Why I hit pause on using Fairtrade and Fair mined gold
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
I have been asked this a lot lately and I've not really been able to answer, or more to the point I've not felt comfortable answering. It's hard to explain it properly and doing so without worrying about offending anyone. or even making groups of people upset. But I've decided I need to try and explain why I hit pause on offering it. Instead of the option just disappearing from my site and just replying "sorry I'm not able to work in Fairtrade gold at this time, however I can offer 100% recycled gold" when ever I get an enquiry.
First I have to say, I don't disagree with what Fairtrade and fair mined (two different companies/organisations) are doing, of course I 100% agree with Fairtrade and what they are trying to achieve within the gold and mining industry. I'm all for better conditions for workers. But as an environmentally aware jeweller, I have to look at the process of something, and this is why I had to hit pause.
The main thing that kept coming to mind for me is why wouldn't I work in recycled gold when we have so much of it already available?
I then was lucky enough to watch a webinar in which it was confirmed that some of the Fairtrade mines and fair mined gold mines use chemicals such as mercury in the mining process. And for now, for me this does not sit comfortably. I would love to work with communities and to support them, but I can not feel comfortable working with fresh mined gold due to the environment and humanitarian impact these chemicals (mercury) have. Having changed the way I make jewellery to be as eco aware and as eco conscious as I can be, it just feels at odds with each other.
Other interesting facts and the figures which have been shared with me have been incredible, mind boggling in-fact. Including figures in regards to grams of carbon released into the atmosphere for recycled gold compared to mined, it’s 100’s and 100’s times higher in mined 😰 in fact over 600 times higher!
As I want to create jewellery and a business that has as little environmental impact as possible, which means always asking questions, learning and working towards doing better. So please know that I never use words lightly when describing my work, my business and how I make your jewellery. If anything I lean on the side of caution.
So I currently continue to only use recycled gold. Yes, when it was first mined it may have gone via the chemical process, but to recycle gold no new chemicals are needed (unless urban mining which involves removing gold from circuit boards etc) There's so much gold already mined and available as a resource and in circulation that can be recycled time and time again, and its for this reason that I can not currently work in newly mined gold (aka fair trade gold) This is also a reason why I do not refer to myself as an ethical jeweller, to be honest I don't think there can be such a thing (other jewellers please don't hate me for saying this) we can try and be ethically aware, we can work in an eco aware and environmentally conscious and sustainable way, but can we truly call ourselves ethical? I'm not so sure. I was told many years ago now about using ethical to describe jewellery and why its a tricky ground and its stuck with me.
This is such a tricky topic to cover and write about, I have to admit something to you, I almost left the industry completely due to the environmental impact we as an industry have had and continue to have on our beautiful planet. I just felt uneasy, like I was doing something wrong, a real deep uneasy feeling. But now, finding a way to work that reduces my impact and making meaningful jewellery in a different way, careful with the valuable recourse, only making to order to limit the valuable resources I have sat in stock boxes, only working in metals that have been recycled (so currently not offering Platinum or Palladium) using recycled material packaging and compostable packaging, off setting my co2 and removing nasty chemicals from the workshop and making process. If i'm doing this and always looking at new ways to improve my environmental impact how can I then use something that has recently had mercury used in its mining process when I can use the very same material in recycled form? And this for me this is the option that a lines with my business ethos.
The other reason I do not work in Fairtrade gold, is to be able to use the fair trade hallmark, you need to commit to purchasing a set amount of gold and be signed up to the scheme. The extra money and fees here aren't an issue, i'm always happy to pay for something that is beneficial and supports someone (the mining community etc) its the minimum order amounts that cause the issue for me personally (combined with the environmental impact) and this isn't something that fits within my business ethos. I understand why its needed, so they know how much to mine etc But I purchase raw materials as and when they are needed for each job and I do not hold or carry access gold and its a big part of my business ethos, So to change this integral part of my business doesn't feel right, when again I can work with recycled.
Its true, I can purchase a certain amount of Fairtrade gold as a independent designer but I couldn't have it hallmarked with the Fairtrade stamp until I join the scheme.
I also ask myself why with any other industry recycled materials is championed but its feeling like recycled gold has had some back lash from some, and i'm so confused as to why?
Some might say i'm mad for writing this, that perhaps I could be scaring customers off. But I don't think so, I being 100% open, honest and transparent about how i'm working and why I work the way I do. I also wouldn't discourage someone from working with Fairtrade gold if its something that a lines for them, but for me I have to follow my gut feeling and for me at the present moment in time I just can not offer it.
If anyone has any amazing resources, extra information please do let me know. I want to learn more, understand more. And please know, this isn't me saying its bad, its purely my reasons as to why I do not work with it at present.
I'm actually off to watch a film about the impact of gold mining on Monday 8th November at the Lewes Depot, So I will be back to add to this post soon.