Making a Difference From Mine to Market

 Marc Choyt of Reflective Images, Santa Fe, New Mexico, a jewelry retailer and manufacturer of designer jewelry, attended the first Madison Dialogue Ethical Jewelry Summit on October 25 and 26, 2007, at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Choyt is the author of a blog on fair trade issues at He reports here on his experiences at the summit and the first steps toward fair trade gems, precious metals, and jewelry.

Shamsa Dawani shows me a stone paper of brilliant red garnets. They aren’t just pretty—as small as they may be, they represent a new future for our industry. It’s the second day of the Madison Dialogue Ethical Jewelry Summit at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. This handful of garnets for sale is a reminder of why a hundred people from all over the world have gathered at this conference to discuss the ethical issues of sourcing.

The garnets I have back at my shop were cut in India and mined who knows where. Even though we “hand pick” these inexpensive gems, they remain a commodity. But Dawani’s garnets, mined and cut by women in Tanzania, alleviate economic hardships and disease and support the sheer entrepreneurial drive of the businesswomen in her Tanzania Women Miner’s Association.

I imagine telling the story of these garnets to my customers in my Santa Fe, New Mexico, store. They have added sparkle because they create a human connection, allowing the wealth in my community to support families, schools, and clinics in the towns where her small scale mining takes place.

Most of the people who are here at the Ethical Jewelry Summit already source ethically. They obey laws and don’t contribute to unfair or environmentally damaging practices. Representatives are here from large companies that have instituted best practices to protect workers, communities, and the environment. But they are here because they don’t think it’s enough to not do harm. They are here to try to do more, to create a system to support the most vulnerable links in the supply chain: small scale and artisanal miners like Dawani.

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