Fairtrade | Recycled | Reused
We are not going to kid ourselves, no gold can ever be ‘clean’. Mining gold is one of the most environmentally damaging and ethically challenging activities. The vast majority of gold mined isn’t used to help humans survive, but either for adornment, technology or investment. We recognise that we are part of this problem and want to do what we can to make it less damaging and give those who work in the industry the best chance of making a living.
Gold is mined all over the world, the metal-rich rock, known as ore, is extracted from the Earth’s crust. 90% of gold miners globally are artisanal and small-scale miners and an estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining to support their families and communities. Miners work in remote areas and have few other options for making a living.
In non-Fairtrade small-scale gold mines, miners extract the precious metal using toxic chemicals such as mercury, which is harmful for human health and the environment. They simply can’t afford to use safer processing methods. This can cause birth defects, brain and kidney damage, and can contaminate water supplies, entering the food chain through poisoned fish. Small-scale gold mining is the largest source of mercury pollution to air and water combined.
Small-scale miners are also exploited by traders because of their poverty, and the absence of regulation and legal protections. They rarely receive a fair price for their product, even when the world gold price rises, as they are usually offered below the market price. Because of this, these miners struggle to generate enough profit or attract the finance needed to invest in their operations or in safer, more efficient mining practices and technology.
Workers in Fairtrade certified gold mines receive a guaranteed Fairtrade Minimum Price for their gold as well as a Premium to spend on improving their businesses or on community projects, such as education, clean water and healthcare. Fairtrade certification means these small scale-miners meet Fairtrade Standards.
This can help them to improve their mining and business practices as well as open the market to generate more sales on better terms. The Fairtrade Gold Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment.
Having been asked by the Fairtrade Foundation - E.C. One was the first company in the world to produce a piece of Fairtrade/Fairmined Jewellery. Owner Jos Skeates used 20g from the first ever certified mine in Peru to create a pair of simple matching wedding bands, one of which he proudly wears every day.
Metal mining, and gold mining in particular, is hugely environmentally destructive with an average of 20 tons of ore required to produce enough gold for a single ring. The mining industry is by its very nature an ecological 'taker' and the pressure is on jewellery makers to deliver more eco-friendly choices for discerning jewellery consumers.
In our workshop, we would prefer we would prefer not to use freshly mined metal - even Fairtrade, but we realise this wouldn’t stop all forms of mining and would cause great harm to the artisanal miners who make a living from this, often in very remote areas.
We appreciate that recycled gold could come from sources that were previously considered ‘dirty’ or held conflict. However, as any jeweller will tell you the price you pay for gold isn’t the same as when you scrap it and this acts as a barrier for laundering gold just to give it a ‘recycled tag’. Our favourite way of working is reusing gold supplied from previous jewellery that our customers own and want to have remodelled or given a new lease of life. However when that isn’t possible we use primarily recycled and re-refined precious metals. When casting a piece in recycled or re-refined gold the metal is refined back into its pure element, thereby having the same high quality as newly mined metal. We use recycled gold, silver and platinum in all of our casting and wherever possible in the wire and sheet we use. We are looking at sourcing recycled metal for our findings and catches wherever possible.
Many people either inherit or end up with pieces that they no longer want to wear. This could be because you have grown out of a style, granny’s taste isn’t quite the same as yours or that relationship didn’t quite go the way you thought but you have an expensive memento! The temptation is to sell it, but this isn’t an easy thing to do and often second-hand dealers will only give a scrap price.
We are very happy to reuse jewellery wherever possible. Giving a ring a new lease of life by remodelling it is not only cost effective but also doesn’t damage the environment by using more resources. Jewellery can be taken apart melted down, and stones reused. Where necessary we will either add enough recycled gold to complete the project or credit the customer if we have excess.
A favourite story at EC One is of a couple who wanted to get married and to have their family involved in the making of their wedding rings. When they sent out the wedding invites they also asked the guests if they had any spare gold they could send them. This could be broken rings, a single earring or cufflink, broken chains, bad relationship jewellery or an inherited piece that has never been worn. These pieces were then melted down by the workshop and turned into wedding bands with enough spare to pay for the process. On their wedding day the guests who were attending had really become an integral part of their wedding and their rings will be a reminder of this for the rest of their lives.