Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A New Year's Resolution that counts: Fairtrade/Fairmined Gold

New Year's resolutions can be a dime a dozen, but I have decidedly made one that counts: to launch my début Fairtrade/Fairmined gold collection this spring/summer. As some of you may know already, last year it was announced on Valentine's Day that I was one of the world's first 20 licensed jewellers to make and sell Fairtrade / Fairmined gold jewellery.

You may ask, why has it taken me a nearly a year to make this announcement on my own blog and website? Well, the journey has been a slow one for a few key reasons: 1  juggling a few other poorly timed commitments while starting a jewellery business, and  2. the availability of the Fairtrade/Fairmined gold at the time.

For those who do not know, I have been in business for just under two and half years and, before setting up, had conducted my own research on ethical jewellery materials. It was a priority that I use materials with a transparent supply chain so I could feel proud of my product, and by proxy, my clients too. My investigations took place both on the ground and via the Internet, and the results were discouraging. From stone merchants, to bullion dealers, to large scale mining companies, no one I came across seemed to offer any 100% guarantee that their products had been ethically sourced either by way of labour or the environment.

Even so, I started a business designing the things I love – jewellery - and with the materials I covet - fine gems and precious metal. I couldn't postpone my ambition as a designer-maker and developed my XX collection, which I have been able to successfully put to market (and plan to make available in FT/FM’d gold too). And, during this time, I grew my confidence as a designer, but never lost sight of wanting my business to have a responsible impact on those notoriously being short changed in the supply chain - e.g. small-scale artisanal miners and the environment.

When the opportunity to register interest with the Fairtrade Foundation in becoming a certified retailer, I jumped at the chance.1 An independent body overseeing the supply chain I most needed for my business had arrived! In the autumn of 2010, I met with Greg Valerio, international advocate for fairtrade gold (and now award-winning campaigner too2, !) and the Business Development Manager and Product Certification Officer from the Fairtrade Foundation. During these meetings, they patiently walked me through the requirements and logistics for becoming a licensee, which I might add was not a small list3 BUT on the other hand, here was a chance to work with Fairtrade/Fairmined gold. I mean, what’s a bit of paperwork, when I can work with this incredible special product?

Without hesitation, I signed the Foundation's 24-page contract and cemented my commitment. Then two months later in February 2011, Fairtrade/Fairmined gold was officially announced to the world. Exciting! Finally! Hooray!

The greatest gift: Bolivian miner Manuel Reinoso Rivas holds
 a 1kg bar of the world’s first Fairtrade and Fairmined gold
Pictures: PA

So now all I, and the 19 other licensed jewellers, needed to do was start getting our hands dirty, right? Well, not quite. For myself (and dare I say other small-scale designers?), the gold was not yet ready. The first kilo of certifiably mined gold that Manuel Reinoso Rivas so proudly presents in the photo above still needed to be refined....and then alloyed....and then manufactured into a workable state (e.g. sheet, wire, or casting grain)…and then initial orders were only being taken for minimum quantities of 1kg, which far exceeded my own needs and expense... and then....soon the months slipped by...

Fast forward to this month, January 2012, and it is like - snap! - the New Year has brought about a fresh outlook on my position as a certified licensee. With last year’s time-consuming commitments put in order, I can now focus on producing Fairtrade/Fairmined gold pieces. I have (re)established contact with those in the certified supply chain and started designing a new collection to be made solely in Fairtrade/Fairmined gold and even had my first enquiry for a commission. I have learned that the precious commodity is now available in manageable quantities, and just this week I submitted my first production application to the Fairtrade Foundation.

It is all happening and I am pleased to be able embark on this exciting journey, even if a year later. And, I must extend an enormous thank you to the incredibly hard working advocates for Fairtrade / Fairmined gold. The ‘best gold story’ a reality, and I can hardly wait to present my own chapter to the story when I launch my new collection in a few months time.

For more information on Fairtrade/Fairmined gold:
-              - Fairtrade Foundation http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/gold/
-               - Blog of Greg Valerio: the Fair Trade Jeweller - International and award winning advocate for Fairtrade/Fairmined gold http://blog.gregvalerio.com/

1 Thanks to the Jewellery Connections project for hosting an Ecological and Ethical Workshop
2 Greg Valerio: Global Campaigner as awarded by the Global Observer Ethical Awards http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2011/jun/12/observer-ethical-awards-winners-2011
3 Before any FT/FM product can go to market the design must be approved by the Fairtrade Foundation; likewise for any artwork that is to be used with the Fairtrade/Fairmined logo. Then once sales start to be made, quarterly reports need to be filed and licensing fees to be paid.... To some these tasks may seem onerous, but it is all in the name of traceability and the independent auditing of a very precious supply chain - and like I said, what's a bit of paperwork, when I have the privilege to work with such a material?

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