Building an Ethical Jewellery Industry

Our first guest author is Kassandra Lauren Gordon, jeweller, poet and activist.

The Fair Luxury website states: “Each of us is at a different place on our journey to responsible business, but we are working on it. No matter how small, collectively our actions will transform our industry for the better.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I have always seen myself as an ethical jeweller and have tried my best to live up to that in my jewellery practice by giving clients the option to buy ethical materials. I have used fair trade gold, recycled gold, recycled silver and buy the most ethical gemstones I can find as much as possible.

But ultimately I can’t offer ethically sourced materials that I can’t find or that are too expensive for my customers. And if these materials are going to be more than branding for me they have to be as ethically sourced as they are claimed to be or we can’t rely on the effects of using ethical suppliers to materialise. However, I have no realistic way of verifying the claims to ‘ethicalness’ that a supplier makes, so I must take it on trust.

It’s just not possible to be ‘ethical’ in the sense of what we want this word to mean without the industry, or at least part of it, also being as ethical as we want to be.

I think one of the best vehicles for spreading the impact of the use of ethical supplies is combining our buying power and signposting to others which suppliers we believe are providing the best quality and ethically reliable supplies. As our influence grows and consumer tastes become more ethical, more suppliers would have the incentive to also start selling ethical supplies.

I am very inspired by the changes we’ve seen in the food industry. It was not long ago that to be vegetarian almost meant to not be able to eat at all if you were out. Perhaps there would be one token vegetarian option on the menu. But the industry has responded very robustly to the change in consumer tastes. Now some vegetarian substitutes are indistinguishable from traditional recipes because of the work that has been done on recipes and ingredients. Today, diners of a variety of diets have real options.

If we can build a network or a directory of ethical product and service providers, this could be a very good step in the direction of us being able to be the ethical jewellers we want to be ourselves and then expanding that impact through the industry.

To truly be ethical jewellers we must see our values manifested in the work of others.

Kassandra Lauren Gordon
September 2020