Do no hurt: Eric Braunwart on Truthful Commerce Gems

Ethically sourced, fair-mined, eco-friendly, sustainable – these are buzz phrases in jewellery now. So many jewelers are claiming that as a part of their model.

After I see these phrases on a jewellery web site, I dig deeper. Does the time period apply to gems in addition to metals? Are they monitoring their sources or simply donating a share to a trigger? If I don’t discover specifics to again up their claims, I change into skeptical – and so must you.

Accountable sourcing is much simpler to say than to attain. Each gems and metals undergo a number of channels earlier than they land in a chunk of jewellery. If we wish jewellery made with minimal hurt to the earth and the individuals who mine and produce it, we have to begin asking the best questions.

Fair Trade gems

Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem Home was specializing in transparency and accountable mining lengthy earlier than most individuals within the jewellery business had been even discussing it. In consequence, he has a extra nuanced understanding of the problems than anybody I do know, particularly the place coloured stones are involved.

Since 1976, Columbia Gem Home has been constructing the world’s largest moral mine-to-market gemstone provide chain. They function gemstone-cutting services on two continents, working immediately with governments, non-profits, and miners to make sure security, honest wages, moral sourcing, and environmentally accountable mining.

With a purpose to correctly talk provide chain info, CGH created what they name their “honest commerce gem protocols.” Materials marked Truthful Commerce Gems® is their assure to offer all the data gathered on each gemstone and so they go to nice lengths, as you’ll see in our dialog.

Eric has come to the conclusion in order for you one thing carried out proper, do it your self – additionally recognized, in his enterprise, as “mine to market.” Columbia Gem Home has unique agreements with many mines, together with a brand new one in Malawi that produces Nyala ruby and sapphire and the Tashmarine mine in China. They’ve additionally developed a program referred to as GemAmerica for gem stones mined within the U.S. – Montana sapphire, blue hyalite opal, anthill garnet, and California tourmaline – working intently with small mines throughout the nation.

I tracked Eric down on the Tucson Gem Present a number of occasions over time, most lately for {a magazine} article collection I used to be writing on moral jewellery. I additionally interviewed ethically minded jewellery makers who depend on him as a gem supply. As at all times, he took time away from his busy sales space on the AGTA present to catch me up on the state of Truthful Commerce Gems. Right here’s a little bit of our dialog.

Let’s begin by clarifying phrases. I’m seeing a number of claims about sustainable and moral jewellery now. What’s your definition of responsibly sourced?

Eric: To start with, the essential time period is “clear provide chain.” For those who don’t construct that, you don’t know if it’s moral, you don’t know if it’s sustainable, you don’t know if it’s accountable. When somebody says, “I’ve a accountable provide chain,” folks ought to ask: “However have you learnt the place and the way every little thing is produced?” That’s the clear half. We publish all of it and by doing that, we run a threat that our rivals will simply go there too. However we do it so that you, as a client or purchaser, can look us up and take a look at our claims.

“Accountable” to me doesn’t simply imply that I tracked it. It means if I’ve recognized much less nice enterprise practices alongside the best way, that we attempt to tackle them. We attempt to be a part of the answer as a substitute of simply saying that’s not our accountability, it’s the accountability of the native firm.

Eric Braunwart with jewelry artist Luana Coonen at AGTA (photo ©Cathleen McCarthy/The Jewelry Loupe)
Eric Braunwart speaking to jewellery artist Luana Coonen at AGTA Tucson in 2017

What ought to the time period sustainable imply in relation to gem stones?

Is a mine sustainable? Properly, for a short time, after which it’s not. So are you doing something in that neighborhood in order that when that mine closes – perhaps not simply because it ran out of product however as a result of the fabric is out of vogue – are you doing something to assist that neighborhood prosper after that mine performs out? Are you looking for jobs for the miners, establishing faculties? That’s the sustainability half.

All of these issues are exhausting and no person can cowl all of them each single place they work. The query is: Are they making an attempt, are they enthusiastic about it, are they going that course? And if they’re, they get a number of credit score from me.

You’re addressing sellers and miners. What about others within the jewellery business? Plenty of jewelers are making this declare a central a part of their model.

Eric: Proper. My hope that’s that they’re making it a central a part of the ethos of their firm, that it’s not only a model factor however a central a part of what they honestly consider. And in the event that they do, you’ll see them trying into this stuff. You’ll see them demanding proof from all people supplying them with items, saying: You inform me the way you’re doing this, you present me. To those simply making claims? I say present me your pocket book. And if they’ll’t present me that…

For more information about ethically-sourced gemstones, click on this photo.
For extra details about ethically sourced gem stones, click on on this picture.

