Tag Archives: ethical jewellery

In the jewellery workshop: Ethically sourcing gemstones

London Jewellery School tutor Penny Akester recently wrote about sourcing fair trade metals now she turns her attention to gemstones in her final article on more sustainable jewellery making.

If you’re working in gemstones, (and this applies to a lot of other materials too) – don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers where their stones are sourced from.

Many materials are so anonymous when we receive them that it’s hard to know how they were processed or where the raw materials come from, but if people keep asking and searching, the supply chains and sources will start to become more open, allowing us to make more informed decisions about the materials we choose to use in our jewellery.

ethically sourced gemstones

Ethically sourced gems from Brazil Gems

Why ask?
Gemstones, just like metals, can be mined in terrible circumstances with no regard to the workers safety or human rights, or consideration given to the environment in the mining process and chemicals used.

As well as mining stones from their original source, there are also health, environmental and human rights problems often created where the stones are cut and processed.

On top of this there are ongoing problems, especially with diamonds with both rough and cut stones being sold to fund conflict and violence.

The Kimberley Process
This is an international certificate system that has been in place since 2003 aiming to prevent the sale of conflict diamonds. This unfortunately is not very successful and as it does not certify individual stones, it only relates to batches of rough stones and as well as not tracking stones once they are cut, has a lot of other loopholes that mean in effect that a lot of conflict diamonds are still entering the market.

What Can Jewellers Do?
If you want to know about the stones you use, find a supplier that makes the effort to ensure that their stones are traceable and will be able to tell you where your stones have come from, as well as where else they have passed through.

The more you can know about them the better – for example – it’s no help to the few miners struggling to build peace and work ethically in otherwise troubled countries like the Congo if jewellers avoid buying diamonds from the entire region, or if a stone comes from a responsible mine but has been cut in a factory in India using forced labour.

Some suppliers that sell ethically sourced gemstones include:

(if you know of others – do share their details here too!)

For more information about ethically sourcing gemstones, see:

 

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/
as well as:

 

In the jewellery workshop: Going green at your workbench part 2

On Friday, Penny Akester suggested some easy changes you can make to make your jewellery hobby or business greener. Now she looks at items specifically used in the workshop…

jewellery workshop chemicals

Jewellery workshops can contain a lot of potentially harmful chemicals – make sure you know what is biodegradable and how to dispose of left over chemicals

Pickle

The pickle usually used to clean your metal is safety pickle, despite it’s name, it is still a polluting chemical and if you’ve ever got some on your clothes, you’ll have found the holes it creates. A safer and more environmentally friendly alternative is citric acid which you can get from a supermarket or pharmacy. Use it warm and it will do the same job as a standard pickle. Also think about what you do with your used pickle – whatever it’s made of, it should not be disposed of down the sink because it will contain residue of heavy metals – let it evaporate, then wipe out the residue with a tissue.

Resin

Standard resins are toxic and manufactured from potentially dangerous chemicals, bio-resin is a more ethical alternative, without the toxic fumes, formulated from sunflower oil, it is used in museum restoration because it will stay clear and not yellow with time as some other resins do, it is also non-toxic and food safe. It makes more bubbles than standard resin, which can be used for effect in your designs.

Enamel

Lead is often used in enamels, but is a poison and there is now regulation regarding lead content for consumer products – to avoid any risk to yourself or people wearing your jewellery, look for lead free enamels.

Scrap

Always make sure to save your offcuts, filing dust and any other metals – you can take them to a metal dealer to be recycled and you will be surprised how much money you get for them too!

If you’re interested in casting your own pieces, silver can usually be melted up to twice before the alloy degrades and it needs to be sent off to be re-processed.

Clean up

Use a separate hand vacuum to clean work areas and always use a bench skin to catch your waste, then re-claim the metal from the contents. Keep all your waste sandpaper, sweepings and other waste (if you work in silver clay – keep all those used baby wipes too) in a bag which you can then send away to reclaim the metal. Not only will you be recycling metal and getting some money back for new supplies, but keeping your work area clean will help you work more efficiently, there will be less dust that you could be breathing in and it will also prevent any contamination between different metals.

These are just a few ideas to get you started – look out for more articles here in the future, and in the meantime, for more information and links to lots of other useful sites – check out http://www.utedecker.com/ethical_jewellery.html#tips. Ute Decker is one of several jewellers leading the way in creating beautiful jewellery that is ethically produced and she has collected together a huge amount of information to help other jewellers looking for greener or more ethical options.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve made any changes or are interested in green or ethical jewellery issues – please leave a comment here.

May Newsletter – Recycle Your Jewellery @ LJS

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Job Opportunity : Freelance Designer

A new contemporary fashion jewellery start-up is looking for a designer to join them on a freelance basis to help develop their collections. They are looking for someone who is familiar working with silver and semi precious stones. For a full job description and contact details, please click here.

What’s On

COLLECT @ the Saatchi Gallery is an annual showcase of the very best in contemporary craft. Featuring jewellery, ceramics, textiles and more it’s a chance to see the very latest work from a wide range of UK and European designers. Click here for more details.

Open Evening 

Don’t forget to pop down and see us on Thursday the 9th of June to tour our studios, meet the tutors and have a look at our students work. No booking is required, just drop in anytime from 6.30 – 9pm. For more details on our Open Evening, please click here.

Art Clay back in stock
Make sure you check out London Jewellery Supplies to see our range of Art Clay, tools, starter kits and semi-precious beads. Supplies are also available to buy from us here at the school, which is open daily (including weekends) from  9 – 6pm. We will soon be selling a range of findings both at the school and online, stay tuned as these should be available within the next couple of weeks.
Fused Glass Jewellery
Wednesday 25th May
£105 (exc VAT)
Learn how to make jewellery using glass! Fantastic colours, low cost materials and great results. During the day you will learn lots of techniques and leave with 5 – 6 finished pieces of jewellery.
Silver Etching
Thursday 2nd June
£110 (ex VAT)
Etching is the process of using acid and a resist to create shallow markings in metal, great for adding patterns, text and shapes. This is a great class for experienced jewellers and complete beginners alike.
Intermediate Polymer Clay

Saturday 4th June
£105 (ex VAT)

Learn how to make a decorative cuff in this new class. Suitable for anyone with  experience working in polymer clay, this is a really creative class where you can develop your own surface designs, patterns and colours.
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