Fair trade jewellery does producers a world of good. That’s what the advertisements tell you. But does ethical trade really make a difference? Surely a fashion necklace isn’t going to change the world? Should we really bother buying ethical jewellery?
Traditionally, the fine and fashion jewellery industry has focused on marketing its products by romance and emotion. You fall in love with a fashion necklace or a glittering ring and it makes a beautiful accessory for a party or wedding. Most often, it never crossed our minds where it was made and who created it.
This view is increasingly out of date, where any responsible person realizes that we are all part of one global community that is interdependent. Is that gold ring contributing to environmental degradation in Peru? Is your fashion necklace being made by a Bangladeshi child forced to work in intolerable conditions for a pittance?
Supply chains are becoming increasingly transparent. Before, the old attitude was ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but with globalization, the internet, cheap travel and Facebook, that’s no longer possible or desirable. Many more people are beginning to ask whether fashion jewellery companies that hide their supply chains are doing so for a reason?
Worth it, but not worthy
But the new generation of fair trade jewellery designers who are leading the way by creating eco-friendly and ethical jewellery have realized that preaching to customers won’t get you anywhere.
In fact, the best way to help marginalized or exploited workers in developing countries is to create cutting-edge designs of fashion jewellery that are desirable because they’re stylish, beautiful and on-trend first and foremost. The fact that by purchasing these products means you are helping to build a fairer way of trading is the cherry on the cake.
How a piece of fair trade jewellery is made, whether it’s a fashion necklace or a gemstone ring, is important to the wearer because it’s part and parcel of its story.
The future of ethical jewellery
Of course, fair trade jewellery still only makes up a tiny proportion of the jewellery market, but the ethical jewellery movement is growing fast and gaining fans and space in the mainstream fashion world.
One day soon, it will be socially unacceptable for anyone to purchase jewellery that is not ethically sourced.