What are the ethical considerations when buying jewellery?
In general in order to ensure ethical practices are being upheld in the production of any product a company must have a transparent supply chain. This means that it can trace the journey of the product all the way back to its original source and be sure of the work practices and environmental policies that are being followed at each stage.
In the jewellery trade this kind of traceability is currently very difficult unless the jeweller sources their materials from mines that they have a direct trading relationship with.
When buying gold, platinum and silver ask the business about where they are sourcing the metals and check that they are using mines that donâ€™t use environmentally damaging processes involving mercury or cyanide.
Also check that they are ensuring there are policies in place which prevent the use of child labour and exploitative work practices both during mining and during the creation of the final pieces of jewellery.
To avoid the issues surrounding newly-mined metal you can also look for retailers that use recycled metal instead.
Diamonds and gemstones
As with metals you should check that the origins of diamonds and gemstones are fully traceable. Ensure the business you are dealing with is checking that the mines and workshops they are using are socially and environmentally responsible and donâ€™t exploit their workers or use child labour.
Mainstream jewellery industry
There are initiatives aimed at making the mainstream jewellery industry more ethical such as the â€˜No Dirty Goldâ€™ campaign (www.nodirtygold.org) and the Kimberley Process in relation to diamonds (www.kimberleyprocess.com).
However at the moment, apart from buying recycled pieces, looking for jewellers who have a direct relationship with their precious metals and gemstones suppliers is still probably the best way of trying to ensure that your jewellery purchases are as ethical as possible, from both a fair trade and an environmental perspective. However please be aware that there are only a few jewellers who can currently provide this level of traceability.
For businesses looking for traceable sources of precious metals, gemstones and pearls the website of Greg Valerio, fair trade gold pioneer and founder of CRED Jewellery, has some useful links.