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.
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:
- WM Gems
- Ruby Fair
- Kamoka Pearls
- Columbia Gem House
- Brazil Gems
- Laurins Gems
- White Pine Recycled Diamonds
(if you know of others – do share their details here too!)
For more information about ethically sourcing gemstones, see:
- Open Source Minerals
- Jeweltree Foundation
- Global Witness
- The Gemnological Association of Great Britain
- Amnesty’s Conflict Diamonds Campaign