourced or salvaged wood*, using a special technique, to fit you perfectly. Seems like there isn't much reason to contribute to large-scale mining culture, when there are so many meaningful pieces out in the world already. 

If you are interested to learn more, the following articles and photo essay are a few perspectives (from just two mines). These resources focus on on the negative impact mining practices have on all of our lives. 

Grasberg Miner, Ifansatsi / Getty Images

Grasberg Miner | Getty Images

Gold Mining in Indonesia and the Amazon Forest

"Indonesian Illegal Gold-mining in Pictures"
Ulet Ifansatsi / Getty Images for The Guardian, Feb. 2017

"We Will Lose Everything"
CJPC Brisbane, May 2016

“Environmental impact of mining in the rainforest”
Rhett Butler for Mongabay.com, July 2012

"What's Behind the Violence at the World's Largest Gold Mine"
 World Time, Oct. 2011

"Production of gold has many negative environmental effects"
Nina Shen Rastogi for The Washington Post, Sept. 2010

"Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste"
 Jane Perlez & Raymond Bonner for the New York Times, Dec. 2005

Thoughts, comments, concerns? Share them with us on our Facebook page, Instagram, or send us an email at craftsman@simplywoodrings.com

*Simply Wood Rings exclusively uses salvaged or sustainably sourced wood to craft our rings. In fact, we are one of the first to make salvaged wooden rings using a bent wood process. We have been proudly handcrafting wood rings in Chicago, Illinois since 2005.