In the jewellery workshop: Fairtrade precious metals

Following her look at going green in the workshop LJS tutor Penny Akester investigates how you can ethically source precious metals and a new scheme to make access to Fairtrade metals easier for small jewellery businesses.

Although the jewellery industry by the very nature of the precious materials we use, automatically recycles a vast amount of metals, and stones are taken out of old pieces and re-set, massive amounts of silver, gold and other precious metals and stones are still mined all over the world.

Mining for metals is one of the more environmentally damaging industries, as well as being associated with a lot of human rights violations including forced labour and child labour.

If you work in precious metals and want to help make a difference there are currently two options available…

Recycled Silver
Although the merit of this is debatable, as around 80% of the standard silver bought is likely to be recycled already, specifically buying recycled silver (like Cookson’s Ecosilver) ensures that the silver you work with is traceable and ensured to be 100% from recycled sources.

Ethical jewellery recycling

Recycling metals reduces waste but ethical sourcing in the first place can make a difference

You can also learn to recycle your own silver to reduce waste.

Fairtrade Gold and Silver
Fairtrade gold has been available since 2011 and silver since 2013 – these are metals mined according to a strict and independently audited standard that ensures both the environmental and human consequences of mining are well managed.

The miners of Fairtrade metals get paid a fair price, the metal is mined safely and in environmentally responsible conditions, and that it is not being sold to fund conflicts. As well as this, the system ensures money is put back into the local community to help with education, health and basic needs for the local area.

To use Fairtrade gold or silver you need to be registered – the system relies on the fact that the metal is traceable from the mine to finished jewellery, so licencing people trading in the metal at all stages of the journey is vital.

To be a full licence holder jewellers need to use a minimum volume of metal each year and register the designs with the Fairtrade organisation. From April 2014, there will be an extra scheme launched specifically to enable small businesses and independent jewellers to use Fairtrade metals – The Goldsmiths Registration Scheme. Users of this new scheme can register for free and will not be able to use the full Fairtrade marks, but will be able to access Fairtrade silver and gold and to tell their customers that their metal is ethically sourced. To find out more and sign up for information when this scheme is launched next month click here.

For more information check out the Fairtrade organisation at www.fairtrade.org.uk/gold/
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