The issue of fair trade gemstones is complex and difficult to sort out. What I will outline here are three different scenarios that offer possibilities for more transparent, ethical sourcing of fair trade gemstones from artisan miners.
Small Scale Cooperatives
The first scenario in the development of fair trade gemstones involves cooperatives. The Women‘s Mining Cooperative of Tanzania is an example of a small scale mining group that offers gems to the benefit of a local community. The Association of Responsible Mining (ARM) has developed standards for fair trade precious metal which have been widely recognized as exemplary. Third party fair trade precious metal is already available on the market. It is within the realm of possibility that they will go into the gemstone sector as well. Fair trade Diamonds have also been considered by groups that are under the Fair Labeling Organizations (FLO). One issue is what group will the fair trade diamond label benefit—large, medium or small producers.
A second example involves pioneers such as Columbia Gems, who have developed the resources to contract with governments and mines to create a fair trade based system with a select group of stones. Many suppliers and retailers in the mainstream jewelry sector now heavily depend upon this selection of gemstones. Columbia has developed and published its own fair trade standards for gemstone production. The pioneering work of Eric Braunwart, founder of the company, is widely respected in the entire jewelry sector and beyond.
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company, www.celticjewelry.com that sells eco-friendly, conflict free diamond jewelry and unique wedding rings online at www.artisanweddingrings.com. Choyt also publishes www.fairjewelry.org, the most respected consumer and trade resource website on ethical sourcing and fair trade jewelry issues.