This article was first published in the Eco-congregations newsletter http://ew.ecocongregation.org/files/newsletter/EC_Winter_2013.pdf
And the street of the city is gold as transparent as glass Rev 21 v 21b NRSV
The trouble with this time of year is from early November we are bombarded, no assaulted by the marketing frenzy called Christmas. Yikes, as a typical man who normally leaves Christmas till 3pm on the 24 Dec, I confess the idea of being sprayed with the bland cultural stereotypes of happy families, gorging on presents and turkeys can be a bit of a turn-off. But enough of my Victor Meldrew angst over the material gluttony called Christmas. I, like many, put on the façade of overall disinterest because secretly I share a much deeper concern for the authentic meaning behind Christmas, as well as deploring its modern incarnation of trivia and cultural shallowness.
Christmas means something, it does and should raise expectations above and beyond the rampant materialism of popular advertising that treats us all like automatons of secular materialism. Christmas is about a person and our connection to the people made in the image of that person and the realities of their daily lives. I know through my work in Fairtrade Jewellery over the years, there is no such thing as a trivial shallow purchase when it comes to the iconic Christmas gift of jewellery, however unaware we might be of the profoundly twisted realities that are embedded in the jewellery supply chain.
Despite the jewellery marketing worlds desire to project a world of luxury, innocence, love and purity, the reality could be no further from the truth. With deeply embedded corruptions, armed conflicts, systemic environmental destruction and pollution, human rights abuses, child labour/forced labour, smuggling and entrenched poverty, the jewellery supply chain has much to hide and the marketing narrative is as much about diverting attention away from these ugly truths, as it is beguiling and exploiting the consumer’s innocence about the roots of jewellery through appealing to their vanity.
The Fairtrade revolution in jewellery has been a long time in the making and could not have come along at a finer time. It is reconnecting the source of the product with the finished product. With growing numbers of consumers demanding greater knowledge of what impact they are having when spending their money, jewellery must not be an exception to the spotlight of ethical scrutiny, despite what the jewellery peddlers on Hatton Garden may wish for. The Fairtrade Gold standard has now created a verifiable and trusted way for the consumer to know that the source of their gold comes from a legitimate, democratic, transparent and socially responsible source. From a mining group, that is investing the Fairtrade premium back into their communities to tackle the education and health-care deficits that may exist. Also, it removes child labour from the mines, insists on very tight environmental controls on the usage of chemicals in the extraction of gold and ensures that the gold is not contributing to armed conflicts. The Fairtrade gold offering does not view the environment as a passive recipient of our good intentions, rather it is viewed as an active participant in the process, a vital distinctive for ecological integrity. None of this is possible without transparency and traceability and crucially for consumers, if you buy a Fairtrade stamped/labelled piece of gold jewellery, you are buying a product that can be traced to the certified source that enshrines the values of economic justice for the poor that we expect a Fairtrade product to deliver for us.
Without consumers insisting on Fairtrade Gold being stocked across the UK in jewellery stores up and down the country, we will not be able to drive the kind of social and environmental change we all recognise is needed. So the ask is very simple, this Christmas, if you are thinking of buying a piece of jewellery as a present, make sure you buy ‘Certified Fairtrade Gold or Silver’. For a full list of the UK’s Fairtrade gold and precious metals Licensed jewellers please visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/gold
My personal favourites from this years Fairtrade Gold and silver collections can be found at,
Cred Jewellery – Chichester West Sussex www.credjewellery.com/
April Doubleday – North Devon, www.aprildoubleday.com/
Reflective Images – Santa Fe New Mexico USA. www.celticjewelry.com/
Harriet Kelsall – Cambridge. www.hkjewellery.co.uk/
Element Jewellery – Hebdon Bridge Yorkshire. www.elementjewellery.com/