Ethical jewellery is a complex subject which is why we started our explanation in an earlier blog post titled '6 ways of spotting ethical and sustainable jewellery' I identified the ways that some companies green washed or 'embellished' their ethical stance so I wanted to be transparent with you and delve even more into the depths of how I and Origin 31 creates ethical jewellery. I like the target term ethically minded as I recognise that no company can be perfect, no company can be 100% ethical and sustainable. It’s quite frankly not possible to be perfect so what I strive for is to consistently look for ways of improving Origin 31 as technologies and materials are constantly evolving.
The Precious Metals I Use
Let’s start off with the metals I use; I initially began using recycled gold or silver but I recognise that whilst recycled gold and silver isn’t detrimental to the environment or to people, it doesn’t bring any positivity either, it doesn’t make a contribution to making the jewellery process better. So I embarked on signing a license with Fairmined Gold to make my ethical jewellery. We also have access to make things with Fair Trade Gold but we prefer to use Fair Mined Gold.
The reason behind this is that it for focuses solely on gold (and silver) and improving that supply chain. Fairtrade covers a multitude of materials you would have probably heard of like sugar, bananas, cotton etc but fundamentally both practices are very similar in their outcomes. They both try to improve the mining process with artisanal miners to minimise damage to the environment, both companies give a fair price for the gold that is mined by the artisanal miners, they both also contribute to a better infrastructure, education system and general well-being of the communities of the artisanal miners. Generally speaking the the communities of the miners lie in third world countries. The mine that provides our Fair Mined Gold is from La Coquita in Columbia. At present we are in the process of transferring all of our collections over to use Fair Mined gold however not all jewellery components are easily obtainable in these materials for example chain of which unless you buy in bulk and spend a fortune (origin31 is a small company so this is not currently feaseable), the chains aren’t available in a variety of designs either, it’s very restrictive which is why we currently use recycled gold for our jewellery chains.
Ethically Sourced Gemstones
As for gemstones, well bear with us on this one because this is one of the most complex subjects to talk about with regards to ethics. Firstly let’s talk about when people say conflict free; to find stone dealers that offer conflict free gems is absolutely easy. I can do this without braking a sweat and if you use reputable dealers this aspect is as standard. So again when people say they use conflict free gems they aren’t even trying to do better. Let’s be realistic with any big gemstone find in the Earth a big company will buy they land; they just have too much money to miss an opportunity and they aren't so driven about ethics towards people and the environment. All the small artisanal gold miners don’t have such great land to mine from. The land with either produce less gemstones, less quality in the gemstone or offers less variety of gemstones. Again to generalise this, most gemstones or most big mines are found in less prosperous countries in South America, Africa, Sri Lanka and such like.
This is just the start of the complexities of ethically mined gems. You have to find the dealers who work with the small-scale artisanal miners which often means they’ve been to the mines them selves and spoken directly with the miners seeing their working conditions. Referring to the gems themselves to be truly traceable they need to be independently assessed producing a gem certificate including origin, otherwise you have to go on trust. Businesses are driven by money on the whole, fundamentally it is only cost-effective to ensure full traceability when cutting and working with bigger, expensive gemstones (again the larger mining conglomerates that mine the better quality, larger gems) and investing the money to get the gem stone certificated independently. It’s not cost-effective when working to produce less inexpensive gemstones which can be larger sizes too but also with the melee; all the small stones used, like our spiral rock pool ring.
It's all down to trust
The time spent to source the gemstone rough, cut and spend time validating the traceability is not cost effective. So there is no option to go on the age old method of trust with the gemstone dealer. Ive worked with my gemstone dealer for years, I know their reputation and I know how they work hence I trust their sourcing. Now you might be a cynic I think why should I trust people well the whole jewellery trade was built on trust and unless the large gemstone that you buy in a ring is independently certified with proof of shipping along all the supply chain then it cannot fully be validated or proven traceable, let alone understand how the miners were treated, again these gemstones are sold with trust. We aim to be fully transparent with how we obtained the gemstones that we feature listing the details clearly about each product on our website.
Selecting diamonds are very similar in what was mentioned above especially with reference to the conflict free aspects. I try and source diamonds again with more traceable roots such as using Canada Mark diamonds which is great because I know they come from Canada and they’re fully traceable however they don’t help people, the money goes into a wealthy company so I’m also looking to implement Ocean Diamonds where divers go into the sea to collect alluvial diamonds washed down through the rivers. The restrictions with Ocean Diamonds is with variety; you can’t predict what the divers will find or the quality or even quantity of diamonds they find. I'm also looking into a newcomer on the market called Botswana mark where are the diamonds can be traced and cut within Botswana.
It's not just ethical jewellery
You didn’t think that being ethical stopped at the jewellery? Well not where I come from, I like to think of all aspects within in a company in order to class myself as an 'ethical jeweller' and as I said I use the term ethically minded. Another consideration is my jewellery packaging; all packaging I we use is 100% sustainable packaging made from recycled card and which will be recyclable or biodegradable once finished with. Even my ribbon has been sourced with the sustainability aspects in mind; it is made from recycled wood pulp which means it’s biodegradable, our postal packaging boxes and our tissue paper for all website orders, are made from recycled material and can be further recycled. Other small things we consider is our display that we use at art events; our blocks are made from recycled perspex which can be re-polished if scratched or recycled again, which means I can use it for years to come. The energy that I use comes from renewable sources, the bubblewrap I use is also biodegradable so I hope you can see we truly do try and think of all aspects in our company, to be a force for good.
Lastly I’ve listed the physical aspects of how we deem ourselves to be ethically minded but we also consider how we treat people, see my blog post of allyship, you only need to ask our past clients or our suppliers to see how I treat people around me.
Having made this blog post doesn’t mean that that I stop there, being ethically minded means we’re always on the lookout for something you in order to better ourselves if you’ve got any other suggestions we’re all ears
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