Would You Seek Out "Fairtrade" Gold If You Could?

Gold is the latest commodity vying for the ethical “Fairtrade” seal of approval, reports Reuters in a feature on Britsh/Canadian Greg Valerio and his quest to reduce exploitation—both environmental and human—in the jewelry market. He’s currently selling “green gold” (that term really needs some marketing help) from a small jewelry store in Chichester, England, but is working with the Fairtrade Foundation and the Association Responsible Mining—a trade group he helped found—to figure out how to certify gold as Fairtrade by 2009.

Since [his store] Cred started marketing ethical gold and platinum jewellery, its sales have grown fast, with online orders flowing in from around the world, notably the United States, Valerio said.

Cred’s wedding or engagement rings typically cost about 10 percent more than average prices but are about 15 percent below the top luxury brands such as Tiffany.

A bespoke Cred 18-carat gold wedding ring might cost from 195 to 800 pounds ($390 to $1,600) depending on its size and design — the cheapest engagement ring one could expect to buy in a standard British store would cost about 80 pounds ($160).

“Briton finds ethical jewellery good as gold” [Reuters]

RELATED
Cred Jewellery
Corporación Oro Verde / Green Gold Corporation

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  1. pylon83 says:

    I’m not willing to pay more for this kind of stuff. I don’t feel like I get any extra “value” for the money. Seems like a scam to me.

  2. ATTSlave says:

    Same thing as taking your business somewhere else when you don’t agree with the way a company is doing business. The jeweler is giving us a way to let our dollars do the talking and send a message that we do not support the exploitation of the third world so we can have our wedding rings.

  3. LikeYourFace says:

    Rings like this are status symbols anyway, right? “See what three months salary for this guy looks like!” And being ‘green’ has turned into a upper class status symbol too, right? What with Whole Foods, Stella McCartney’s hemp shoes, the Toyota Prius, and the like. So, it makes perfect sense for somewhere with more money than, well, sense would pay a premium for ‘green’ jewelry.

    My wedding ring’s titanium. Like the space shuttle! (Status symbol: Nerds in love.)

  4. Chris Walters says:

    Well, I’m poor as a nun and I’d rather pay extra for Fairtrade goods. My reasoning is that it doesn’t count as a “discount” if I’m just offloading the cost of the product to other people in the form of suffering. I know, that begs the question of how do you resolve that with EVERYTHING you buy then–or else you’re a hypocrite, right? I don’t know the answer. But fairtrade makes that abstract concept of exploitation a real thing, so that I can address it as a consumer. (Whereas usually it’s just kept invisible from me.)

    Not that I’d ever buy traditional jewelry like that in the first place. Eww.

  5. Super1984 says:

    @pylon83: I wouldn’t call this a scam unless the company was lying or misstating how it acquired its gold. Gold mining is incredibly destructive in terms of environmental and human costs, and I would like to know my symbol of devotion damaged the world as little as possible.

  6. smitty1123 says:

    Honestly, I’m holding out on doing anything “green” until December 22, 2012 (just in case those crazy Mayans were right).

  7. shanaynay says:

    Have, and will continue to do so. Pylon, the added value is intangible — knowing that you’re making socially responsible choices.

  8. LikeYourFace says:

    How exactly is digging a mineral out of the ground and hammering it into an ornament socially responsible? Compared to, say, not doing it? It’s like speeding a responsible amount, say ten miles over the limit instead of fifty. Total bull.

  9. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I’m assuming that their diamonds are ethical as well, since they mention Blood Diamond as a motivating force.

    On the other hand, they could cut costs a whole lot by using cubic zirconia or moissanite in their rings instead of diamonds. The cheap-bastard markets should be easy to break into, since they don’t want diamonds anyway.

  10. csdiego says:

    I would seek it out, except that I’d be pretty skeptical of fair trade claims for gold. How can they possibly monitor all the freelance miners and buyers in the jungles of Sierra Leone? In theory it’s a nice idea; in practice I think I’ll just look for used or recycled pieces if I’m ever in the market for gold.

  11. @LikeYourFace: It’s THREE months now? It was only two like a year or two ago. I better get married soon before I’m giving the government the first six months of my salary and a ring the rest.

