Small-scale miners at the Macdesa mine, where we source our gold, started mining with shovels, using donkeys to carry rock and mercury for processing. Today, they have a thriving and safe mining community. Visit their mine virtually here.
Fairtrade Gold at a Glance:
* Fairtrade Gold gives miners and their families the opportunity to earn a livable wage—and to build their futures by investing in schools, better working conditions, and improved healthcare.
* Small-scale gold mining is the #1 contributor of global mercury pollution. Fairtrade Gold prevents miners from poisoning themselves and the environment.
* Fairtrade gold aligns the sourcing of jewelry with the talismanic meaning of jewelry. You can actually wear your commitment to a more sustainable future.
* Recycled gold, while touted as the “ethical jewelry” answer in North America, has no benefit to miners or the environment.
Why Fairtrade Gold?
There are approximately 20 million artisanal and small-scale (ASM) gold miners worldwide. Though they comprise 90% of the industry’s labor force, these individuals extract only about 20% of the world’s gold supply. Many ASM miners survive on $1-2/day, and most are subject to unfair terms of trade—along with a lack of basic human rights protections.
Many ASM miners find it difficult or impossible to secure legal mining rights, pushing them into orchestrating illegal operations. Exploited by middlemen, they rarely receive a fair price for their gold—and become ensnared in a cycle of poverty.
This small-scale gold miner is mixing gold and mercury by hand, in the same pan he will later use to cook dinner. Fairtrade Gold gives miners like him safer methods, so he does not poison himself, his family, or the environment with mercury. Photo by author.
The Benefits of Fairtrade Gold Practices
Fairtrade Gold is a groundbreaking initiative that offers a tangible lifeline to these ASM miners and their communities. An independently-audited set of benchmarks created by Fairtrade International, this commercial platform connects retailers to miners through a transparent and traceable supply chain.
Mining organizations work with Fairtrade International to meet stringent Fairtrade standards that touch on working conditions, child labor, women's rights, ‘clean’ technology, health and safety concerns, and responsible environmental management.
ASM miners who comply with Fairtrade standards immediately stand to benefit from these improved working conditions. And monetarily, these ASM miners receive a guaranteed Fairtrade Minimum Price for their gold—typically at 99% spot value, which can be 25% above what they were receiving before. This augmented income often proves the difference that allows a miner to send his or her kids to school, or afford adequate healthcare.
In addition, these ASM mining communities receive a Fairtrade Premium of $2,000 per kilo of gold. This money is fed back into community-development projects in areas like education and healthcare, or into the further advancement of Fairtrade Gold mining practices.
The Fairtrade Gold logo.
Of course, the benefits of Fairtrade practices flow both ways. The mine-to-market traceability of Fairtrade Gold means Reflective Jewelry can tell you exactly where the gold in your Fairtrade Gold wedding band came from—something that almost no other jeweler in North America can do.
With Fairtrade Gold, you are assured that miners are compensated fairly for their efforts, and that the land around the mines that sourced your gold is not contaminated with mercury or cyanide.
Ethically-sourced Fairtrade Gold products truly align with the heartfelt sentiments that lie behind a wedding ring—or, for that matter, any piece of jewelry.
Reflective Jewelry’s Fairtrade Gold Initiative
We at Reflective Jewelry are the only Fairtrade Gold jeweler in the entire USA. We began making jewelry with this gold in 2011 and joined FLOCert in 2015, which is when it became available.
Here I, Marc, co-owner and President of Reflective Jewelry, can be seen posing with our Fairtrade Gold certification.
We have been sourcing our Fairtrade Gold from two mines in Peru. In 2015 and 2016, we sourced from Sotrami. Since 2017, our source has shifted to Macdesa.
Fairtrade Gold is still a new initiative in the jewelry sector, and the supply chain is often tenuous. There are only a handful of certified Fairtrade Gold mines in the world. And, given the small-scale nature of these operations, any hitch in the mining or certification processes—or a spike in purchases from large buyers—can affect our ability (as a small company) to purchase this gold.
For many years our gold typically traveled from Peru to an importer, CRED Sources, in England before being sent to us—and this was only possible thanks to personal relationships we’ve developed over the years.
In late 2019, a Swiss company purchased the mine that CRED Sources used, essentially creating a monopoly. Tragically, CRED Sources, the keystone of the entire international movement, went out of business.
Since that event, Fairtrade Gold became significantly more expensive—over 20% more than open-market gold. Learn about costing here.
What You Can Do to Support Fairtrade Gold
The prevalence of recycled gold has been a major hindrance in creating a jewelry supply chain that actually benefits the environment and producer communities.
We’ve been working for years to establish Fairtrade Gold practices as the new norm for jewelry in the US. We can do this, but not by ourselves. Just think of the first Fairtrade coffee or chocolate company some forty years ago, and how much those industries have grown today.
By increasing the demand for Fairtrade Gold, we in turn increase the demand for a stronger supply network of Fairtrade Gold mines. But the first step, of course, is to get the word out.
The story of Fairtrade Gold, the most precious gold in the world, is of aligning the deep, heartfelt symbolism of a wedding ring with its sourcing.
Anyone reading this can do their small part to help: please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. (Or Instagram, or Pinterest.) Share or retweet our posts. This exposure could potentially change the lives of hundreds of thousands of small scale miners.
PS: If you happen to be in the market for jewelry, or know someone who is, think of us! We can custom-make nearly anything you might desire—please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1 888-733-5238 or shoot me, Marc, an email, Marc (at) ReflectiveJewelry.com.