National Park Jewelry – The Great Controversy

By Tianna Heinig

There is a great controversy about whether national park jewelry should be sold in national park bookstores. National parks are very particular about what is sold in their bookstores, and rightfully so. National parks are our countries most sacred places, and so the bookstores should be representative of these wondrous places.

Capital Reef National Park, Visitor Center Gift Shop

Capital Reef National Park, Visitor Center Gift Shop

While national parks are meant to preserve our past, the world and technology in and around them is changing fast. So how do you blend the history with the ever-changing present? Where do you draw the line? Let’s take a look at some key aspects of the national park jewelry controversy so you can decide for yourself if jewelry should be allowed in our national parks.


Why are people against national park jewelry?

National park bookstores are very different from other stores in that they are meant to be representative of the national park they are in. At first thought it doesn’t seem that jewelry is representative of any park, unless maybe the park has a cultural history of native people that handcrafted jewelry. Jewelry can have a very negative connotation amongst people that decide what products are allowed in a national park bookstore. It’s often thought of as irrelevant to the park and as more of a trinket than anything else.


Requirements of national park bookstore products

All national park bookstores have very strict guidelines as to what can be sold there to ensure the products are representative of the park. Here are some of the major requirements for national park bookstore products.

  • All of the treasures found in a national park bookstore must be of the highest quality. After all, our national parks have been chosen as the highest quality land in our country. The treasures chosen to commemorate a visitor’s experience should be of that caliber, too.
  • All items must pertain to the national park they are in. On a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you surely will not find any products pertaining to Alaska or the desert.
  • Products should enhance the visitors experience by providing additional appreciation for the park. Interpretive and educational information is often a requirement for products. It makes sense that learning new things about the park you’re in will help you to remember and appreciate the park.


The definition of jewelry:

The definition of jewelry is a personal ornament or decorative object that is worn on your body or clothing. This seems descriptive of the pins and patches that you find at every national park! National Parks have been selling pins and patches for decades. Is it possible they have been selling jewelry all along without realizing it?


The national park jewelry that SHOULD be allowed

National parks are right to hold their vendors to high standards.  Most visitors find it admirable that the parks work so hard to preserve our history and only sell pertinent and quality items in their bookstores. The truth is, there is jewelry available that actually meets national parks’ very strict guidelines. We can see this in the millions of lapel pins that are sold by national parks every day. These pins are high quality. They are extremely pertinent to the parks since they are typically a picture of a landscape from the park itself. Why then, can’t a similar souvenir be on a pendant or bracelet? It’s basically the same item worn in a different place on your body. Regardless, how you wear your souvenir, it’s a memento of your special visit to an amazing national park.


The national park jewelry that should NOT be allowed

Obviously, typical generic jewelry does not pertain to any national park. If it doesn’t meet the guidelines, it doesn’t make its way to the bookstores. Additionally, America’s national parks are not made in China, so the products sold in the national parks shouldn’t be made in China either.  One of the ideals behind the guidelines set in place is to provide a souvenir or memento of your visit to the park. Wherever we travel, we want a souvenir that is actually from the place we are visiting. You wouldn’t buy a made in America souvenir while visiting a foreign country either.


What happens when national parks do sell jewelry?

There are a lot of national park bookstores selling jewelry. Because the jewelry they sell has passed the test and met all guidelines, it fits in perfectly with the beautiful selection of items available. The sales are great and for many years now, national park bookstores continue to reorder their national park jewelry. Nowadays, you can buy stuffed animals in national park bookstores.  However, these stuffed toys are high quality replicas of animals that are found in the park and come with educational information about the animals. You get to decide how you remember your visit to a national park. Perhaps you want a t-shirt, a stuffed animal, a book, a lapel pin, or a pendant!


National park jewelry is a wonderful product to assist in raising funds for our national parks as long it meets the strict guidelines set in place by the parks. On your next visit to a national park, see if you can find any national park jewelry in the bookstore. Please share your stories with us in the comments below!