When a client purchases vegan jewellery they want to know that the artists making the pieces are doing so in a vegan environment but have you considered fairtrade gemstone ethics? Caring for the planet, the animals and the people too means jewellery should, where possible, be made with vegan tools (more on that to come) and that the process doesn’t harm any animals or use animal products but also that the people involved aren’t taken advantage of. An important thing to consider is that your pieces contain components that are ethical and sustainable.
Vegan and Fairtrade Gemstone Ethics in contemporary jewellery design
A lot of the time gemstones can be purchased directly from the mines or a small dealer who works directly with the lapidarists. When buying from these people they might not add information about their workers because they think people aren’t interested, but if you ask they’re happy to tell you. Recently I spoke to the nephew of a man named David who owns an amethyst mine near Kigoma in Tanzania, to the West of the Moyowosi Game Reserve, just south of Burundi and East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We’re trying to help them set up a stronger business selling their fairtrade amethyst and other local gems like tanzanite to international markets. Nic will be flying there to meet some of the miners and lapidary artists who currently work on zero hour contracts and have other jobs to support their families. In Tanzania all children go to school but it’s difficult for parents to find the money for uniforms, books and pens. Sometimes there will be help from NGO’s (non-governmental organisations/charities) but these people want to work hard to support themselves. When you buy small quantities from little businesses like these you’re allowing them to feed their families and educate their children. David works hand to mouth to fulfil orders and employs and trains staff when the work is there. When you buy from small businesses like this you’re supporting the whole community.
Fairtrade Gemstone Ethics
If you’re buying jewellery from a designer you should ask how they source their gemstones. In over a thousand orders we’ve only been asked once if our natural diamonds and gemstones were conflict-free and it was an exciting moment for me to explain how the quantities I purchased meant I couldn’t get a Kimberly certificate for our unpolished diamonds but I gave her the details of the two companies we purchase from. We use rough diamonds because any cutting would be lost in the resin and appear as a blob of clear resin, by using raw diamonds at Tree of Opals we show their natural sparkle.
You can download a chart of some of the most beautiful gemstones in the world here and never be afraid to ask where they come from to help support some of the most vulnerable people in developing countries. Your jewellery designer might not know, and actually that’s ok, because you’re encouraging them to ask next time and be more aware of the issues around buying stones for jewellery.