Fairtrade Gemstones: Setting the Record Straight
July 24, 2012
If you’ve been following the ethical jewelry industry, you’ll notice that many jewelers are marketing their materials as fairtrade-sourced. This is great news for anyone related to this industry, because it shows that consumers are swayed by marketing suggesting that their jewelry is coming from a safe and socially responsible place.
While this is great news for those of us who are dedicated to sourcing ethical and responsible, it must be made clear that the fairtrade label only applies to gold. There is no such thing as a fairtrade gemstone. The products that are currently certified as fairtrade include handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and gold. The fairtrade label is managed by several independent certifiers such as Fairtrade International, IMO, Eco-Social, and FairTrade USA. As of today, none of these organizations have ever certified any gemstone or diamond as “fairtrade”.
So why are “fairtrade” gemstones on the market? Some dealers of gemstones have come up with their own standards that they label “fair trade” or “fair-trade”. Often, these standards are partially based on the standards of the international fairtrade certifying agencies, but there is not necessarily any assurance, third-party quality control, or enforcement of these self-proclaimed standards.
The reason that gemstones are not included in the fairtrade standard is because every mine is operated differently depending on the type of stone, the geography, the climate and the traditional mining methods of the sourcing area. In addition, many mines are small-scale or artisanal. To choose one particular standard for the many types of mining would not only be impossible, but it would also be very difficult to scale. In contrast, with products such as bananas or coffee that are farmed in a very specific, large-scale manner, it is much simpler and much more economical to certify.
At The Raw Stone, we believe that the best way to provide our customers with “ethical” or “responsible” gemstones and diamonds is to source from places we trust ourselves and give our customers as much information as possible, allowing them to make an educated decision for themselves. We source from organizations that are dedicated to working with small-scale miners, educating small scale mines on proper safety methods, eradicating child labor, and including women in the workforce as much as possible. If a stone is not sourced from one of these organizations, then we trace to the mine or to the area of mining to ensure that the method of mining is safe, that the mines were not illegally placed in national parkland, and that the source was not from an area of recent conflict or concern. We research all of our sources with the utmost attention to detail, work with partners in the industry who we can trust, and give all of the information we have back to our own customers so that they may make the decision for themselves whether or not the stone is up to their standards.
For more information on our sourcing philosophy, please contact us directly at email@example.com