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. Even the word "ethical" can be problematic as it can mean different things to different people. This document sets out our ethical policy and highlights some of the problems currently facing the industry at present.
GEMSTONES AND BEADS
At the time of writing there are no established independent bodies that trace the gemstone supply chain from mine to market, 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 to be sold 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 should not be the answer as many SSM operations and livelihoods 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 and there are also a growing number suppliers who have close connections with the mines (sometimes part-owning the mines) who can guarantee their stones have been responsibly mined and cut. Education of the miners is seen as key, ensuring they know how to value their stones and achieve a fair price for them and there are a number of initiatives which have been set up to promote this kind of education in mining communities.
In terms of our own sourcing, Victoria, owner and buyer at The Curious Gem, deals directly with suppliers who cut the gemstones from ‘rough’ material. They source 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 sell a small collection of 'fairmined' gemstones which have full traceability direct to the mine. The mines, usually small in nature, employ local people and demonstrate responsible and ethical business practices. We may want to call these stones "responsibly sourced" or part of a responsible supply chain.
We have written assurances from our manufacturers that they are committed to a policy and due diligence process of only using gold which has been ethically sourced and conflict free.
The vast majority of our gold and silver products are made from metal which has been recycled and our manufacturers are committed to a policy of using recycled metals wherever feasible. However, as demand for gold and silver has increased the supply of recycled metals has decreased and manufacturers are hesitant to promise that every single gram is recycled.
First written: 09/04/21