Open the door to Fairtrade Gold
It’s Fairtrade Fortnight and as a Fairtrade Gold Registered Jeweller I’d like to share with you exactly where the gold I use comes from, and why I’m opening the door to Fairtrade, and closing it on exploitation!
But first, here’s a little snippet into how I discovered and came to work with such a fantastic form of precious metal that now offers so much more than just peace of mind.
My Fairtrade Gold Story
Back in 2009 when I hadn’t long been making jewellery I was already becoming jaded in my profession as I increasingly learned about child labour, exploitation, pollution of the earth and other countless dark hidden truths surrounding the mining and jewellery industry.
It wasn’t until a good friend of mine Hannah, who was about to get married that year, set me a challenge of sourcing her some ‘green gold’ for her engagement ring, that I realised that there had to be an alternative out there! She was seeking a truly special piece with a transparent supply chain, kind to the natural environment and devoid of any pain and suffering.
After a great deal of hunting, Hannah and I discovered Cred Jewellery who sold me my first few grams of Fairtrade 18ct white gold casting grain which enabled me to make my first piece of ethical jewellery.
I officially became a Fairtrade Registered Jeweller in 2015. This was a monumental moment and shift in my career which has not only brought me so much closer to the amazing miners who extract such precious raw materials from the ground, but also to other jewellers who feel like I do. I love being part of an ethical community where transparent supply chains are now very much becoming the norm.
What is Fairtrade Gold?
Who better to explain than the Fairtrade Foundation themselves, here are the facts…
- Gold is mined all over the world, the metal-rich rock, known as ore, is extracted from the Earth’s crust.
- 90% of gold miners globally are artisanal and small-scale miners and an estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining to support their families and communities.
- Small scale mining is one of the most dangerous industries in the world and miners (men women and children) often work in remote areas and harsh conditions, with little or no health and safety measures in place.
- Small-scale miners are also exploited by traders because of their poverty, and the absence of regulation and legal protections.
Fairtrade Gold offers a lifeline to these miners, their families and communities. Fairtrade gives strict standards on working conditions, women’s rights, child labour and environment management; It cuts out the middleman and in return miners gain access to markets and receive the Fairtrade Premium – the extra sum they receive to develop their businesses and invest into their communities.
Where does Fairtrade Gold come from?
Fairtrade is proud to be working with artisanal and small-scale mining organisations (ASMOs) in Latin America and East Africa to meet Fairtrade standards and supply international markets with certified gold and precious metals. There are currently three Fairtrade certified mining organisations, MACDESA in Peru, SYANYONJA in Uganda and MICODEPRO in Kenya. In addition Fairtrade is working other pilot groups in Peru, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to achieve Fairtrade certification.
I purchase my Fairtrade gold through my bullion supplier Cooksongold and through my casting manufacturer Vipa Designs Ltd. Both these companies are licensees’ and are able to offer me full traceability. I know my Fairtrade gold comes from the Sotrami mine in Peru. Here are two success stories courtesy of the Fairtrade Foundation…
Set in a remote and desolate part of the Andes mountains, 70 miles from the nearest town, SOTRAMI is a lifeline for the 500 families of the Santa Filomena community who depend on the mine to provide employment, education, health, and clean water. Since 2011 SOTRAMI has earned over £80,000 in Fairtrade Premium from sales of Fairtrade certified gold.
The miners have used their premium to buy beds and mattresses for the local clinic, provide electricity for primary and secondary schools and set up a bursary fund for families to help pay for school fees. Victor Juan Hurtado Padella, 67, Deputy Mayor of Santa Filomena, explained: “We have learnt that children should not work but should be in school.”
Located in the bleak Chaparra district of Peru, MACDESA began its Fairtrade journey in 2009 on learning about the foundation and achieved certification in May 2015. Today this helps the mining society support 350 employees as well as 600 people from Cuatro Horas community and the surrounding areas.
Fairtrade certification has become essential to furthering these developments. Under the Fairtrade label, MACDESA now sells 100% of production to trustworthy, international buyers offering fair prices. Among them are not only some of the world’s biggest refineries but from November 2015, Zürcher Kantonalbank, a major Swiss bank producing ingots of Fairtrade gold.
Using its Fairtrade Premium – the $2,000 given per kilogram of gold on top of the product price – MACDESA hopes to provide business training and courses to cultivate personal skills. It also wants to gain new concessions, acquire equipment with bigger capacity and increase income.
However, MACDESA main motive for Fairtrade certification is to invest in its community and the surrounding areas. The premium is helping to continue and improve basic services such as electricity, healthcare and education, provided solely by the company for the miners and their families.
From desolation to dreaming big, MACDESA is aiming to become a Fairtrade role model. “As a company, we want to keep developing to become a leader at national and international level,” says Ramirez. “As people, the development means having better conditions for our families.”
Fairtrade Gold is produced fairly and transparently. When buying jewellery made with Fairtrade Gold you make a difference to the miners, their families and their communities. Your support can provide them with the chance to be paid a fair price, better working conditions, build their futures by investing in social projects such as new schools and healthcare, and make their own way to prosperity.
I love knowing that there is no exploitation surrounding this precious metal and I also love communicating this to my customers which in turn gives them peace of mind when they are choosing which precious metals to use for their wedding bands or for a commissioned engagement ring.
I am truly grateful to ethical pioneers within the jewellery industry like Greg Valerio, activist and founder of Cred Jewellery who campagined tirelessly for Fairtrade gold. May the journey continue so that some day soon Fairtrade gold becomes the norm. I’m positive it will!
You can also find out why numerous brands are now opening the door to Fairtrade in a fab lowdown which I’ve been featured in written by Sian Conway of Ethical Hour…