What ought to the client ask for by way of receipt?

Eric: We get lots of people who say you want third-party verification. That’s form of the hallmark stamp of approval. And I feel that could be a bygone period. I feel the millennial will take over that approval course of. They would be the ones saying: You present me, you show it to me, you inform me what you’re doing. And what they’re prepared to simply accept could fluctuate. One particular person could say: You’re utilizing responsibly sourced gold however you’re nonetheless utilizing mercury and, I’m sorry, I gained’t assist mercury it doesn’t matter what. One other particular person will say: Properly, you haven’t gotten rid of the mercury however you’re doing a very good job so I’m going to assist that. However I feel millennials would be the certifiers in 5 years and it’ll all be on the net. I don’t suppose it’ll be PricewaterhouseCoopers. I feel that’s one of many massive adjustments coming down.

That we’ve a extra educated client coming into this…

Eric: And no matter you say, they’ll look it up in two seconds on the net. They usually’re going to anticipate you to have it documented in a fashion that meets their needs. And I’m undecided I do know what that’s but. However they’re going be that certifier. They’re not simply going settle for the truth that there’s a UL stamp on there and so it’s all okay. [Marks and Labels | UL –] They’re going to take an image of the bar code, plug it in after which say, ‘Ohhh, I’m not too enthusiastic about this one.’ After which take an image of the following one and say, ‘I actually like this story. That helps my targets.’

And also you suppose they’ll find a way do it that quick?

Eric: Yup. That’s a part of the change. All of us have a look at it from our age and say: What sort of a certification is that? Properly, it’s a person-to-person, up-close and private certification and we higher work out how that’s going to come back about. The query isn’t whether or not or not it’s however are we going to be prepared when it does, as a result of if we don’t have it, the client doesn’t purchase our product any extra.

That’s a distinct reply than you’ll have given me ten years in the past.

Eric: Very completely different, yeah.

At the moment, it was all about making an attempt to fulfill the GIA commonplace, create a certificates for coloured stones just like the one we’ve for diamonds.

Yep. We’re making an attempt to set a really private commonplace on a person foundation now.

A selection of "Anthill garnets" from Columbia Gem House, so-called because the stones are dug up by ants. "It doesn't get any more eco-friendly than that!" Luana told me.
“Anthill garnets” from Columbia Gem Home, so-called as a result of the stones are dug up by ants. “It doesn’t get any extra eco-friendly than that!” Luana Coonen informed me.

Proper now, designers like Luana Coonen characterize each the maker and the era of purchaser we’re speaking about. She buys from you and solely three different suppliers right here in Tucson who can present transparency.

Eric: And he or she can be the certifier. Her clients are going to finally change into the certifier however proper now, her clients haven’t been given any of this info. So she’s going round and saying, properly, I’ve solely discovered three folks I’m snug shopping for from. She is, in impact, making her personal certification based mostly on the supporting proof these sellers can provide.

It appears hyper-specialized as a result of that’s the one factor she will be able to vet proper now, nevertheless it’s additionally the distinction between a curated menu and 5 pages the place you get overwhelmed. It’s truly a wise strategy.

Eric: It’s as a result of if I simply run round right here, there are extra cool issues than I can ever afford however I’d simply have three of every little thing, going no course. And he or she, in her personal phrases, has a social course she’s going. And that solely issues if you happen to don’t simply say it however truly decide to it, even when – my favourite phrase on this business now’s ‘inconvenient’ – even when the reply I get is inconvenient.

Why does that make me suppose of the present administration? By the best way, we even have that occurring with this era.

Eric: I do know. And I feel that can make them belief authorities much less and belief massive enterprise even much less. I feel the businesses that make it via are going need to be actual up-close and private.

As a result of that is the disenfranchised era we’re creating proper now.

Eric: Yup, completely. And that complete factor I grew up with – I don’t know who mentioned it, Bob Dylan or any person – don’t belief anyone over 30.

Me: Oops.

Eric: I feel we’re going to be again there actual fast. So to me, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting as a result of we’ve to take care of the realities of the banks, we’ve to take care of the realities of this different crap to remain in enterprise. However I’m assured we’re going to start out turning a nook. I hope so.

For extra on Columbia Gem Home, go to their web site:


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