In the last few years, it seems the campaign for Fairtrade gold hasn’t shone quite as brightly as the jewellery it creates. Recently, however, a group of British designers and brands have begun to change that.
Argos last year became the first big retailer to be granted certification for Fairtrade gold. More specifically within the luxury sector, there is also a group of passionate, independent artisans who have initiated a change. Anna Loucah was one of the first to sign up as a licensee of Fairtrade gold in 2011, having previously worked with recycled metals. (Fairtrade Foundation launched their independent certification for gold in the UK in 2011, many years behind their more widely known categories such as coffee, introduced in 1989, and cocoa first sold in 1994.) Loucah holds the record for the most expensive piece of Fairtrade jewellery ever sold – a bespoke piece made for Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge and worn to the Oscars, which was auctioned in aid of Oxfam for £25,000.
Though Fairtrade gold has a way to go before it is at the forefront of consumers’ minds when it comes to gift giving, these designers are proving that we can always cast a vote for the fair future we want to see in everything we buy. Loucah still takes bespoke commissions, alongside her own collections of rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The Fairtrade logo has allowed her to easily communicate a very special message to her customers. She says: “Choosing a piece of jewellery is such a pleasurable experience and so enabling that sentiment to flow right along the supply chain only ever enhances that joy.”
She would like to see wider use of Fairtrade gold but acknowledges that precious jewellery is a special-occasion purchase, not an everyday one. Nevertheless, she’s hopeful for the future: “We are still in the comparatively early stages of a very pioneering movement that will ultimately evolve into a much more mainstream way of working. More gold mines are currently achieving Fairtrade accreditation and, as a result, supply options are naturally increasing also.”
Linnie McLarty has won multiple awards for her designs and has her own store in London’s East End. With a lower price point than the top-end luxury jewellers, McLarty offers something a little different through artistic and futuristic design made with responsibly sourced materials, including Fairtrade gold and silver. In 2016 she was selected by Elle Magazine as one of their “up-and-coming jewellery designers to know”, which helped to bring the issue of sustainability in jewellery to the fashion world.
“Millions of people worldwide rely on small-scale mining for their livelihoods,” explains McLarty: “Fairtrade gold ensures these miners and their families receive a guaranteed fair price for the gold they mine, plus an additional premium which goes into the communities towards things such as healthcare.”
Some more established names are joining the cause too. Stephen Webster, renowned for his Gothic styles worn by the likes of Kate Moss, Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron, was awarded the Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury in 2016, partly for his use of Fairtrade gold. His collaborations with artists such as Tracey Emin have been hugely popular, and can be purchased with peace of mind that your money benefits not just British talent but all those involved in its creation.
More information / useful websites to explore Fairtrade gold