Jewellery: A tale of love, death and hope
Responsibly sourced jewellery is now available. But the mainstream is still an ethical minefield.
This special report examines some of the ethical issues surrounding gold and diamonds. It includes
The Chilean San José mine was propelled to infamy in 2010 thanks to the rescue of 33 miners that had been trapped underground for 69 days. Live on television the world witnessed the incredible event, a testimony to human endurance and technological achievement.
But why were those lives risked in the first place, in a notoriously dangerous type of mine, responsible for regular fatalities? During all of the news reports of distraught wives and girlfriends, their hope, love – even their underwear – there was a deafening silence from the mining industry.
The supply chains which bring us precious metals and gemstones have, at their source, some horrific human rights abuses and environmental crimes. A catalogue of atrocities from around the globe includes dead and damaged miners, displaced indigenous people, slavery, mass rapes and land and water sources poisoned to such an extent that they will never recover.
But positive change is afoot. Recent years have witnessed some serious attempts to improve the trade and February 2011 brings us the first Fairtrade and Fairmined certified gold, following the launch of standards in 2010. Campaign groups have made significant strides in pressuring the big name jewellers to implement measures that begin to address some of the problems that are almost synonymous with their products.
There are also a growing number of ethical jewellers which know where their materials come from and in what conditions they are produced. Many of these are driven by a genuine desire to ensure that local people in impoverished countries benefit from the riches that surround them. So, thanks to the determination of a dedicated group of activists within the industry, it is now completely possible to purchase responsibly sourced jewellery.
Read more of our special report on Jewellery: