Ethical Gemstones - Where We Are
As you're probably aware the issues behind sourcing gemstones ethically are complex - where the politics are OK, the environmental impact may not be or there may be human rights issues. It is impossible at the moment to guarantee every one of these will be OK for each gemstone, given the difficulty of tracing them down the supply chain, although thanks to the Kimberley Process we can be very sure that we'll never be using conflict diamonds.
However, this doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands and not do anything. What we all struggle with in the jewellery industry is the choice between buying only from westernized countries where we know the labour laws are up to scratch and rigorously enforced (although there is generally a higher environmental cost from heavily mechanized mining techniques) or conversely trying to find people who are doing a good job in less developed countries.
What we and our gem dealers keep coming back to is that there are people down the line who won't be able to eat if we don't keep buying gemstones from them. When you've travelled to some of these desperately poor places and met the people who depend on artisanal mining and the production of gemstones to live, it doesn't seem so ethical to be only buying diamonds from Canada for example.
One option that has recently started to be available is gemstones mined under Fairtrade principles. This is answers a lot of questions for us because we know they come from projects that are independently audited for environmental standards, labour practices and health and safety standards in mining and cutting. There are no Fair Trade diamonds available yet but we have just taken delivery of some really beautiful coloured gemstones.
Whilst there are no certified Fairtrade coloured gemstones yet we are able to source sapphires, spinel, ruby, garnet, peridot, tanzanite and tourmaline which have been sourced from suppliers who work on Fairly Traded principles and who do all they can to ensure their stones are from ethical sources.