  12. azgirl says:

    Taking advantage of other’s suffering does not allow me to enjoy my “status symbols.” I would pay more. I am happy they are offering this! If we were to see the folks that made these goods, we would probably see an obvious difference between the fair trade seller and the non..it would give us a new perspective.

  13. bohemian says:

    I would buy more fairtrade items if there was some verifiable assurances that the item actually was and I am not just paying for the name.

  14. IrisMR says:

    Meh, this fair trade thing is just a scam.

  15. zibby says:

    Like most people, I would definitely SAY I would seek it out if asked.

  16. darkened says:

    I’m gonna put it out there, I really don’t care what happens in africa or south america. If people want to act like savages there over these materials that’s their problem. Not mine.

  17. JeffMc says:

    @LikeYourFace: Gotta agree. It’d be more responsible to just leave it in the ground. When your choices are either doing nothing or (in the best case) digging big holes in the ground then how do you claim to be green?

    I think I’m going to start selling certificates that say “I could have bought gold but instead gave money to Jeff because doing so is better for the environment.” Anyone want to pre-order?

  18. shanaynay says:

    @LikeYourFace: yes, it would be better not to do it at all. But if someone’s going to, should they not choose the lesser of two evils?

  19. shanaynay says:

    @Darkened: this is why the rest of the world thinks we’re a bunch of self-centered yet meddling ********. Congrats on confirming it.

  20. Anitra says:

    There are plenty of ethical jewelers out there, not just this guy. You just have to stay away from the big chains.

    My now-husband went to a friend of the family (a custom jeweler) to get an engagement ring; he didn’t even think to ask about the source of the diamond until I asked him about it – and then found that they had thoughtfully included a small note in the box certifying that the diamond was “conflict-free”.

    I envision the same thing happening with gold – maybe leaning towards using more “recycled” gold, as well.

  21. llcooljabe says:

    If the product is as good as the non fair trade stuff, I’d buy it. when I tried fair trade coffee years ago (admittedly it’s been about 8 years), it was a horrible tar like substance that I literally spit out. So even if it is fair trade, the product has to be good quality.

  22. forgottenpassword says:

    I am gonna get flamed for this, but I jsut dont go for all this fairtrade crap. There will always be blood diamonds & all KINDS of product made from the suffering of others. How many clothes have you worn that were made in sweatshops? Should we all go naked? What about people who cant afford special “fairtrade” items? SHOULD they pay more when cheaper items are available? This is not a perfect world & expecting it to be is unrealistic.

    Should I destroy all my gold & diamond metal detecting finds because they MAY be made from the suffering of others? Pfft!

    Fairtrade items are fine for the foo foo well-off people that can easily afford it. But since I work my ass off for what little I make…. I am going to buy what I can for the cheapest prices. Even though I dont go for diamonds or gold (except when I am metal detecting)… i still need to buy clothes & other stuff that has probably been made by suffering people.

    Hmmm….Wonder if that piece of fruit I just ate was picked by some poor illegal alien making next to nothing …. actually, no I dont care…. because I was hungry.

  23. shanaynay says:

    The point is to create a demand for it, which gradually grows, forcing a change to a more ethical, sustainable model. Yes, it’s expensive at first, but it comes down to values. If money is the most important thing in the world to you, then carry on. If not, you can choose to buy less crap, and do what you can to be sure that the crap you DO buy does as little harm as possible.

  24. @FORGOTTENPASSWORD Just buck up and admit that you’re a total asshole who doesn’t give a shit about other people and nobody here will care anymore.

    That being said, I don’t buy jewelry. If somebody WERE to purchase something expensive for me, I’d tell them to go ahead and get an ethical or Canadian diamond, but I wouldn’t purchase any myself.

  25. forgottenpassword says:

    @shanaynay:

    I DO buy “less crap”. Probably less than most people here. I dont like clutter & am a frugal minimalist in a way (let me give you an example…. I use my cellphone as an alarm clock…. to keep from having to buy an alarm clock…. that’s just how nutty-frugally minimalist I am). Most of my money goes into life savings & anything that helps me do that takes priority. The people of sierra leone sure wont be there to help me if my something should happen to me & I can afford to pay the bills.

  26. forgottenpassword says:

    @DarlingMagpie:

    I care about other people, but I am not going to buy something for more than I have to.

  27. @cwalters: “I know, that begs the question of how do you resolve that with EVERYTHING you buy then–or else you’re a hypocrite, right? I don’t know the answer.”

