Do you know where your gold jewelry comes from and how the material was sourced? Gold mining can be a dirty industrial activity with numerous sustainability issues in the supply chain.
Increasingly, ethical jewelry brands are offering an alternative – Fairtrade gold. How does it compare to conventional gold, why should you consider it, and where to look for Fairtrade gold jewelry? That’s what we’re going to focus on in this article.
First, before we get into the article, let’s make a short aside and talk about the difference between the terms ‘fair trade’ and ‘Fairtrade’. While they are often used interchangeably, they don’t quite mean the same thing. The former refers to products made with a concept of trading that follows the principles of fair trading. The latter is an official certification by Fairtrade International, which confirms that the claims the company is making about using fair trade practices are true.
The problem with conventional gold
The problems associated with conventional gold mining can be divided into two main categories: environmental issues and social issues.
From an environmental standpoint, gold mining leads to the release of chemicals used in the process – including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide – into the surrounding environment. Routinely, these toxic substances are released into rivers due to lacking environmental regulation. Aside from the chemicals, gold mining also produces large amounts of solid waste. For example, an average gold ring results in 20 tons of waste! Lastly, the mining process is often destroying protected areas – this makes it a major threat to biodiversity.
There are also numerous social issues associated with conventional gold mining. Worker rights and safety measures are often ignored in gold mines, putting them at risk of injury or death. Despite what mining companies claim, mining can also be very destructive to the local economy and take a toll on the employment of women, as it destroys the region and strips it of other sources of income, as well as providing jobs almost exclusively to men.
The supply chain of gold jewelry is very complex, which makes it much more difficult for brands to monitor where their gold is coming from. That’s why a certification such as Fairtrade, which monitors every step of the process and enables even small jewelers to ensure their gold is sourced sustainably and ethically, is an important step forward.
How does Fairtrade gold make a difference?
Gold miners under the Fairtrade scheme have to follow a set of strict environmental and social guidelines designed to avoid the negative impacts associated with conventional gold mining and provide true economic benefit to the area.
Fairtrade gold is produced by independent small-scale miners who use substantially less damaging manual extraction methods (mostly working with basic tools such as shovels and picks). All methods and their impacts are audited, which makes it much easier to trace Fairtrade gold down the supply chain and monitor its exact impact.
Worker’s rights are respected, they are paid fair wages and their safety is one of the primary concerns. This, as well as other measures, allows the community to develop economically in a sustainable manner.
4 ethical jewellery brands using Fairtrade Gold
Looking to reduce your impact by choosing Fairtrade gold? Here are a few of our favorite ethical jewelry brands using it in their collections!
Exclusive Fairtrade Gold: Loren Lewis Cole
Loren Lewis Cole is a UK-based brand manufacturing all of its ethical jewelry in England modern and bold designs, from earrings to necklaces. Their gold is exclusively Fairtrade, so you can be sure that any gold piece they offer has been sourced sustainably and ethically.
Their range is made to last and designed with inspiration from Asian and African jewelry designs perfect for anyone who loves a bold yet sustainable piece.
Natalie Perry Jewellery: Fairtrade gold and more
Natalie Perry Jewellery is the perfect brand for those who love modern jewelry with a bohemian twist. Aside from Fairtrade gold, the London-based brand also uses recycled materials and responsibly sourced gemstones.
Their designs include simpler, more minimal styles as well as intricate pieces, as well as a dedicated wedding and engagement collection.
As an ethical jewelry brand based in Toronto, Canada, combines African motives with contemporary styles. From necklaces to earrings and even a collection of anklets, the collection honors the founders’ African heritage.
Africa is also where the brand sources its gold, which is Fairtrade and supports small artisans and independent miners.
Made Trade is a wonderful online marketplace supporting small ethical businesses around the world. Aside from their other stock, they offer a range of ethical jewelry. Fairtrade items are easy to identify since they’re tagged with a Fairtrade tag on the product page.
Not only are you supporting Fairtrade options when you shop from Made Trade, but you’re also buying for small, independent artisans.
Support Ethical Jewelry
Fairtrade gold is a great investment into sustainable and ethical production. If you can afford the slightly higher price tag which comes with an ethical supply chain, we highly recommend that you always choose this option and support jewelers who care about the planet and its people.
Common Objective. “Luxury Jewellery: Mine to Market.” Common Objective, Common Objective, 29 May 2018, www.commonobjective.co/article/luxury-jewellery-mine-to-market.
“Dirty Gold’s Impacts.” Earthworks, 16 July 2018, www.earthworks.org/campaigns/no-dirty-gold/impacts/.