25Sep Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference 2023

It was "all change" for the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference (CRJC) in 2023, as the event moved from its traditional autumn time slot and also relocated to a new venue. 

The conference took place on the 11th and 12th August, primarily so that it could align itself with the INSTORE retail show that also took place in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont (a suburb of Chicago near O’Hare International Airport) around that time. The idea being to encourage a few of the retail show exhibitors or visitors to come along to the conference as well.

As usual, thanks to the incredible efforts of Susan Wheeler (Virtu Gem and Susan Wheeler Design) and Andrea Hill (Hill Management Group), the event ran smoothly and cultivated the appropriate environment in which to address some of the most pressing and critical challenges facing the jewellery industry.

The consistent thread throughout the talks and presentations was looking at how the various issues and potential solutions aligned themselves (or not) with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). It's a fairly easy logical leap to see how, for example, alleviating poverty or establishing food security connect very easily with many of the projects working with artisanal miners across the world.

The conference programme covered a range of topics relating to the engagement with miners. We discussed how it is important to build strong relationships in source countries and then use the story of that solid supply chain to generate customer interest in the gems and metals. This story can run all the way from the mines to the retail outlets, with positive benefits for everyone. We also looked at how mining activities can collaborate successfully with agriculture, so that communities can establish multiple revenue streams.

As is typical for a CRJC event, there were more than a few hard-hitting talks that showed us how far we still have to go as an industry. We heard from Sara Yood (Jeweller's Vigilance Committee) about the role we must all play in implementing sanctions, which has been a key focus area since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There was also a shocking and emotional description from Abigail Sibanda about the sex trafficking in Marange, Zimbabwe, where women are subjected to terrible abuse and how the work of the Marange Women's Alliance (MWA) is vital to supporting them and stopping this situation.

Lisa Levin gave a sobering talk about the potential widespread impact of deep sea mining. It is an ominous spectre hovering over us and we can only hope that the sensible heads prevail before humans do irreparable damage to the delicate ecosystems under the waves. The good news is that we still have time to make the right decision.

"There’s no responsible way to mine the ocean yet because scientists don’t have enough information to know what the impacts would be. They recognize there are tremendous threats to global food systems but they can’t quantify it yet." (Andrea Hill)

As usual, in between the scheduled sessions, there was plenty of opportunity for attendees to continue discussions and develop ideas for how to improve their own businesses or make a difference in some other way. It seems that everyone who attends CRJC is determined to make use of every minute of the two days we are gathered together. The overall effect is to create an atmosphere that is both inspiring and energising.

If you were not able to attend the conference then you can buy access the recordings of the event online at:


Next year’s conference is scheduled for August 9-10th (2024) at the same location.


For more insight into the 2023 conference, look at this article by JCK Magazine.


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