I use Fairtrade-certified gold. This is why:
Gold is a symbol of love, power and wealth the world-over. But look behind the glitz and the reality is not so glamorous.
Ninety per cent of the labour force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tonnes of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewellery, with consumers across the globe spending a whopping $135 billion a year on gold jewellery!
An estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods and to support their families and communities. Small-scale miners often work long days and in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions. There are serious health risks associated with the improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide, which can be used in the extraction process. Miners struggle to attract the finance or generate sufficient profits needed to invest in their operations or safer, more efficient technology.
Small-scale miners are at the end of long and complex supply chains and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. For Fairtrade Gold, miners receive a guaranteed Fair Minimum Price and a Premium to spend on improving their businesses or on community projects, such as education, clean water and healthcare. Fairtrade certification means these small scale-miners meet Fairtrade Standards. This can help them to improve their mining and business practices as well as open the market to generate more sales on better terms. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment.
I am not currently able to source certified silver via Fairtrade, so I buy it via Fairmined instead. Fairmined partners exclusively with artisanal and small-scale mining organizations who have shown passion for and commitment to responsible mining. Fairmined transforms mining into an active force for good, ensuring organizational and social development and environmental protection. Fairmined is backed by a rigorous 3rd party certification and audit system that ensures that miners meet world-leading standards for responsible practices.
Traceability of diamonds and other gemstones can be tricky to assure, simply because of the complexity of supply chains and the journeys that stones take once they leave the mine. I source my diamonds either from Canada, in which they case they are laser-inscribed to prove their provenance, or via the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS.) KPCS is an initiative founded in 2003 to stem the flow of conflict diamonds from Africa, instead supporting the legitimate trade of diamonds from artisanal diamond mines. Although limitations of the KPCS are now widely acknowledged, it is still the only such scheme that exists and that supports small-scale miners on a large scale.
An estimated 80% of coloured stones are produced by artisanal and small-scale miners, making supply chain transparency extremely hard to achieve. There is still no industry standard or certification scheme for coloured gemstones, so instead I am working hard to develop relationships with trusted gemstone suppliers who have their own “mine-to-market” businesses. Gemstone supply chains can become very complex very quickly, with stones changing hands up to ten or twelve times before they reach their final destination. By working with suppliers who own their own mining licenses and cutting/polishing facilities I am working with much shorter supply chains where I can be confident where the stone has come from, as well as the ethics surrounding it’s journey. Stone provenance stories will vary depending on the stone, but I would be more than happy to share this information with you when discussing your commission.