It might not matter to everyone where an apple was grown or where the cotton from their clothing is from - but for a growing number of individuals, like me, this is becoming more important, and gemstones are no different.
Personally, I think it is crucial to offer as much information as I can to my clients regarding the social, economic, and environmental impact of their decisions when it comes to purchasing a piece of Fail Jewelry. My business is working to stay apprised of the technological developments and offerings in the industry when it comes to making positive choices. This can make things like sourcing more challenging at times - but it is in the hope that these solutions will eventually effect lasting change.
What does origin traceability mean?
From the moment it is mined from the Earth to when it’s cut, set, and sold, origin traceability follows the entire journey of a stone (mining, cutting, retail, & consumer). Ethical sourcing is not simply just about the stone’s origin (the country it comes from) - but the impact of its entire journey.
Origin traceability is important for anyone concerned about a gemstone’s environmental impact, the health and safety of miners, and the social impact on the surrounding communities. For instance, when it comes to community impact, is the stone cut and polished in a facility that pays a living wage and provides proper ventilation and safety measures for the cutters?
When answering questions like these, colored stones are more difficult to track than diamonds. Why? According to the Financial Times, “Whereas only 15 per cent of diamond mining is artisanal, 80 per cent of coloured gemstone mining is small-scale artisanal, involving some 30 million miners – and making formalizing the industry very tricky indeed.”
When it comes to diamonds, tracing the majority of them is quite difficult - if not impossible (as many of them aren’t tracked). Canadian Diamonds are currently the most reliable option when it comes to origin traceability – particularly for those who are concerned about blood diamonds. Blood diamonds often fund deadly wars and conflict as well as human rights abuses. They are defined by the United Nations as: “any diamond that is mined in areas controlled by forces opposed to the legitimate internationally recognized government of a country and that is sold to fund military action against the government.
How common is a traceable stone?
Many jewelers don’t have any idea where their stones are from and few disclose it. Frequently, even when a geographical location is provided - the mine from which the stone came - is not. This does not mean that a stone was taken from the earth in a harmful manner or that the people involved were treated poorly, it just means that we do not know. Like most of the jewelry trade, personal relationships and trust goes a long way, but I began looking for more.
I have found a handful of designers, industry advocates and gemstone suppliers that are all working towards a more transparent, sustainable, and ethical practices in the jewelry industry. Little by little as our numbers grow we are seeing small changes as the industry, as a whole, takes notice.
Today, I am proud to say I have partners in gemstones and diamonds that are truly industry leaders when it comes to ethics in gemstone sourcing the best Montana, Australian and African sapphires and Canadian mined diamonds. They have provenance available without asking and are happy to talk about their facilities and the miners and communities they support. While global certifications in the jewelry industry are lagging, these are the types of personal relationships that I do rely upon and trust.
It is important for designers and retailers to share the importance and story behind the stones they acquire. This improves consumer education of both the negative and positive effects of the industry and the impact of their choice of stone. The more we talk about it, the more customers ask for it, the more the industry will continue to evolve and start to follow the money (aka the customer).
Overall, the more the market is held accountable for safety, security, and sustainability - the less of a negative impact the industry will have on people and the planet.
Follow the links to learn more about my thoughts on Ethical Diamonds, Origin Traceability, and Greenwashing in the jewelry industry.