Silver jewellery was the product I fell in love with when I first got into the jewellery trade. Practically it was cheaper than gold, but I found that it was also a lot more versatile. I could afford to be more creative and diverse in my product approach. From the fashion perspective it made total sense and its affordable diversity allowed me to give my customers a continually changing selection of new ranges that didn’t break their bank accounts or mine.
On an ethical front it was the search for a fair trade silver source that got me into the ethical issues in the jewellery trade. I was intentional about wanting to be a fair trade jeweller. I was equally clear I did not want to go down the ‘hippy chic- hemp underwear’ design cliche that was rightfully associated with the idea of fair trade jewellery at the time.
Yet to this day the search for a traceable supply of artisanally mined fair trade silver remains as elusive as ever. There is no doubt the demand is there. What we have witnessed in the last 4 months since the launch of Fairtrade Gold has been an unprecedented uptake of jewellers wanting to be associated with the best gold story in the world. As of last week there were 24 Fairtrade Fairmined license holders, 400 certified products registered for the FT-FM dual stamp and over 100 companies and jewellers on the waiting list. Wow. All of these jewellers use silver in primary collections or would like to use fair trade silver when alloying their gold.
However while that search continues, the jewellery trade is finding a more sustainable way of using silver that in some ways improves the ethical provenance of jewellery. This is where 100% recycled silver comes into the story. Recycled silver in recent years has become a word associated with ethical improvements in the jewellery trade. It is a development that is both welcome and not that difficult to embrace for the silversmith or silver jewellery brand wanting to take some simple steps in the right direction. If you are a silversmith buying 100% fabricated recycled silver is not difficult. Kevin Bloor at Capella is now a dedicated supplier and can be contacted for prices and product at firstname.lastname@example.org
For jewellery retailers there are now a number of excellent emerging brands and jewellers who are dedicated to using recycled silver only in their collections. Below I highlight three of my favourite collections that any high street jeweller can stock.
Saphara Collection by Annabel Panes.
Each design in the Saphara collection is available in 100% recycled silver and/or plated in Oro Verde Fairtrade Fairmined ecological gold. They are handcrafted in Nepal by our partners at the Harigni Cooperative.
Annabel created the collection as she travelled in Nepal, taking inspiration throughout her journey from Nepalese design and culture, creating pieces that would best highlight the skills and artistry present within the cooperative. The designs capture the linear forms of the Nepali temples and traditional buildings combined with the flowing organic ornaments of their decorated interiors.
Oria is a socially and environmentally committed jewellery company dedicated to making fine jewellery using ethically sourced gold, silver and gems. They have been one of the countries leading brand exponents of ethical jewellery and their recycled silver collections are beautiful and well priced.
Ute Decker’s pieces are described as architectural and sculptural in design and essence. Her individually handcrafted pieces are made from 100% recycled silver and/or Fairtrade Gold. She is one of the countries leading exponents on green practices in the workshop and at the forefront of the new wave of jewellers who are shaping the future of the jewellery trade.
I am continually amazed at how far the ethical jewellery movement has come in the UK in such a short period of time. It is also extremely significant that in June, The British Jewellers Association and National Association of Goldsmiths formed an ethics working committee headed up by another of the UK’s first wave ethical jewellers Vivien Johnston. The aim of which is to consult and explore how we as a nation of jewellers and jewellery lovers can deepen our understanding of the human rights and environmental issues in our business and continue to spread the good practice that is emerging from within our industry and from our international supply chain partners.
In silver we still have a long way to go before we can claim the true benefits that a Fairtrade Process will bring to the miners and their environment, bt I do believe 100% recycled silver is a positive step, even if it is not the ultimate destination.
Winner of The Observer Global Campaigner of the Year 2011 award