In 2008, the third edition of Radical Jewelry Makeover was organized in San Francisco, CA. It is a city that understands the long-term effects of precious-metal mining, as the San Francisco Bay still contains dangerous levels of mercury generated during gold rush era hydraulic mining. With the polluted Bay as our backdrop, we reached out to area jewelry students and professional to address mining issues, reconsider our jewelry collections and invited this group to make new pieces from the unwanted jewelry donated by Bay Area residents. 

By the end of the project, over 110 people in the San Francisco community donated over 150 pounds of unwanted jewelry for more than 200 jewelers to Makeover. Together they transformed the donations and created 400 pieces of jewelry (and sculpture) and donated thousands of volunteer hours in support of Ethical Metalsmiths’ mission. 

We believe RJM is radical for many reasons and in her essay about the project Claire Pentecost (artist, writer, professor) described RJM’s radicality like this, “What extends their project into radicality is that they are staging the entire process as a widely inclusive public event: —the research, the call for unwanted jewelry, the redesign and remake, the exhibit of wildly inventive alternative ornaments. By doing so they constitute a counter public sphere, one that activates a politics fusing the expressive realm of aesthetics with the affective realm of ethics.” 

Another radical part of the project is the risk that hosting galleries face by showcasing an exhibition of jewelry it has never seen and made by artists it isn’t familiar with.  Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco's premier art jewelry gallery embraced our project, took a chance and invited Ethical Metalsmiths to exhibit the completed jewelry from October 22 through November 9, 2008. The opening reception was attended by hundreds,  and included countless participating artists and donors. Many people from the public attended due to the feature article in the San Francisco Chronicle

Participating Institutions

Academy of Art University
California College of the Arts
City College of San Francisco
The Crucible
Revere Academy
Richmond Art Center
Scintillant Studios
Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco
Velvet da Vinci Gallery


Rotasa Foundation
Millersville University
Virginia Commonwealth University