All gold may look equally lustrous once it has finished its transformation from rock to ring, but behind that glow may just be a story that isn't quite so beautiful.
As you're part of our community of #ConsciousCollectors — or just found us looking for ethically-made jewellery (in that case, welcome and please make yourself at home!) — you probably know that many of those gorgeous golden pieces you come across while shopping weren’t exactly made with human rights and the planet's well-being in mind.
Traditionally, the jewellery industry has favoured profitability over responsibility, but change is, and has been, finally happening over the last decades.
When we started our mission of creating 100% traceable jewellery, one of the first things we did was making sure that we’re only working with gold from responsible and sustainable sources. There are two types of ethical gold we’re using to craft our fines — recycled gold and Fairtrade gold — and in this journal entry, we’ll dive into the details of both. Let’s go!
Recycled Gold: Reuse and Shine
We'd like to begin our dip with a few fun facts; remember them just in case you need to bust out a conversation starter or find yourself in the middle of an intense game of Trivia!
For starters, gold is one of the most recycled material on the planet: only 2% of all gold mined throughout history is unaccounted for, the rest is still around the form of — to name but a few — bars, coins, artefacts, electronics, teeth fillings and, of course, jewellery. The reason for this is pretty simple: it’s too precious to throw away. Gold can be infinitely recycled without losing quality — it can be melted time and time again and brought back to its full purity through a refining process. In short, fines made with recycled gold look just as good as those made with newly mined gold.
Creating jewellery from recycled gold is an eco-friendly choice: utilising what's already there reduces waste and the demand for new gold mining. Most of the world's newly mined gold comes from open-pit mines, also known as mega-mines. These large-scale gold mines destroy landscapes and ecosystems at an alarming pace: it is estimated that twenty US tons (over eighteen thousand kilograms) of rock and soil are excavated and discarded to make one single ring. This waste contains mercury, cyanide, and other highly toxic chemicals used to help extract gold, contaminating air quality and water supplies as a result.
Water is the Earth’s most precious resource — without it, there's no life — and mega-mines play a big part in exhausting our finite water supply: large-scale gold mines can use up to 26 million gallons (that's over 98 million litres) of water every day.
We want to play our humble part in working towards a greener future, which is why most of our fines are crafted from 100% recycled gold from reclaimed jewellery — which is the most common source of recycled gold — because we believe that accessorising should never come at the cost of our home, the Earth. By giving these reclaimed pieces a new life, we are able to save water, land and carbon emissions.
To help close the loop even further, we have also created a lifetime buy-back programme. If you feel like freshening up your jewellery collection, you can send any piece that you bought from us back to our workshop, which we’ll buy back for 20% of the purchase price. We'll then melt down your pre-loved piece to create something new, to be enjoyed again and again (and again!).
Fairtrade Gold: Glow for Change
You have probably heard of Fairtrade before, and if not, their name should clue you in: it's an organisation dedicated to making the world a, well, fairer place. Fairtrade both supports and challenges businesses and governments while connecting the farmers and workers with people like you who want to buy their products. Their approach enables the people who create, grow and mine the things you love to have more control over their lives, as well as decide how to invest in their future.
Fairtrade has been involved in gold mining since 2011. One of their main aims is to ban all forms of conflict minerals from the gold supply chain to ensure that the gold trade doesn't fuel instability in mining areas.
Fairtrade gold comes from small-scale and artisanal gold mines from countries worldwide. Unlike large-scale mines, labour conditions in these mines are strictly regulated — there is no gender inequality or child labour, wages are fair, and the working environment is safe and healthy. The Fairtrade Scheme empowers both the miners they work with and their communities: When the miners spend their profits locally, they create a strong local economy that benefits the entire community.
Fairtrade Standards are also set to protect the environment. There are rigorous rules around how the chemicals used to extract gold can be worked with so as not to damage local ecosystems. The use of mercury, for instance, isn’t allowed if gold mining without mercury is technically and commercially possible. On top of that, the Fairtrade scheme offers a 15% premium on gold mined without the use of mercury or cyanide to further encourage the production of eco-gold. If mercury needs to be used to extract gold, it can only be used in designated areas, away from any bodies of water.
At Fairtrade-certified mines, waste is discharged without contaminating ground (and drinking!) water. Landscapes and ecosystems are restored within two years after the mine closes; they are rehabilitated and re-vegetated in ways that enhance local biodiversity as appropriate for the native ecosystem.
All of the gold we used to create our Mosaic Capsule is Fairtrade (and so is the silver we craft our Vermeil fines from!) — we're a registered Fairtrade Goldsmith (Registration number: R1327) — to support the livelihood of local miners and their communities, as well as a more sustainable future.
As good as gold
All of our golden fines are crafted with love for our beautiful Earth and its people; from the first sketch all the way to the finished product. We hope that our jewellery will make you feel as good — and just as golden — as they are made.