Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Many of the things in my home are made in other countries; China is most represented with the Central American countries coming in second. I buy imported items because the quality is good enough and the price is great. However, a few days ago, I bought a set of towels simply because the tag said "Made in USA". The quality was okay and so was the price. I was pleased. I like to support our national economy and our local economy.

I buy fresh local vegetables when I can. Increasingly, however, I can't find products made in the USA - especially clothing. The Central American countries and Mexico are tops in producing our knitwear. Many of my slacks come from Southeast Asia, even the ones from the company in Canada.

I make beaded jewelry, and today I priced some jewelry in an expensive store. I almost bought a multi-strand piece because I cannot buy the beads on the internet as cheaply as they were selling the necklace. The tag said "Made in China".

And, most of the beads that I buy in retail stores, on the internet, and at bead shows are made in China and India. Some come from Africa and other exotic countries. Most turquoise is mined and processed in China; a small amount comes from Mexico; and only a tiny bit comes from the Southwestern USA. The USA turquoise is so expensive that I can't afford it. Some beads, marketed as USA turquoise, is actually reconstituted turquoise dust collected from the making of the most expensive beads. Sure, it really is turquoise, but it's like us poor humans - a bit of dust held together with water and glue.

Pearls - remember when pearls were real or cultured. Now there are freshwater pearls, cultured pearls, strangely shaped pearls, dyed pearls, crystal pearls, glass pearls, plastic pearls, and, of course, the most expensive are the naturally created sea pearls. The crystal pearls mostly are exported from Austria and the Czech Republic. The glass pearls are shipped from China and are very cheap.

Silver beads, chains and parts come from Bali, Africa (Hill Tribes and others), and Mexico. Seed beads (like those used to sew onto purses and make designs on clothing) are best if you get them from Japan; certain companies specialize in certain sizes, and the number of colors is amazingly large. New stones are always being introduced - new jade, calsilica - mostly created beads from natural materials - molded by heat, held together with various stickums and dyed almost any color one could wish.

Natural crystal is bleached to remove the color or dyed in a variety of colors to appear as something else. Almost everything is heat treated, dyed, enhanced, stabilized or something.

And, they are all beautiful. I am glad that we have learned how to make so many lovely things, recreating God's gifts to us of color and clarity and weight and glow. I am sad that the demand for the truly natural stones has pushed the prices out of the reach of ordinary people. As with most things in my life, I continue to shift from one side of the fence to the other. I sometimes restrict my purchases to beads made in the USA; then I succumb to price and beauty and buy scads of beads from other locales. I look for towels made in the USA, but Egyptian cotton is so soft and absorbent. I know that some of the items I purchase are undoubtedly made in sweat shops, and I grieve that I want something so much that I participate in the abuse of other people...never mind the critters involved in shoes and such.

So I wear myself out moving from one side of the fence on issues to the other side. Someone said recently that "balance" is one of the most difficult words in our language - difficult because it is so hard to achieve. If being wishy-washy, like a see-saw is any balance, then I have it. Otherwise, I'm just like the rest of our nation - a user, an exploiter, an abuser of our resources.

No comments: