Jewellery Ethics

Advice section hero Jewellery Ethics

As a consumer buying jewellery, you may be concerned that it should meet ethical standards, that its raw materials should not fund wars and that the extraction should not harm the environment and that indigenous peoples and workforces should not be exploited. There are many initiatives in place to regulate mining, improve best practice and give back to the communities in those countries where gold and diamonds are mined. The diamond industry alone employs 10 million people globally and income from gold and diamonds makes a real difference to the developing world by providing jobs, roads, healthcare and education.

The NAJ works diligently with its membership to work towards a clear policy of transparency and traceability for all materials used in the production of jewellery. However, there are many international issues that you may read about (some of which are listed below) which sometimes distort the good work and endeavours of the British jewellery industry. In helping both trade and consumers alike with guidance to best practice, the NAJ is a founder member of an ethical standards committee which regularly engages with NGO’s, legislative bodies and suppliers to provide guidance and clarity on issues of concern in the jewellery supply chain.

Conflict Diamonds

The term ‘conflict’ or ‘blood’ diamonds refers to diamonds found in various parts of Africa which were illegally exploited during the 1990s to fund rebel militias in a series of wars in which many people died. The countries in which conflict diamonds have been a problem are Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Guinea. The situation has been dramatically improved by the introduction in 2003 of the Kimberley Process. This global system is backed by governments, the UN and various NGOs. It effectively manages and certifies the international trade in ‘rough’ diamonds. ‘Rough’ is the term used to describe diamonds as they come out of the ground before they have been cut and polished. The Kimberley Process is now law in all EU countries and in around 40 other countries worldwide and is undoubtedly working to regulate the flow of rough diamonds and to exclude conflict diamonds from the supply chain. The Kimberley Process is supported by a code of conduct introduced by the World Diamond Council which requires traders in cut and polished diamonds to warrant that the diamonds have come from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. Sellers guarantee that their diamonds are conflict free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of the diamonds.

The NAJ has adopted the World Diamond Council Code of Conduct and issues detailed advice to its members on compliance.

Most recently, the Kimberley Process has come under scrutiny owing to the release of diamonds from the Marange fields in Zimbabwe. The international community has failed to agree on how these diamonds can be prevented from entering the supply chain. The NAJ strongly advises its members not to trade in or knowingly sell products containing Marange diamonds.

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Diamond Development Initiative

To further assist artisanal diamond diggers in some of the former conflict areas, the jewellery industry has established the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) – a collaboration between many of the major diamond mines, the NGOs and major players in the jewellery industry to address the political, social and economic problems that face communities in artisanal diamond production regions.

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Dirty Gold

Dirty gold is a reference made to gold that is mined where there is no or little consideration given to environmental and/or social aspects of production. The gold mining industry takes its sustainable development activities very seriously and there are many strict regulations and guidelines for the mining of gold. Most mining companies have robust environmental, social and ethical standards and report on these through their annual reports.

It is important to realise that the term Dirty Gold refers to what is called primary source production – ie: straight from the ground. The UK uses very little primary sourced gold in jewellery production with over 80% of gold content having being sourced from recycled (otherwise known as secondary) sources.

The World Gold Council

The World Gold Council has developed a framework of draft standards to track gold from the mine to the end of the refining process. These consist initially of a ‘chain of custody’ standard and a ‘conflict-free gold’ standard. The standards are subject to an independent audit. Additional standards on audit, certification and the handling of recycled gold are in development.

These two standards are now being ‘stress tested’ in practice by leading gold mining companies and refiners. To ensure the framework commands the confidence of stakeholders and responds to their real needs, we are publishing the draft standards now for consultation. The WGC is also in contact with the sponsors of certification initiatives in the electronics and jewellery sectors to seek an integrated approach.

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NAJ Ethical Memberships

The NAJ is a member of two key international organisations, both of whom are advancing the causes of corporate social responsibility and ethical trading standards.

The Responsible Jewellery Council

The Responsible Jewellery Council is an international not-for-profit standards and certification organisation. It has more than 460 Member companies that span the jewellery supply chain from mine to retail. RJC Members commit to and are independently audited against the RJC Code of Practices – an international standard on responsible business practices for diamonds, gold and platinum group metals. The Code of Practices addresses human rights, labour rights, environmental impact, mining practices, product disclosure and many more important topics in the jewellery supply chain. RJC also works with multi-stakeholder initiatives on responsible sourcing and supply chain due diligence. The RJC’s Chain-of-Custody Certification for precious metals supports these initiatives and can be used as a tool to deliver broader Member and stakeholder benefit.

The RJC is a Full Member of the ISEAL Alliance – the global association for sustainability standards.

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CIBJO is an international confederation of national jewellery trade organisations. CIBJO's purpose is to encourage harmonisation, promote international cooperation in the jewellery industry, and to consider issues which concern the trade worldwide. Foremost among these is to protect consumer confidence in the industry.

CIBJO pursues these objectives through informed deliberation, decisions reached in accordance with its statutes, and proactive communications with member national organisations and the trade.

CIBJO functions as a centre of knowledge, a decision-making body, and an advocate for the well-being of the jewellery industry worldwide.

CIBJO relies upon the initiative of its member national organisations to support and implement its decisions and to protect the public's trust in the jewellery industry.

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