Do you know where your gold jewellery comes from and how the material was sourced? Gold mining can be a dirty industrial activity with numerous sustainability issues in the supply chain. Increasingly, ethical jewellery brands are offering an alternative: Fairtrade gold. How does it compare to conventional gold or recycled gold, and why should you consider it.

'Fairtrade' and 'fair trade' are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is a notable difference. 'Fair trade' refers to products made with a concept of trading that follows general principles of fair trading. Whereas 'Fairtrade' is an official certification by Fairtrade International, which confirms that the claims the company is making about using fair trade practices and environmental protections are verified.

The problem with conventional gold

Gold mines
Working with conventional gold raises a number of questions around sustainability: from environmental issues, social issues, and the concerns surrounding gold as a finite natural resource.

Initially driven by simple economics, goldsmiths have been reusing old gold jewellery to make new pieces for centuries - effectively forming the first efforts to 'recycle' the precious metal. More recently technology and social pressures, along with the understanding that gold is a finite natural resource, is driving new efforts to reclaim and recycle gold - for example removing minute amounts of gold used widely in electronics from the increasing stockpile of obsolete devices.

Unfortunately recycling gold is not entirely 'guilt-free' as refining it requires much of the same chemical processes as mining. Also much more efforts are needed to prevent gold from winding up in landfill. Read more about recycling gold here.

Gold mining uses a number of chemicals to separate the gold from the host rock – including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cyanide. Unfortunately a lack of knowledge and environmental regulation means that these toxic substances are routinely released into rivers, often destroying protected areas downstream and posing a major threat to biodiversity in the region.

Aside from the chemicals, gold mining also produces large amounts of solid waste. For example, an average gold ring results in 20 tons of waste (!) with obvious consequences for the topsoil of the surrounding landscape.

There are also numerous social issues associated with conventional gold mining. Worker' rights, women's rights and child labour laws are often ignored, and an appalling lack of safety measures puts miners at risk of injury or death. Despite increasing efforts by some mining companies to give back to local communities, mining can be very destructive to the local social structures and economy.

The supply chain of gold jewellery is very complex, which makes it much more difficult for brands to monitor where their gold is coming from. That’s why a certification such as Fairtrade, which monitors every step of the process and enables even small jewellers to ensure their gold is sourced sustainably and ethically, is an important step forward.

How does Fairtrade gold make a difference?

Diana Porter Spinel and 18 karat yellow Fairtrade gold at DesignYard

Gold miners under the Fairtrade scheme follow a set of strict environmental and social guidelines designed to avoid the negative impacts associated with conventional gold mining and provide true economic benefit to the area.

Fairtrade gold is produced by independent small-scale miners who use substantially less damaging manual extraction methods (mostly working with basic tools such as shovels and picks). All methods and their impacts are audited, which makes it much easier to trace Fairtrade gold down the supply chain and monitor its exact impact.

Fairtrade's primary concerns include respecting worker’s rights, fair wages and workers safety. In addition the Fairtrade International employs other measures that allow the mining communities to develop economically in a sustainable manner. Fairtrade gold is sold at a premium and those revenues are filtered back into the local mining communities to fund social projects like healthcare and education.

Where to Buy Ethically Sourced Gold Jewellery

You will find most mass-produced jewellery is still made with conventional gold. In contrast independent goldsmiths and small scale jewellery designer/makers tend to have adopted recycled gold by preference. At DesignYard, you'll find most designers use recycled gold exclusively, with a growing number actively using Fairtrade gold. ronan campbell 18k fairtrade yellow gold green tourmaline diamond ring designyard contemporary jewellery gallery dublin ireland miami los angeles beverly hills london new york manhattan paris rome milan venice dubai doha belfast limerick kerry sheen falls adare manor hong kong shanghai singapore beijing five star hotel consultancy 5 luxury fine jewellery bespoke hand made collector zurich basel geneva geneve liechtenstein jersey guernsey alderney sark herm brechou jethou lihou paris venice st tropez switzerland monaco minsk art jewelry expressionist art expressionism contemporary art jean-michel basquiat banksy art collector blue chip art london keith haring melbourne dubai qatar oman abu dhabi dubai uae kuwait nigeria cape town marbella malaga st tropez

18k Yellow Gold 8 Diamond Engagement Ring DesignYard

18k yellow gold trinity knot diamond necklace designyard irish jewelry collection dublin ireland fine handmade jewelry designer design jewelllers shop
June 12, 2021 — Nicole van der Wolf