Plenty of lovers will be swapping gold gifts for Valentines Day. Earrings, watches, maybe even an engagement ring. Amidst the love, magic and joy however could be the less than happy truth about where that gold came from and it’s a dirty secret few fail, or refuse to confront.
Gold has rocketed in price this year. The producers involved in gold mining don’t get as much attention as the banana or coffee bean producers of the world, but equally if not more serious social problems exist. Last July, BBC Dispatches programme highlighted these problems in the episode, ‘Dispatches: The Real Price of Gold’. Going undercover as a customer shopping in some of the biggest British jewellery stores, the journalist was given wildly misleading information by shop assistants. In Senegal, the journalist meets a child who works in an illegal mine, revealing his hazardous daily existence. Supply chains are difficult to trace, and quite frankly, a gold ring brought from many of the main retailers could have come from anywhere.
An estimated 15 million people work in artisanal and small scale mining, many illegally. On a daily basis they risk disease, serious injury and even death. Six times as many accidents occur in small scale mining than in large industrial mines. So how can you be sure your festive symbol of love isn’t tainted with a dark history?
On 14th February 2011 the first Fairtrade certified gold was launched. Certified by the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade gold means that the miners receive a guaranteed minimum price, receive a premium payment which is invested in community projects and work to develop long term business relations. It also means that the miners adopt safe working practices, recognize the rights of female miners and are respectful of the environment.
Fairtrade and Fairmined gold can now be purchased from more than 25 jewellers and clothes shops including Garrard, Cred, Fifi Bijoux and Leonard of London. The majority of Cred’s gold and platinum comes from small scale miners in Columbia. Cred’s unique 18ct white gold is made with a higher-than-normal palladium content, giving the same classic colour and finish with no need for Rhodium plating. They have a large range of beautiful, ethical, solitaire, trilogy and eternity rings at a price to suit every shopper.
Luxury London jeweller Garrard offer engagement rings in Fairtrade gold, as does jeweller Stephen Webster who has stated that one day they aim to use 100% Fairtrade gold. Garrard is the oldest jewellery house in the world, founded in 1722 with a history of producing jewellery for the Royal family. What could be better than fine jewellery with an impeccable background for a woman who deserves only the best?
Emma Waight is a PhD geography researcher and freelance fashion writer for www.clothes.org.uk.