Gold, silver, and precious gem mining is often linked to negative consequences for people and the environment. It is important to me that my purchase of these materials does not support ethnically problematic practices in mines or in other steps in the supply chain. For this reason, I only use materials that are considered to be ethically sourced.
The Fairtrade Gold label was created by the Max Havelaar Foundation. This foundation is a non-profit organisation founded by the Swiss relief organisations Brot für alle, Caritas, Fastenopfer, HEKS, Helvetas and Swissaid. Fairtrade aims for a world in which all small farmers and laborers can have livelihoods that provide beyond their most basic needs so that they can reach their potential and freely choose their futures. With this in mind, Fairtrade is engaged in projects that offer protection for people and the environment in small-scale mining operations. Over 15 million people work in this sector (in comparison to 1.5 million people working for large-scale mining operations). Presently, only a very small portion of mined gold is certified. The certified labels (for example Fairtrade and Fairmined) stand for improved working conditions, a Fairtrade premium, fair access to markets, environmental protections and commercial transparency. I advocate the goals of Fairtrade and offer my clients Fairtrade gold to demonstrate my support.
The OEKOGOLD label from the Gyr Corporation states its gold – and the materials necessary for alloys –are sourced exclusively from recycled metals. Gyr obtains its precious metals from the company Burger & Gyr Precious Metals Recycling AG in Keltern (Germany), a Joint Venture with the German company Dr. Bernhard Burger Precious Metals AG und der Gyr Edelmetalle AG. Gyr's website www.oekogold.ch provides several texts criticizing Fairtrade gold. In my view, these statements about Fairtrade –especially the difficulties in making Fairtrade benefit the workers in small mines—are unjust.
For those who would like to deepen their understanding of these issues, I can recommend the master thesis from Markus Rub:
Goldschmuck und Verantwortung – Der Kauf von Goldschmuck aus konsumentenethischer Perspektive (Uni Zürich, Advanced Studies in Applied Ethics, 2017
I have sourced tourmaline, beryl and quartz from the company BrazilGems since autumn 2017. These premium-quality gems are produced under environmentally friendly and socially responsible conditions. BrazilGems works closely with the mining family Soares from Minas Gerais, Brazil. The production of precious metals is controlled at every stage of processing. The officially recognized certificate guarantees that:
- Only adults work in the mines and grinding shops
- No war or conflict activities are financed by their operations
- Effects of the mines on the landscape are minimal
- Their mining has negligible effects on the soil, water and air
- Wages are fair and all workers participate based on percentages of production
- The gems are not irradiated or chemically altered