When it comes to changing the course of an industry, it is the spending power of the customer that has the biggest impact. Whilst legislation and campaigning from within can go so far, it is when consumers begin to vote with their hard-earned cash that retailers truly start to pay attention.
Not so long ago, it was hard to find organic food or to buy an electric car, but as demand for those items increased the high street responded with more choice and lower prices. It’s the natural cycle and the jewellery sector is no different.
The majority of jewellery produced today uses materials that have been sourced in such a way as to have horrific consequences – financial, social and environmental. Who wants to think that their birthday gift or engagement ring was made using child labour and lethal chemicals? Or that the money paid for those materials has funded terrorism? This is the ugly side of the industry that needs to change.
As a buyer of jewellery, it is relatively easy to play your part in improving conditions along the whole of the industry’s supply chain. Simply ask your retailer or designer the following two questions:
– Where did the materials come from?
– Who made the piece of jewellery?
They should be able to tell you confidently that they are using fair trade metal (or at least recycled) and ethically-sourced gemstones, as well as specifying where those materials originated. You can reasonably expect them to know the countries of origin, because they should have asked for proof from their own suppliers.
Beware of answers such as diamonds coming from Antwerp (there are no diamond mines in Belgium!) or a simple reference to the Kimberley Process, which does not guarantee traceability or ethical sourcing. Make sure that the answers are detailed and precise, maybe even something you can confirm from an independent source.
If you cannot be sure of your retailers’ manufacturing sources, why not help your local economy by having your jewellery made in your own country? There is no need to compromise on style or quality. There are some incredibly talented jewellery designers who produce ethical jewellery, both in the UK and around the world.
Alternatively, if you have a favourite designer already, why not ask them to make your next piece using ethically-sourced metals and gemstones? They should be able to source those materials quite easily and the impact on the price should only be a modest one.
All along the jewellery supply chain there are people who care about how they do business, from miners to manufacturers to retailers. Please support them and help change the industry for the better, simply by asking those two easy questions and making an informed decision where you spend your money.
Your actions will make a difference.