Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and this year thousands of Americans are planning on something beyond just flowers and chocolates. February 14 is one of the biggest days of the year to shop for jewelry — last year, Americans spent more than $4 billion on baubles for their loved ones.
But behind the glitter of the gold ring often lies an uncomfortable reality: the destructive impacts of irresponsible mining. Many mining companies are notorious for violation of human rights, destruction of natural areas and hazardous dumping of toxic waste.
As a jeweler, I was troubled by the fact that the jewelry I sold could be linked to such abuses. Nine years ago, I came across the No Dirty Gold campaign and had the stark realization that I was participating in the active destruction of the planet. I couldn’t continue making jewelry, glossing over the fact that I was part of a very big problem.
That spurred a change in sourcing our precious metals, and since 2005, we have been selling gold and silver jewelry made from entirely reclaimed metals sources.
Now more than ever, customers want to know where their jewelry comes from. There are ways to source responsibly — and when we do so, our actions put pressure on the mining industry to adopt improved environmental and social standards.
Recently there have been positive legislative steps to hold the mining industry accountable. The Dodd-Frank conflict minerals bill requires companies to investigate their supply chains and report the purchase of minerals whose profits were channeled to armed militia groups in the Congo.
In response to civil society pressure, mining companies are also increasing investment to engage with affected communities earlier and more frequently. An increasing number are participating in the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), an independent, third-party certification effort to promote higher social and environmental standards for mining. Artisanal mining cooperatives from Bolivia to Ghana are participating in the Fairmined certification system through the Alliance for Responsible Mining whose certified gold has passed their rigorous environmental and social standards.
These steps are good news for jewelers interested in building a responsible supply chain for their jewelry, but much more needs to be done. I call on my colleagues in the jewelry business to sign on to the No Dirty Gold campaign’s Golden Rules, and pledge to avoid “dirty” or questionable sources of minerals. As an early signatory to the campaign, I’m delighted that over 100 jewelers have signed on and are calling on the mining industry to clean up its practices.
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for jewelers to respond to consumers’ increasing demand for ecologically and socially friendly goods, including jewelry. The little shifts in action that are taken can lead to a tipping point where transparent supply chains and participation in a more responsible mining industry become almost universal.