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Fair and square: How you can bring ethical jewellery to your counter

By Marc Choyt

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A young couple walks through the glass doors of your store. You know why they have come; the light in their faces, how their bodies casually lean into each other as they look into the cases—it’s obvious.

“We’re looking for an engagement ring,” he says. Already, she is pointing to a white gold designer ring with a floral pattern and a one-carat diamond.

Solitaire engagement ring by Stephen Webster featuring 18-karat fairtrade and fairmined gold.
Solitaire engagement ring by Stephen Webster featuring 18-karat fairtrade and fairmined gold.

You take out the ring. As she looks at it, you can feel the couple exuding happiness and for a moment, you forget the rising cost of gold and the usual day-to-day issues with which jewellery retailers cope. Instead, you recall feeling how life is full of possibilities. You’re in a business that at its best is based on our common humanity and the mysterious connections between us all.

As the woman picks up the ring, the man expresses their hesitation. “What about the issue of blood diamonds,” he asks.

They have also seen the specials on television about dirty and conflict gold. You tell the new story. They can choose Canadian diamonds or diamonds mined and cut in Namibia that provide needed jobs.

“If you prefer a coloured gem, we have this fairtrade sapphire from Malawi,” you tell them. “The miners are paid a fair wage, and funds are set aside to support schools and clinics. As for the gold, I can trace it straight back to a small-scale mining community in Peru, where it is third-party certified to be responsible.”

She smiles. She had no idea jewellery could be made this way. Still, the three-ring set costs a bit more than they have budgeted.

“Shouldn’t the sourcing of the ring express the very values you hold dear in your relationship—a life-giving, hopeful future for yourselves, your children, and grandchildren? This ring is an expression of the beautiful world that’s possible now,” you say.

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This is not some future state. I experience this type of conversation in my own store all the time.

Ethically sourced jewellery can be a huge opportunity for any jeweller. In my experience, these issues are important to people of all ages, but most particularly younger consumers, which, after all, is your future customer base.

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