I was invited to a workshop talk about Fairmined Gold at the jewellery shop Skrein in Vienna. The guest speaker was a mining engineer and chair of the board at ARM, Alliance for Responsible Mining, the Austrian Dr Felix Hruschka.
Dr Hrushka took us closer to the lives of small-scale miners in Latin America and explaining what his AMR association has done since 2004, to help their communities work in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way.
This is a fascinating topic for anyone interested in sustainable jewellery, the environment and the future of the jewellery industry. Because true luxury is to wear beautiful jewellery knowing that their production hasn’t harmed the environment but also, it has helped improve the lives of underprivileged people in poor communities.
What is Fair Gold?
Fair Gold is the gold of the future because it doesn’t cause massive environmental damages nor violates human rights. Fair gold can come from recycled gold from private jewellery that is already in circulation. Therefore, this gold does not put any more strain on the environment. It can also come from certified gold from mines that meet the high standards of working and environmental conditions.
In Austria, for example, all jewellers use fair gold, mainly recycled, provided by the most important gold supplier in the country, Ögussa.
What is Fairmined Gold?
It is a label that certifies gold as being sourced from responsibly managed and empowered community miners. This gold is mined by artisanal small-scale miners who have to meet a set of criteria. For example, mine should not use child labour. On the contrary, it should have decent working conditions, environmental protection that minimizes the ecological footprint of mining. Not to mention, where possible, restoring or replacing biodiversity. Fairmined Gold is committed to focusing on social development that promotes the wellbeing in the communities.
Why use certified Fairmined Gold
When you buy jewellery made in certified Fairmined gold, you’re helping directly the miners and their families. Groups of small-scale miners, mainly in Latin America, set up a formal and legal association run by themselves; which sells directly to the jewellery industry. Fairmined guarantees that the miners get fair payment and an additional premium of 4 US$ per gram of gold that must be used in social development projects in their own communities such as schools for the children and hospitals.
What is the impact so far?
In two years, the small-scale miners’ associations have received more than 3.6 million US$ in Premium. There are already ten associations with the Fairmine certification in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Mongolia. More than 200 jewellers around the world work with certified fair gold. The sales of fairmined gold duplicated within one year, reaching in 2018 a total of 361,5 kg of sold gold.
In Austria, the pioneer in using Fairmined gold was the jeweller Alexander Skrein, who is also the chairman of the Association for Fair and Responsible Gold, AFRG, that he launched in Vienna to ensure that in Austria, only fair gold is used.
Another jewellery house that famously uses Fair gold is the Swiss Chopard, working towards more sustainable luxury.
In the past years, trophies such as the Nobel Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or award and the Olympic Laurel were made in fairmined gold.
Fairmined Ecological Gold
This ecological gold follows the same strict criteria as fairmined gold but with one difference; whereas fairmined gold is produced with reduction of toxic chemicals that are used in traditional mining such as mercury and cyanide, miners producing Fairmined Ecological Gold do not use any toxic chemicals in their extraction processes. The Premium for the miners who produce this gold is 6 US$ per gram, which is a great incentive for the responsible mining organizations to invest their 4 US$ per gram premium in cleaner technologies that eliminate the need to use toxic chemicals.
Fairmined initiative transforms gold mining into a source for good and gives us the opportunity to wear jewellery we can be proud of.
All jewellery photos courtesy of Skrein