We are excited to be working with a new supplier; Fair Trade Gemstones.
Now. It is important to point out that Fair Trade Gemstones is a company that works completely separately from The Fairtrade Foundation. You can read more about the Fairtrade Foundation here.
Fair Trade Gemstones was set up by David Hargreaves, a mining engineer with 25 years of experience in the gemstone mining industry.
I met David’s daughter Kathy Chappell who represents Fairtrade Gemstones in the UK.
David and Kathy sell gemstones to the UK market from a mine that David used to own in Malawi.
They also work closely with Eric Brawnwart from Columbia Gemhouse, Inc. Selling gemstones to the UK from the mines that Eric represents.
David, Kathy and Eric are using their mining experience to develop a standard for the gemstone ‘supply chain’ that ensures the welfare of workers and consideration for the environment.
This standard is intended to be an early example of fair trade practice.
What is a ‘supply chain’?
The supply chain is a term used to describe the chain of processes involved in the extraction, production and distribution of any commodity.
Gemstones have a very lengthy supply chain. In summary they need to be extracted from the earth from a mine, often using chemicals. They then pass through several middlemen before they are taken to be cut and polished.
Gemstones are often mined in developing countries that are very poor and sometimes politically corrupt. This makes the gemstone mining industry a very complicated one.
It is widely reported that a lot of exploitation occurs. Unfair and unsafe working conditions are said to be very common. Harmful chemicals are often used without proper ventilation or consideration for the environment. Workers are often forced to work in very substandard conditions, as they have no other choice.
Fair Trade Gemstones is developing a standard for the gemstone supply chain that is entirely traceable from polishing and cutting all the way back to the mine itself. They call this standard:
First Level – Mine Forward.
There are only a few types of gemstone that meet the first level mine forward standard. These include Nyala® Ruby and sapphire (Malawi), Royal Kings Plain sapphire® (Australia), Oregon Opal, Purple Sage Chalcedony®, Cortez Pearls® and Black Spinel.
Fair Trade Gemstones works closely with these mines to ensure that strict standards are adhered to. They ensure…
Fair working conditions:
– Conditions for miners that are safe and comfortable.
– A minimum wage.
– A minimum age requirement.
– Healthcare and other benefits.
– Improved infrastructure
– Buildings of schools and hospitals.
– Conservation of surrounding water sources and marine life
– Restoration of the environment after mining.
They also ensure transparency and legality across the exporting and importing processes.
Cutting and Polishing
Fairtrade Gemstones have their own gemstone cutting and polishing factory in China. At this factory they apply similar strict standards to those in their mines. These include:
A venilation system installed to stop diseases caused by inhaling gemstone dust.
Spacious light, well lit and clean workshops.
Air condition for the peak of the summer.
A lunchbreak room.
Holiday pay and other benefits.
We are very excited to work with Fair Trade Gemstones. If you would like to commission a piece using one or more of their gemstones you will be supporting them in developing a standard for the gemstone supply chain that helps to ensure a better life for vulnerable workers and the environment.