Fairtrade and Us - Past, Present and Future

Fairtrade and Us - Past, Present and Future

Written by Alice Rochester on 6 March 2020

Last year the Fairtrade Foundation turned 25 years old, and we joined in the celebrations with a display in our Cambridge studio and a launch of three sparkly new engagement rings crafted in Fairtrade Gold. Now with Fairtrade Fortnight 2020 in full swing, it’s got us thinking about our Fairtrade journey and where we see ourselves in the future.

As many will already know, our involvement in the story of Fairtrade Gold started years ago…

Well before the launch of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold in 2011, Harriet was approached by the Fairtrade Foundation to add her insight to their plans. At this time we were already using gold from mines that were working towards their Fairtrade certification, which we referred to as ‘fairly traded’. There were no audits in place, but we knew that the mines were doing great things and our customers were pleased to know this.

Back then, Fairtrade was associated with coffee, chocolate and bananas, but certainly not gold. Many in the jewellery industry were also worried that if they were to label some of their products as Fairtrade, it would only highlight the products that weren’t. This has never been something that has worried us however, as we have always felt that we are in a fortunate enough position to offer all metals as an option and simply allow our customers to make their choice. If they can make a conscious choice as to which coffee to buy, we know they can do the same with gold.

There were also concerns that Fairtrade Gold would, in some way, be inferior to ‘standard’ gold (since the original Fairtrade coffee didn’t always have the best flavour) but once we pointed out that gold is an element and therefore chemically the same as gold from other mines, the worries started to evaporate.

Of course, there were still teething problems associated with being part of a new venture. The gold took much longer to arrive with us than anticipated and even when we had the pieces it took a while to apply for the approval we needed to actually start making it!

To begin with we had limited bullion available to us and could only work with 18ct white and yellow gold. This meant that some pieces worked out to be considerably more expensive in Fairtrade than in standard metal because we had to make the ring in a different way to allow for the availability of the bullion.

In the intervening years however, all of these issues have been ironed out and we can honestly say that working with Fairtrade Gold is usually no different at all to working with standard metal. As a result, the price difference between one and the other is often so small that people don’t hesitate before choosing Fairtrade Gold when it is offered to them.  During consultations, we now work out the price for Fairtrade Gold as well as ‘standard’ gold to present the customer with options.

No judgement, simply “did you know this is available?  If you’re interested, your ring will cost…”  According to current statistics, whilst 93% of shoppers recognise the Fairtrade mark, only 16% are aware of the existence of Fairtrade Gold and so we feel that this is an important thing to do.  

For the same reason, we are adding more and more jewellery to our collections in ‘ethical’ metal choices. In fact, 80% of our current gold engagement rings are made in Fairtrade Gold - a figure we’re really proud of.  You will find that if it’s not Fairtrade, the metal in our ‘Ready to Wear’ jewellery is likely to be recycled instead, which we also feel is a great ethical offering.

The future is never predictable, but we feel that with current political, social and environmental issues it is more important than ever before to continue to use Fairtrade Gold wherever we can. Fairtrade gives workers the opportunity to future-proof their income, gives them social stability and access to ways of improving their environmental impact. It also aligns every with every one of the 17 UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Even if there wasn’t a growing public awareness on the impact of our purchases, we would still be doing what we’re doing now - educating our customers, increasing the amount of Fairtrade gold we use and encouraging others in the jewellery industry to do the same.