    You take it one step at a time, and do as much as you can do. People who hold you to standards of perfection, rather than standards of “I’m trying my best” are hypocrites anyway. :) And once you learn that company X produces fair trade underwear that doesn’t give you wedgies, you can move on to finding fair-trade olive oil or something. It’s a building thing.

    @forgottenpassword: “I am going to buy what I can for the cheapest prices.”

    Except that this is what drives companies to export US jobs to foreign countries and lowers your wagers. It’s a cycle. You buy cheap, they export your job, you can buy cheaper, but you’re getting paid less.

  28. brigidkeely says:

    Gold and diamonds, like chocolate and coffee, are luxuries. I don’t see the need of other people suffering/being enslaved/dying for my luxuries. Human misery doesn’t make gold and diamonds shinier, it doesn’t make chocolate smoother and creamier, it doesn’t make coffee more rich and satisfying.

  29. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    @llcooljabe: Give it a try again. First, there are many different brands. Second, most of them have come a long way in 8 years.

    @forgottenpassword: Then you mean you “care” about people, not care about people.

  30. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @pylon83:

    Someone needs to Google “blood diamonds”.

  31. glitterati says:

    Green Gold – as in the color, not the environmentally friendly movement – is an actual classifacation of gold which is a gold/silver alloy. FYI.

  32. Super1984 says:

    @csdiego: Did you even read the article? It says that the company is working in “a partnership with miners in a cooperative in Choco, an underdeveloped region in northeast Colombia.” Part of being fair trade is having direct relationships with producer cooperatives. Buying from “all the freelance miners and buyers in the jungles of Sierra Leone” isn’t a fair trade practice.

    @forgottenpassword: Wow. You’re quite a nice guy. With your attitude, no wonder there are the slums of the world. I mean, according to you, we shouldn’t try to spend our money in a socially responsible way at all because other people will still buy environmentally and socially damaging products. We might just as well give up and live an a hole in the ground!

    By the way, you’re not the only here who is frugal. But there’s a difference between frugal and being a miserly misanthrope. I don’t make very much money, but I prefer that when I do want or need to buy something, I have the option of forgoing a few dollars so someone’s kids can get fed.

  33. ManicPanic says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I was wondering the same thing as it would seem to miss the point if the diamonds weren’t ethical as well!

    That said, I try to be consciences of what I buy. For those who say that another countries issues are not our own, that isn’t right. You can easliy read about people exploited by their country. HOWEVER that probably will not hit home until you see the sweatshops, meet the people who work in them and see the resulting living conditions. Not to mention the nomadic culture that is a result of this. It is up to us to make (to the extent that we can) wise decisions. I don’t make a whole lot but I do what i can.

  34. LibidinousSlut says:

    @LikeYourFace: @ManicPanic: This is not a new thing. Green Karat which has been around for awhile, uses 100% recycled gold/platinum. Eco-friendly as they come AND socially responsible. They sell manufactured diamonds as well (thus less mining). A friend who got a simple gold band for her wedding ring (second hand) said that they’re really hard to find because most pawn shops simply sell them to be melted down to make more complex jewelry pieces.

  35. DrGirlfriend says:

    This thread makes me depressed.

  36. csdiego says:

    @Super1984: OK, if it really does come from a cooperative in Colombia I’m sold. But I’m not sure I can trust that it does come from that cooperative. I’m not a frequent buyer of gold anyway, so.

  37. LikeYourFace says:

    @gitemstevedave: If you love her, it’s at least three. Cheapskate. :-)

  38. UpsetPanda says:

    @LikeYourFace: @gitemstevedave: My fiancee spent a little more than one month’s pay on my engagement ring. We had a budget, and it wasn’t hard to find something I loved within that budget. The ring itself was less than $1,000 and warranties and other things like that cost a little more but it’s a total sham for anyone to suggest that spending ridiculous amounts of money means love. It’s not tradition, it’s someone making up a figure so that people would feel proper about spending more money.

    @forgottenpassword: No flaming here, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I try to be as socially conscious and responsible as I can, but ultimately, it’s impossible to be 100% socially responsible. Ultimately, you are wearing clothes produced by sweatshops, you are eating food that probably was picked by low-wage earning workers in poor conditions, and chances are, you are in some small way, part of the problem – but ultimately, it’s a trade off. The reality is that most people cannot survive if they do everything ethically, and have to make personal decisions as to what they are willing to skim on. We all do it, there’s no shame as long as we are aware of it.

