Why am I Calling on The Church to Turn the Tide on Fairtrade Gold?
It is official: in the UK marriage is on the increase which, let’s face it, can only be sweet music to the ears of every jeweller in the country. With over 260,000* couples walking down the aisle, this equates to a lot of rings. The location of choice for this most romantic of days remains the Church building, which is why the Christian community, alongside other faith groups, are best placed to turn the UK wedding jewellery market into a default Fairtrade Gold market.
Essential ingredients for a good wedding are actually quite simple. Two people adorably in love with each other, a venue of choice, friends and family to witness, a party to celebrate and two rings with which to symbolise the eternal love being expressed. Imagine: The Church of England hosts an average of 1000 weddings a week,** that is 2000 wedding rings exchanged and could mean anywhere up to £554,000 of Fairtrade premium*** going to benefit the lives and communities of the artisan and small-scale gold miners of South America and Africa. That is life changing for marginalised communities.
The engagement ring is the symbol of love and romantic intention; the wedding ring is the iconic symbol of that love confirmed: the seal that shows the world you belong to someone. It is no benign purchase, it is perhaps the one element of the day that is invested with more meaning than any other aspect of the wedding ceremony.
The No Dirty Gold Campaign is keen to stress the negative legacy that the average gold wedding ring creates – anywhere up to 20 tons of toxic waste.** This is a staggering figure that shocks everyone who hears it, and I know as an activist that this figure is most likely a conservative one. My personal work over the years in both South America and East Africa has led me to witness first hand the huge negative environmental legacy that large and small-scale miners are having on the planet and human health. Whereas small-scale and artisanal miners work in extremely dangerous and damaging ways for the need of daily bread, large-scale mining does so for greed and avarice. I have yet to witness an environmentally responsible large-scale gold mine.
Fairtrade Gold is focused on the poorest and most vulnerable in the gold supply chain. For no other reason, buying Fairtrade Gold wedding rings is the most positive and life affirming choice we can make on our wedding day. This is why I only sell Fairtrade Gold. It is the best gold in the world.
As a jeweller, I know how critical that wedding and bridal market is to the success of the jewellery trade, with a typical jeweller seeing up to 20% of their annual turnover coming from bridal jewellery. So I, as an ethical jeweller, need to be aware of what couples are wanting to invest their emotions in. This is why I, and a growing number of ethical jewellers only sell Fairtrade gold wedding rings. I need to be able to look couples in the eye and reassure them of the positive loving legacy they are leaving as a result of their engagement or wedding ring purchase.
So What Can You Do?
Make sure any jewellery you buy – including engagement and wedding rings – is Fairtrade certified gold or silver. You will know the gold or silver is from a Fairtrade source as it will be stamped or engraved inside the ring with the Fairtrade logo. If in doubt ask the jeweller.
- When buying a ring, make sure you know your size. Some of the most stylish and creative wedding and engagement rings are being created by small ethical jewellers whose creations are only available online. Knowing your ring size makes an online purchase so much more easy.
- Tell your friends. Through social media, over a glass of wine or at a family get together, word of mouth and gossip is the fastest way you are going to get the life-transforming message out about Fairtrade Gold. Whether you are a couple in the process of buying those symbols of love, the Vicar overseeing the wedding bans and involved with premarital discussions, or just looking to buy a special anniversary gift, talk about the virtues and the positive legacy that Fairtrade Gold will bring not only to your own magical moment, but real value to the communities for whom gold is their only way out of grinding poverty.
Redemption is a powerful force for the social good. Fairtrade Gold stands at the forefront of redeeming some of the most exploitative practices and environmentally damaging activities in the world of gold. I am therefore calling on all Church denominations across the UK to support British Jewellers, the ethical wedding market and the National Fairtrade Movement’s I DO Campaign to make Fairtrade Gold Wedding Rings the default wedding ring purchase.
Notes to editors.
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Founded by Greg Valerio the original fair trade pioneering British jeweller. His auto-biography Making Trouble – Fighting for Fairtrade Jewellery tells his story as an activist in the jewellery trade. Greg won The Observer Campaigner of the Year 2011 Ethical Award for his work in securing Fairtrade Gold.
Valerio Jewellery is a Fairtrade Gold license holder, and only uses conflict free and fully traceable diamonds. Link to Fairtrade gold standard http://www.fairtrade.net/fileadmin/user_upload/content/2009/standards/documents/2015-04-15_EN_Gold-and-Precious_Metals.pdf
In the absence of any credible global gemstone certification, all Valerio Jewellery gemstones are sourced from communities and companies that provide full disclosure from mine to retail.
***Statistic is based upon 4grams of Fairtrade Gold used per ring and a Fairtrade premium of £1333 per kilo of gold delivered.