Fair - help create the demand.
Having recently visited several ethical jewellery conferences, it has become clear how important it is for me do my bit, as we all have a duty of care to the World we live in and our sphere or operation within it. We are all responsible for our actions and in-actions respectively.
In 2007 and I visited the Bolivian silver mine in Potosi and was utterly horrified at the working conditions of the mine and living conditions of the mining community. I was already working as a jeweller then and buying precious metals from UK suppliers. I just didn't realise how naïve and ignorant I was to the sourcing of the metals I was using. It was one of the worst things I have seen, the mining and living conditions, lack of air down the mine, the toxic dusts, risk of tunnel collapse, lack of health and safety, child workers and a short life expectancy of the miners due to chronic lung conditions and tunnel collapse was almost too much for me to handle. My account of it
When I got back to the UK and picked up my tools again, I also picked up my pen and wrote to Cooksons about where they got their precious metals, asked them about their part in the supply chain and what they were doing to make sure they were exploitation free. You wont be surprised that I never heard back from them, but I was really disappointed in this. I often wondered about what I could do to give back to the mining communities but found very little in the way of organisations that were in place to help and support the third world mining communities. Sadly my enthusiasm to help somewhat dwindled and I looked elsewhere in how to do my bit, spending 3 years running my own project "Ready, Steady, Jewel" from the Precious Metals Workshop.
I have to thank Greg Valerio for waking the activist in me again as I was inspired by his journey in shaking the spru-tree in our industry and making people sit up and pay attention to the atrocities that go on. The child exploitation, mining and living conditions in the artisanal mines that our precious metals come from, are unacceptable and I cannot personally continue to work in the manor in which I have been since leaving university.
I am now currently at the very beginning of my responsible journey within the industry that I work in. There is so much for me to do here to play my part as well. I have letters to write to departments in the UK and Scottish government and to all the companies that play a role in the UK supply chain of the precious metals industry. I have to change how I work, putting down the untraceable precious metals and picking up the mantle of the Fairtrade and Fairmined precious metals supply. I wish to explore using Scottish Gold and having access to a fairly mined source of precious metals right here in my home country. And while making these changes are the first of many small steps, I have to find out what I can really do to play my part in making life better for the third world artisanal miners and their community on the ground. As it is simply not enough to be aware of these problems but we all must actively do our part to make the life better of thiose exploited that we have played our part in. Do you think it OK that the gold ring you wear might have been mined by an exploited child in a slave labour, military run mine in a third world country? The truth is, unless you have a Fairmined or Fairtrade hallmark on your precious metals, then it cold have been.
"So, what can I do about it all?" you say, with the precious metals you already have, nothing. With the precious metals you buy from now on? Absolutely everything. Insist on it being either recycled, Fairtrade or Fairmined, ask your makers and retailers if they sell it and say that's all you buy. Help create the demand.
I have only just been licenced to work with Fairmined gold and silver and have yet to buy my first quantities of either. By the end of this year I intend to have access to and using in the workshop, Fairmined, Fairtrade and Scotgold, all fairly sourced precious metals that not only steer clear of all exploitation precious metals but also some of whom actively help the small scale artisanal mines and their communities.
I will blog bout this journey as often as there is something worth bringing to people to read about. I will bring you my letters and their replies, the companies in the supply chain who are actively doing their bit and those who continue to put profit first, introduce you to fellow campaigners, bring you facts and figures about the industry and help you to make your own decisions in acting accordingly in all aspects of the jewellery, silversmithing and goldsmithing industry.
This Is Ian.