  39. circlemanifesto says:

    I think some of you armchair progressive/environmentalists need to do some more research before you knock the radical work that Greg Velario is doing in the jewelry sector on behalf of indigenous artisanal miners. The fair trade gold he is selling takes indigenous people two years what it would take a commercial mining operation a week to complete because soil in saved and environmental integrity preserved.

    It’s true that his product is expensive. The real cost of being responsible for the next seven generations is expensive. It is more expensive to pay organic or to buy many fair trade products. Those interested in going cheap for the wedding ring “it’s not worth it” can have the satisfaction of wearing something made with dirty gold and exploited Chinese labor as the representation of their marital love and commitment. How does that feel on your finger now?

    At least least don’t knock someone who has single handedly done more to help change the toxic jewelry sector than just about anyone else.

  40. darious says:

    “Would You Seek Out “Fairtrade” Gold If You Could?”

    Only if it was equitably priced to other similar products.

  41. gregvalerio says:

    I never thought such a simple idea as fair trade gold could cause such a debate, I charge you all to check out green Gold Colombia and our website. It really is exactly what we say it is. Also we do not claim fair trade diamonds, they don’t exist yet, but we are working on it

  42. shanaynay says:

    @Darious: it’s not going to be, because it costs more to do it in a responsible way. We have to be willing to pony up and support ethical production before prices will come down.

    Americans depress me. Me, me, me, I, I, I. Never mind the human and environmental costs of the “cheaper” products. No, you want your luxuries at rock-bottom prices, and to h*ll with everybody and everything else.

  43. UpsetPanda says:

    @shanaynay: It’s not that simple. You can’t just use money to solve the situation. No one would say that a person who spends more money than he/she is able to afford to be as socially responsible as they can is wise. There needs to be a balance.

    It is stupid to be irresponsible with the health and needs of you or your family in order to be socially responsible. Plus it is impossible. What if your apartment was built by a company that treated its workers unfairly and cut employee pay by 15%, or worse, cut thousands of jobs?

    You can pay more to move and go to an apartment complex that is more expensive, but built by a company that treats its employees extremely well, giving them all sorts of bonuses and benefits, and great insurance. But if you can’t afford to, if moving would mean possible debt, or spending money you may need for food or education, than NO, you shouldn’t do it. It may not be socially responsible, but it’s a tradeoff for self-preservation.

  44. shanaynay says:

    @JD: we’re not talking about housing, we’re talking about jewelry. Anybody buying gold jewelry either has disposable income (i.e. not jeopardizing health and needs of family) or is a moron.

  45. Super1984 says:

    @shanaynay: Exactly. I agree with you 100%.

    @JD: Just because it’s impossible to buy all your goods and services from socially responsible sources, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps in the right direction. Also, we’re talking about supporting living wages and preventing massive environmental degradation, not about paying for all kinds of bonuses and awesome benefits.

    Check this out for some more info:
    http://www.nodirtygold.org

  46. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @ManicPanic: I should point out that I chose a cubic zirconia engagement ring because I’m a cheap bitch. I don’t approve of blood diamonds, but the main factor in my decision was money, not ethics (it’s terribly convenient that my ethics align with my stinginess). That said, I would have been willing to pay a little extra for an engagement ring or a wedding set that came from an ethical gold source, but all that shit got ordered on eBay so I don’t know if that would’ve worked.

  47. UpsetPanda says:

    @Super1984: But we are talking about gold jewelry, which, you are right about, is technically disposable income. BUT, whoever buys, say an engagement ring, has a certain amount of money to work within. It’d be nice if we could all spend thousands of dollars. But that’s not the case.

  48. shanaynay says:

    @JD: so this is really just a disagreement between those of us who would go with a smaller ring that was produced with a minimum of environmental destruction and human exploit and those who don’t care about any of that and just want the biggest ring possible, no matter the human and environmental cost.

    If you’re okay with that, so am I, but it ain’t flattering to you….

  49. ltlbbynthn says:

    Yes! I would buy anything ethically produced when I can afford it. It’s good there is an option.