Jewellery is often associated with something permanent and long-term. Especially the jewellery made out of precious metals and possibly containing precious gems. Their beauty is celebrated for years to come as they don’t decay, and they can be passed on as heirlooms to future generations. I have a lovely golden necklace with a ruby from my mother, which I cherish! I remember wanting to play with it when I was a little girl and when I grew up my mother gave it to me. It is special, it is beautiful and it reminds me of my mother. I am sure many of you have had beautiful stories with jewellery from engagements, presents or dates. I would love to hear them!
The one thing we don’t want is to look at our jewellery day after day and be reminded of the damage it might’ve had on our planet or people. However, sadly, this is the case with many high street jewellery, nevertheless of the undying efforts of NGOs, consumers and even jewellers. We’ve all heard about the blood diamonds, but who’s heard about the unethical and very environmentally disruptive way gold, platinum or gems stones are produced? I found out about it only recently, and couldn’t have imagined how widespread the problem is.
WHAT ARE THE ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE JEWELLERY INDUSTRY
- Mining and Toxic Waste – Mining requires certain toxic chemicals to extract precious metals cost efficiently. It produces a lot of toxic waste, which is a mixture of different chemical, which often ends up in local waterways contaminating local ecosystem.
- Destroying the Ecosystem and Relocating Populations – Toxic waste is often dumped in the local waterways where it contaminates and kills not only the aquatic life but also the local ecosystem, enters the food chain and destroys peoples drinking water. People are often forced to relocate without an incentive and they lose their livelihoods. Examples 1 and 2.
- Human Rights Violations – People are often forced to work in the mines with lower than minimum wage in dangerous conditions. They can face job fatalities with rock falls and tunnel collapses as well as experience heat exhaustion and get various respiratory diseases such as lung cancer or tuberculosis.
- Blood Diamonds – Warlords use diamonds as a currency to finance their illegal war efforts.
- Jewellery Production – Energy used to make jewellery, packaging materials, toxic dyes and chemical disposal.
Thankfully there are better alternatives and jewellery industry seems to try and change things. It is still not easy to find absolutely sustainable options, but there are several companies that are driving the change and showing that customers want their jewellery to be ethical and sustainable! One of these companies is Cred Jewellery. My fiance stumbled upon Cred Jewellery when he was looking for a birthday present for me and after I received my beautiful earrings I decided to make an investigation into the company. I was happy to learn that their webpage offered an answer to all my ethical questions. Cred Jewellery works with their partners to keep the supply chain transparent, so you know exactly where the items in your jewellery come from.
FAIRTRADE GOLD AND SILVER
I found it fascinating to learn that sustainable mining is said to be a practice of artisan and small-scale miners, where they refill and replant topsoil to minimise mining impact, and use non-toxic and have low energy requirements. Oro Verde is owned by 194 families in Columbia to produce responsible and traceable gold and platinum. It is a collective that provides small-scale and artisanal miners profitable activity whilst keeping it traceable and fairtrade.
Cred Jewellery used only Oro Verde gold and was one of the first companies to pay a premium for ecological gold. The premium is then invested by the mining community the way they need it. All the mining is done under stringent social and environmental criteria and is independently audited. Did you know that silver is often a by-product of gold mining and requires less energy to produce? Neither did I!
RECYCLED SILVER AND PLATINUM
Platinum is a very energy intensive to get off the ground and is very rare. In addition, medical and catalytic converters use it and require it more than the jewellery industry. Therefore recycled platinum is much more sustainable option and virgin platinum. Cred Jewellery uses only recycled platinum and some of its silver is recycled.
GEMS AND DIAMONDS
All of Cred Jewellery diamonds are certified conflict-free by Kimberley Process. There has been critique about whether Kimberley Process is as reliable a source of diamonds, but there is no other body to certify this yet. Actually, there is no fairtrade mark for gemstones and diamonds yet, however, Cred is working hard to source gems responsibly with economic justice to people involved.
In addition, Cred is working hard to help the people involved in the mining processes from safer working conditions to healthcare and education. Their source in Namibia established a jewellery training school for those who were previously disadvantaged due to mining practices.
I was definitely impressed by what Cred Jewellery is already doing to help pave the way for sustainable and ethical jewellery and am so happy to wear my earrings with a good conscious!
How do you think we should address the ethical and sustainable problems in the jewellery industry?