It’s currently Fairtrade fornight! So I thought I’d tell you a little more about Fairtrade jewellery.
Last year I went to a conference in Dundee about Ethical Making. It’s in our hands: The future of ethical making in Scotland, organised by The Scottish Goldsmiths’ Trust and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (where I studied!). I had previously heard about ethical jewellery while I was working in the Edinburgh Assay Office.
The two days were really fascinating, with talks from inspiring makers, Ute Decker and Karen Westland, as well as a Keynote speech from Greg Valerio who pioneered luxury ethical jewellery.
A couple of points really hit home with me. As a person I love stories, and as a jeweller I love hearing stories from my clients. Stories about why they’ve chosen a specific landscape for their wedding rings. Or why their engraving sounds like it should be an insult and not a pet name!
The other thing I love is landscapes, that should be obvious in my jewellery. I am not an experienced hill walker but I enjoy looking at the mountains, walking amongst them and I’ll happily go up a Munro if you invite me! There is something about the Scottish landscapes and mountains that make me feel happy, nourished and like I belong, I’ve talked about this before in more detail.
What struck me at the conference was the scale of mining and the effect extracting silver and gold was having on the earth and to the people, especially gold. Over 80% of all gold miners in the world are small-scale miners. Usually whole families including young children, everyone helping out with the family business to make enough money. They’re destroying the landscape in their own country, often using toxic chemicals, which have devastating effects on them, to get the gold out. How could I ignore the stories of these miners working so hard to do the best for themselves and their families? How could I justify making jewellery which destroys other people’s home landscapes and their water supply, in order to represent ones closer to home?
Greg Valerio said to us there at the conference “you are in the mining industry – I had never thought about what I do in that way. My desire to make jewellery means people go and mine every day.
I decided that I had to start making changes in my business to make a difference.
I have been using up my stock of silver in my safe with the intention of using more 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) silver in my pieces. 100% post-consumer, means the metal has already been jewellery, been worn and loved and then sent to be melted down. There is no additional new metal added to this. Now jewellers are great at recycling, we don’t waste anything, we send in our off-cuts, our scrap metal, old jewellery, broken bits and that is always recycled. But when scrap metal like that is recycled they add a small percentage of new metal from mining. There is no new metal added to 100% post-consumer recycled metal, so no first hand mining has taken place.
Fairtrade silver can be found, but not in the quantities a lot of jewellers require yet, so until the larger silver mines can be brought under the Fairtrade banner, this is the best option for me.
Please ask me if you’d specifically like 100% PCR silver in your jewellery, I would be delighted to help and the more you, the customer demands it, the more we jewellers ask our bullion suppliers about it! This means we can make a bigger difference, the power is in our hands!
In November last year I made a 100% post-consumer recycled bangle, inspired by my time in Finland, this was exhibited at Elements exhibition in Edinburgh as part of their ethical showcase.
I also made my Glasgow bangle which you may have seen online in my shop and with me at fairs. It was made from 100% PCR metal and I’m delighted with it. It is more expensive than the Edinburgh bangle is currently. Soon my Edinburgh bangle will be getting a make over so that I can differentiate it from the original bangle and will be made in 100% PCR silver.
I’ve already registered as a Goldsmith on the Fairtrade website. Meaning I can buy Fairtrade gold, but I can’t get my jewellery stamped with the Fairtrade stamp as I’m not certified yet. So I can help the miners but not prove it! That stamp is the proof of Fairtrade and you should look out for it. It’s the same as the Fairtrade symbol you’ll see on your tea, coffee, bananas and chocolate. My next step is to register fully with the Fairtrade scheme so that I can have this stamp on my Fairtrade jewellery.
Then I want to make some Fairtrade jewellery! Please do get in touch if you’d like to have your wedding rings made in Fairtrade metal. I would like to explore this, and work out the best ways to buy my metal. It might be to have wax rings carved then cast in 18ct yellow or white gold, or buying simple round wire to make your rings. I need to do this to work it out, that’s the best way for me to work I’ve found!
If you’d like to talk more about Fairtrade jewellery please get in touch with me. You can come and see me at a fair, I’d be really happy to talk more about it.
I am also talking at this years Ethical Making conference which will be held in Edinburgh towards the end of this month, so if you’re a jewellery book your ticket here and come to find out more!
Photo credit: Stacey Bentley Photography
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