Many of our customers are becoming increasingly conscious of ethical considerations when buying precious metals and gemstones. As a responsible supplier we do everything we can to ensure that our products are sourced as ethically as possible, but this is not without its issues. This document sets out our ethical policy and highlights some of the problems currently facing the industry at present.
At the time of writing there are no established bodies that trace the gemstone supply chain from mine to market (unlike diamonds and metals), which makes fully transparent ethical sourcing very difficult. Thus a “fairtrade” gemstone does not exist as there is no independent body to oversee these standards.
Many gemstones are mined in a very small-scale way. Family groups or co-operatives are involved in digging or sifting alluvial river beds. The work has a low degree of mechanisation and high labour density and is often the only form of income for these groups. The issue with regulation is the sheer number of these small scale mining (SSM) sites making it very difficult to trace exportation. Rough material is also mined from several different locations and put together so traceability becomes an issue.
Due to the differences between geographic, political and socio-economic conditions in gem producing areas it is very difficult to provide a solution. Boycotting buying stones is not the answer as many SSM operations would suffer.
Governments can, and have, helped. For example there was evidence that militia groups in Myanmar were funding the mining of rubies and jadeite in the early 2000’s and the US government passed legislation banning the import of these products into the US (ban lifted in 2016).
Independent groups, such as the Responsible Jewellery Council, are also working with the jewellery and watch industry to promote standards.
In terms of our own sourcing, Victoria, owner and buyer at The Curious Gem, deals directly with suppliers, mainly in India, who cut the gemstones from ‘rough’ material. They sources the rough material themselves, either directly from mines or from rough dealers. She has been buying from them for years and are trusted friends. She has visited their places and work and seen the conditions, which are good, but different to what we are used to in the UK. Some cutting is outsourced which means work can be carried out at home and the cutters set their own price for their work.
We do not have direct contact with the mines, however there are some companies which own mines, cut stones themselves and sell directly to the trade so full traceability would be possible.
The ethical situation regarding diamonds is different to that of coloured stones. In the 1990’s diamonds were used to finance rebel groups and militia in certain countries, hence the term “blood diamond” and “conflict diamond”. As a result the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established by the UN General Assembly in 2003. The scheme strictly regulates and tracks the trade of diamonds and rough material across borders from mine to customer. It should be noted, however, that it only extends to rough diamonds being sold to fund militia and not to other human rights issues.
We have written assurances from our manufacturer that they are committed to a policy and due diligence process of only using gold which has been ethically sourced and conflict free. Much of the gold used has been recycled.
The majority of our sterling silver products are made from recycled silver (sourced from refining precious metal bearing materials).
First written: 09/04/21