Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eco, Ethical, and Fair Trade in the Jewelry Industry

Friday, February 5, 2010 an addition was announced adding a lively open format discussion to the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Seminar Schedule at the AGTA GemFair, focusing on eco, ethical, and fair trade gemstones and materials sourcing for the Jewelry Industry.

In a townhall format facilitated by Bill Gallagher, CEO of Lori Bonn Design, Inc. (who have introduced their line of Clear Conscience Jewelry), the group assembled discussed the challenges facing companies looking to promote and use Eco and Ethically sourced materials. There were 25 - 30 people in attendance representing almost every facet of the industry...Jewelry Designers, both established and emerging, Gem Dealers, Jewelry Supply Companies, Manufacturers, Press and representatives from some of the major organizations in the Industry (MJSA, JEA, and others)...along with students...giving us all hope for a "greener" industry tomorrow.


The key players in this group came from a meeting in 2006 known as the Madison Dialogue:
The Madison Dialogue is a cross-sector initiative established to promote communication and information sharing among companies, civil society groups and others seeking to encourage best practices, sustainable economic development, and verified sources of responsible gold, diamonds and other minerals. Organizations, companies and individuals participate in the Madison Dialogue on a voluntary basis.

The Madison Dialogue was launched at a meeting in New York (on Madison Avenue), in August 2006. Participants in that meeting included EARTHWORKS, WWF, Partnership Africa Canada, Tiffany & Co. Foundation, The Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), the Diamond Development Initiative, Jewelers of America, Conservation International, Leber Jeweler and others.
I think that one of the best things about this group was the inclusion of two Anthropologists and a Pearl Farmer...who gave a viewpoint that few were aware of...and while they listened, my feeling was that few heard.

I left with a sense that while this group is dedicated to an honorable goal - few are willing to "pay the price" - people are still looking for $3-5 gems. I was taken by a statement by Josh Humbert (Tahitian Pearl Farmer at Kamoka Pearls) who said that instead of all these noble projects to "give back" to workers (in the gem industry), we should be offering a price for goods that provide a wage they can live on.

In order to bring Eco and Ethically sourced Jewelry to the masses several things need to happen...education being number one and involving the "old guard" these people have been doing it for decades...why re-invent the wheel. But the tendency to think that we will be able to stick with old pricing structures and "business as usual" is still slowing the process...the Madison Dialogue is a good start.

Follow up info from Christine Dhein's "Green Jewelry News":

Ideas for a Fair Trade Future
Survey data was collected from participants at the forum and tabulated by Susan Kingsley, of Ethical Metalsmiths, in order to create an on-line resource directory that will continue to grow with the movement. Look for more details about the directory in the next issue of GJN. Other ideas to grow the movement that came out of this session include the creation of introductory educational information for jewelers, designers, gem suppliers and others on how to get started sourcing fair trade gems. The working title of this resource is First Steps on the Road to Fair Trade Jewelry. To receive updates on progress after the forum, join the Madison Dialogue.
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