A Pocket Guide To Fairmined Jewelry: What It Is, How It Helps, And Why You Should Choose To Buy It

October 03, 2019

A Pocket Guide To Fairmined Jewelry: What It Is, How It Helps, And Why You Should Choose To Buy It

Whether it is labeled as “ethical jewelry,” “responsible jewelry,” “sustainable jewelry,” “conflict-free jewelry,” or with any other manner of industry buzzwords, the only way to guarantee that your ethical engagement ring is truly ethical is to buy Fairmined certified jewelry from a Fairmined licensed jeweler.


What is Fairmined Gold?

Fairmined gold is gold that originates from a Fairmined-certified organization that follows strict guidelines in its workforce management, workplace conditions, and recovery methods. Thoughthere are two levels of Fairmined certification, ethical gold and ecological gold, all Fairmined gold must maintain a transparent supply chain.

Ethical gold mines are prohibited from practicing unsound environmental processes or engaging in gender inquality or child labor. Further, operations must be legal, working conditions must be safe, and neither the business entity nor its owners can contribute to armed conflict. Ethical gold may be recovered using chemicals like mercury or cyanide, so long as the handling, use, and disposal of such chemicals is minimized and safe.

Comparatively, Fairmined Ecological gold must adhere to all of the requirements of an ethical gold mine, and also must be recovered using minimally environmentally invasive/destructive methods and without the use of toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide.


How Is Fairmined Gold Different Than Recycled Gold?

Both Fairmined and recycled gold are colloquially called “ethical” gold. Both also are subject to independent certification. The authenticity of recycled gold is verified via a Green Circle Certification and fairmined/fairtrade gold receives a Fairmined and Fairtrade certification as either ethical gold or eco-friendly gold. The latter represents a stricter set of guidelines, needing to meet all the standard ethical criteria in addition to extra environmental-impact related requirements.

The biggest difference between recycled and Fairmined gold is that recycled gold does not have to prove that it originated in a Fairmined compliant facility. In fact,recycled gold does not have to provide any proof that it is not unethical, dirty, or conflict gold. All that needs proving is that it was previously a part of a different piece of jewelry, or was used in some electronic application, and has since been recycled and refined via chemical and smelting processes.


Why Use Fairmined Gold?

  • Buying Fairmined gold makes a measurable difference in the working conditions and practices impacting 90% of the gold mining workforce. While it does not reduce mining, buying Fairmined jewelrysupports efforts to increase the number of ethical, sustainable gold mines. Given the workforce distribution in the industry, using Fairmined gold empowers us and our customers to make a positive difference in the living conditions of some of the industry's most-marginalized, least-protected actors.
  • Small-scale mining operations are part of a subsistence market wherein miners work under unsafe conditions, in contact with toxic materials, involved in processes that poison the air and water in their communities. Often, they sell the gold they recover for less than 30% of its worth just to be able to financially survive.

    Fairmined certified operations diminish many of the workplace, environmental, and humanitarian hazards of this market. Further, Fairmined-certified operationsdemonstrate their commitment to a “whole pig” brand of mining, ensuring that they cause the least amount of environmental damage necessary to recover the most gold possible.


  • Fairmined gold has a clear chain of ownership and responsibility from the mine to the jeweler. Every party involved in the recovery, refining, and crafting of Fairmined goldmust be Fairmined certified. Only small-scale and artisanal mines can earn certification. They then only sell ore to certified refiners, traders, manufacturers, and casters. These actors turn the ore into ingots and bullion for metalsmithing and industrial applications, which can only be purchased by Fairmined licensees. Only licensed jewelers can sell Fairmined gold jewelry.
  • The benefit of maintaining a high degree of transparency throughout the supply chain is simple: consumers purchasing Fairmined jewelry can be sure it contains only conflict-free, sustainable, ethically-sourced gold. This is important considering that gold laundering, or the integration of illegally procured gold into shipments of gold ingots and bullion, is rampanteven within the post-recycling supply chain for recycled gold. This means that recycled gold jewelry not only likely originated under unethical mining conditions, but often still contains some percentage of non-recycled gold.


  • Fairmined gold is accurately marketed; there is no predatory misleading element to its claims of being either eco-friendly or sustainable. Recycled gold distributors tend to engage inmisleading marketing that draws a false-equivalency with other recycled metals. While iron, copper, and aluminum recycling, for example, do decrease mining activity, there is no evidence to suggest that gold recycling decreases gold mining. This is becausegold is an investment good, not purely a consumer good, so it does not have the same supply/demand relationship as consumer metals.
  • Consumer purchases of recycled gold do not have anysignificant impact on either the sales or practices of large-scale gold mining corporations (which yield 80% of the gold supply) or on small-scale gold mines (which yield 20% of the gold supply but employ 90% of the workforce). Fairmined jewelry, however, represents a true ethical jewelry purchase. Fairmined practices do not diminish the amount of mining done; rather they increase the amount of already-planned mining that is performed using ethical and environmentally friendly practices.


    Recycled gold jewelry ultimately has a neutral impact on the gold mining industry. Unlike conflict-free, lab-grown diamonds, recycled gold still has to be recovered via the mining process at its origin. What happens to it after that, whether it is recycled or kept as an heirloom, has little bearing on the practices of gold mining operations. Fairmined gold, on the other hand, requires significant ethical and sustainable changes to the practices of involved mining operations and all other actors in its supply chain. If you are looking for a truly conflict-free engagement ring or other ethical jewelry, Fairmined certified is not just thebestoption, it is theonlyoption.

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