22 July, 2014: It has recently been publicized that a single unique engagement ring made from gold can generate up to 20 tonnes of mine waste with mercury and cyanide leaking into the water system as a by-product. The environmental impact as well as the human cost of mining is becoming a growing concern for the public at large and jewellery designers and retailers, as well as the British government, are taking note.
For couples seeking an ethically sourced unique engagement ring, their only option has been to seek out the few independent designers, such as Jon Dibben, who are the first jewellers to offer creations bearing the Fairtrade and Fairmined dual stamp guaranteeing that the gold has been responsibly sourced. Rings with this dual stamp cannot be easily found on the high street despite the growing demand for action from consumers.
Recently the British Government announced that Business Minister Jenny Willott will collaborate with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to produce a number of recommendations and guidelines for UK retailers to work with in order address human rights abuses and environmental damage in their supply chains.
It is generally believed that the jewellery industry has been making significant progress in improving ethical practices over the past ten years, particularly in the gold supply chain. The BRC will work with its members and key stakeholders later this year to produce a publication with recommendations for companies on ethical accreditation and auditing.
Some initiatives, such as Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold in 2011 have transformed the way in which the industry can access gold from small-scale miners. These efforts have brought about a greater availability of ethically sourced fine jewellery, including engagement rings to consumers.
Fairtrade International’s Greg Valerio described the benefits of the Fairtrade system, “Fairtrade Gold offers the UK jewellery trade a verifiable and trusted way of improving ethical performance. It is the country’s only consumer certification stamp for gold and gives the consumer a guarantee that what they are buying can be traced to a certified Fairtrade mining group. It is truly the best gold story in the world”.
The new government initiative in collaboration with the BRC is hoped to offer clearer guidelines and recommendation for retailers and designers wishing to use Fairtrade and Fairmined materials. In the future couples seeking an ethically sourced unique engagement ring should not have to go to extraordinary measures to find one.
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