wording. KP only covers rough stones, those that have yet to be cut and polished prior to being made into the jewellery we know and love. Whilst a few independent and bespoke jewellers use uncut gems and conduct the finishing process themselves; many brands buy finished jewels- a task undertaken mainly in Israel, where the jewellery trade is still known to be a main source for funding conflict.
“You can wear your jewels in all their dazzling glory- entirely guilt free.”
With recent news reports warning jewellers of a surge of conflict gemstones contaminating the precious stone market and the Fairtrade Foundation launching a scheme to assist emerging designers, the jewellery world is abuzz with discussions surrounding responsible sourcing. As a consumer, it’s hard to know if you’re helping or hindering when buying jewellery, Jessica Knowles lays down the basics of being a cognisant consumer and explains just how it’s possible for conflict gems to still exist today.
Have you ever bought a conflict diamond? You’re probably aghast at this suggestion but still unsure, because nobody likes to think they’ve contributed to funding a war in a developing country and we’ve all seen Blood Diamond; a film that seemed to successfully raise awareness of the origins and outcomes of diamond jewellery. Although, if I say Kimberley Process, transparent supply chain or fairmining you’d be forgiven for assuming I’m having some kind of jewellery related breakdown, but all of these are aspects that conscientious consumers should be familiar with before buying fine jewellery. We delve into the what, where and who of how to be sure that you can wear your jewels in all their dazzling glory- entirely guilt free. The first step in being an aware shopper is knowing where everything comes from. Most diamonds and precious stones,
such as rubies and emeralds are mined in the African continentdiamonds from South Africa, emeralds from Zambia, tanzanite from Tanzania; that one was a bit obvious, but you get the idea. Responsible jewellers should be able to tell you the source of their gemstones, for diamonds they should also be able to produce certification to show that their diamonds were mined in line with the Kimberley Process. This is a government based certification scheme, set up in Kimberley, South Africa in 2003, it forces anyone mining and shipping diamonds to prove that they are conflict free. It’s about as difficult as it sounds.
The System of Warranties was put in place in order to attempt to extend the governance of the Kimberley Process to cut gems but this has been exploited and failed almost from the word go. Just last week, Ian Smilie, a founder of the Kimberley Process resigned from his position for reasons that chillingly echoed those given by Global Witness. The term ‘conflict gemstone’ refers to any gem sourced in an area where forces of corruption have a strong hold, currently, the most worrying producers of gemstones are Mozambique, Zimbabwe and The Democratic Republic of Congo; where rebel forces are seeking to overthrow current governmentswho are often problematic and dishonest themselves. One of the biggest failures of the KP is that all the governments involved in the scheme have to turn out a unanimous vote in order to make changes to the scheme, and why would countries that are managing to appear to comply while undermining the legislation left right and centre ever want it to change?
The Kimberley Process has failed to evolve since its inception and loopholes such as those identified by campaign group Global Witness, who officially withdrew their support of the scheme last year. Founding Director, Charmian Gooch stated ‘The world has moved on but the Kimberley Process remains stuck in time. The KP has spent the past few years lurching from one shoddy compromise to the next in a manner that strips away its integrity and undermines its earlier achievements.’
The worst culprit is Zimbabwe, where Mugabe’s militant fearmongering certainly doesn’t leave the diamond trade untouched; the mere presence of a KP representative illicits a surge of violence in mining areas with innocent locals often being accused of illegally panning for stones. The reality is that Mugabe’s soldiers have, predictably, been found to be the main proponents of illegal sourcing and smuggling stones out of the country via South Africa and Mozambique. Unsurprising, considering that Mugabe and his political party are the main beneficiary of illegal trading.
The main issue, as with so many regulations, lies in the document
The Fairtrade foundation appreciates the importance of
engaging designers, consumers the same. CRED were the first and brands in order to create company to produce Fairtrade fair and safe conditions for each wedding jewellery and to have person along the process of a completely transparent and creating every piece of jewellery traceable supply chain. This under the Fairtrade mark. means that each element of a Equally, involving emerging piece of jewellery can be traced designers in schemes such as directly back to the source the recently and ensures that all launched it’s up to customers to components are fairly Small Jeweller ensure that this potential traded and conflict free. Scheme is progress is pushed forward, almost more Gemstones are also and far more rapidly. important than on the agenda for securing the Fairtrade although support of well there is no current known brands. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, young or emerging jewellers used to be more likely to unwittingly purchase irresponsibly sourced materials due to a lack of experience, as well as the exceptional low prices offered by reckless dealers. Scheme’s such as this help to guide smaller jewellers into educating themselves on their own supply chains, Amy Ross of the Fairtrade Foundation says this is an exciting prospect for most ‘so many of our jewellers are thrilled to be able to tell their customers where their gold came from’ and it’s this excitement that needs to be capitalised on for the gemstone sector. Although, progress is being made; jewel mining companies such as Gemfields and brands like CRED work tirelessly to ensure that gems and metals are sourced responsibly, ensuring safe living and working conditions for African and South American miners. Gemfields offers jewel mining services to many established brands- Solange Azagury Partridge, Mappin and Webb and Monica Vinader, to name a few, and supplies precious stones; rubies, diamond and emeralds, those that usually carry the highest costs and risk of involvement in conflict. CRED began in 1996 with a simple mission- to pioneer responsible mining practices of gemstones and metals and, in turn, inspire others to do
idea of a timeline, ‘we’re working with gold miners in areas where there is also gemstone mining so it would be a natural progression, but, as of yet, we’re not sure when that might be’ says Ross. If the diamond and gemstone industry can follow in the footsteps of the gold industry then serious headway and success is sure to follow, the only shadow hanging over this progress is the indefinite timescale. But, as with any customer-based industry, demand creates supply, so it’s up to customers to ensure that this potential progress is pushed forward, and far more rapidly.
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