Ethical Jewelry Issues: Introduction

Jewelry marketing is nearly always targeted to appeal to your emotions. But the supply chain that produces your piece, from mine to market, is driven by an entirely different set of values. Precious metal, gem stones and manufacturing are highly commoditized, just like oil or lumber.

Except for the final stage, where a ring appears behind glass, how a piece of jewelry reaches you is often hidden even from the retailer who sells it. This disconnection between sourcing and the finished product is disturbing in context to jewelry‘s meaning.

The purchase of any piece of jewelry is to some degree laden with symbolic significance. Though some people in the jewelry sector have been concerned about sourcing issues for many years, the movement was to a large degree birthed by the blood diamond tragedy. Blood diamonds have funded wars that led to approximately four million Africans dying. The No Dirty Gold campaign gained ground in the same time period, but it was really the film that got attention. For many retailers, jewelry equals diamonds.

As a co-owner of designer jewelry studio, I was a vendor at the Jeweler Circular Keystone (JCK) trade show, the top jewelry trade show, in 2006 when the film, Blood Diamond, was released. Conferences had been organized by leaders in the trade to address the issues.

I left my booth to my employee – a Guatemalan immigrant who, during his breaks, would bury himself into a biography of Che Guevara – and wandered through the ―Plum Club, a special section of the show restricted to marquis watch and platinum brands — a place so rarefied that your badge needed a particular logo in order to receive a free Haagen-Dazs bar from the buyer‘s lounge.

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Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company, that sells eco-friendly, conflict free diamond jewelry and unique wedding rings online at Choyt also publishes, the most respected consumer and trade resource website on ethical sourcing and fair trade jewelry issues.