Updated: May 13, 2020
A customer recently asked me a question about ethical jewellery, and how to ensure that what she buys is ethical. While I do not pretend to be an expert for all jewellery designers, I wanted to make an attempt at answering with some of the practices I've explored for myself.
I will be honest, the jewellery industry is one of the last frontiers of the sustainability and ethics conversation in the fashion industry. While it surprised me at first, time and conversations with industry actors have enabled me to better understand why.
The challenge starts where most jewellery components originate from. The most natural materials - which therefore have a lesser harmful impact on the environment - often come from very small scale mines and farms in some of the most remote parts of the world.
This means that many times, the most sustainable the material you use, the more likely it is to come from a supply chain that is difficult to trace all the way to the ultimate producer.
This makes the ethical question a difficult one to navigate. How do you ensure that the precious stones you commissioned were fairly paid for when there are so many intermediaries from the source to the jeweller?
Relying on synthetic stones is also not a better answer as it is often made of materials that are harmful to the environment and ultimately removes what remains for many mining communities the only way to make a living in very difficult circumstances.
I wrestled with this dilemma. It ultimately influenced my design direction and led me to prioritise ceramics, enamel and certified fairtrade gold in the making process for MAMATER pieces. On the small number of pieces for which I use pearls and semi precious stones, I have been working with a German trader that specialises in sourcing stones from small scale gemcutting ateliers in the most ethical way possible.
My ultimate goal though is to work directly hand in glove with a cluster of small scale producers that are compensated fairly. The essence of fairtrade.
Until then, thank you for supporting MAMATER's vision and mission for a world with more ethical jewellery.