Conflict diamonds have received plenty of attention in the last decade. There’s something iconic about the diamond, the height of luxury spending, and the issue of conflict diamonds perhaps captures the imagination, inspiring artists like Kanye West, or the movie Blood Diamond.
That’s all great of course, but that attention hasn’t quite filtered through to the rest of the jewelry. It’s quite possible that the glittering ethical diamond is set in dirty gold, mined under oppressive conditions or smuggled out of a country at war.
There have been some ethical gold pioneers – CRED, for example, or jewelers who only use recycled gold, but they are few and far between. That changes today, with the launch of the first Fairtrade certified gold.
The Fairtrade mark guarantees that small-scale gold miners were paid a fair price. An additional Fairmined mark ensures the health and safety of workers in a very dangerous and toxic industry. Interestingly, there is an optional Ecological Gold accreditation process that protects the environment as well as the people. One of the most important techniques in gold recovery is cyanide leaching, using cyanide to dissolve rock and leave the gold behind. Obviously that’s not something you want leaking out into the water table.
As usual, it’s the raw materials that are certified. It’s unlikely that you or I are going to see any gold bars with the little stamp on them (I presume), but look out for jewelry made with Fairtrade gold from today.
At the moment there’s a list of just 20 certified companies selling Fairtrade gold, and this is where we can help. To speed it on its way to the High Street, pop in and ask about Fairtrade gold in your local jewelers. The more people are asking about it, the more likely the big brands are to start stocking it. Britain’s big jewelers like Ernest Jones and H Samuel are noticeably absent from the list of early adopters.
You know what else would help? If William and Kate bought Fairtrade wedding rings. The royal family traditionally use Welsh gold, but this would be a noble exception, and I can’t think of anything that would give ethical gold a bigger boost.