Choosing Ethical Jewellery on the High Street

Livia Firth (dear Colin’s wife) is a passionate advocate of ethical jewellery   and was the first celebrity to wear Fairtrade & Fairmined jewellery to the Oscars in 2011.  Following in her footsteps are Julia Roberts, Julia Styles and designers like Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are also embracing ethical fashion with their latest collections showing that this is one trend that won’t go out of fashion.

 

But what exactly is an ethical diamond and how does it translate onto the highstreet?

What can we tell our partners to look for?

 

Essentially, the diamond trade has funded illegal warfare and contributed to atrocious human rights and child labour in many third world countries for decades. The ethical diamond debate came to a climax in 2003 when the Kimberley Process was defined by 54 countries with an aim to “stem the flow of conflict diamonds” through a certificate import-export process. In 2006, the KP gained mass media coverage thanks to Leonardo di Caprio’s 2006 film, Blood Diamond.

 But recently there has been controversy over the KP with many jewellers and NGO’s like Global Witness saying that it doesn’t completely negate illegal diamond trade and ‘most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.”

Jewellers who want to go one step further than the KP have decided to go direct to the mines and source the gems themselves. We don’t mean they’ve donned helmets, lanterns and ropes but they’ve cut out the middle man and made agreements with the miners’ unions in various countries. They want to know exactly where their gems come from, that the miners are adults and are paid a decent wage for their work. Just as there is Fairtrade mark for foods and some goods, there is now also Fairtrade gold and Fairmined mark for those sparkling gems.

 Will it affect the price of your jewellery?

Fairtrade gold costs an average of 10% more but if price is an issue many jewellers also work with recycled gold (which pre-dates any conflict) as well as certified Fairtrade and Fairmined jewellery. It doesn’t seem to be putting people off though as according to a recent piece on Ethical Weddings sales of ethical jewellery have increased massively year on year.

 It also means you don’t have to compromise on style. Below is a beautiful six-claw diamond ring by Ingle and Rhode, the Mayfair-based boutique jewellers who were one of the first jewellers in the world licensed to sell certified Fairtrade and Fairmined gold jewellery.

fair trade diamonds

 It’s easy to see why an ethically produced diamond or piece of gold jewellery is attracting the A-listers, having that not only does the sparkle make you smile, but it gives you that sense of knowing you are doing good in the world. Next time you (or your partner) are pondering the four C’s of a diamond (carat, class, clarity and colour) could you add another C for conscious? The best way to guarantee your jewellery is as ethical as possible is by asking for the Fairtrade mark, so if you look for it in your shopping basket, you might want it on your finger as well.

 Kate Marillat is passionate about eco and ethical issues and you can find her on twitter @ethicalbizkate

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