All across China, more people than ever before are becoming conscious of the environmental and ethical impact of the clothes and accessories they buy; with many shoppers now looking to overhaul their wardrobes with items that align with their values. Ethical fashion connoisseur Clay Morrison throws a tantrum.
The demand for ethical dressing and accessorizing is getting through to mainstream channels across China’s first-tier millennial minds and, as a result, both high street and high-end brands are now looking to ethically source materials and have them manufactured and produced under environmentally and socially responsible conditions.
Accessories such as jewelry and precious stones, especially gold and silver, have long held a reputation for being sourced from largely unregulated and dubious supply chains before reaching China, so the increased awareness of responsible jewelry production is greatly welcomed.
Nonetheless, there are still many challenges to the creation of sustainable jewelry. High time to throw one educational tantrum!
Disclaimer: For the sake of adhering to Temper Magazine’s visually thrillingly enthralling prowess, we say (silver, not diamond) angles are a girl’s best friend as we choose to shine the picturesque spotlight on two favorite graphic and sustainable Tasties, namely Shanghai-based musician and artist-at-large Miranda Vukasovic of MV accessories and Winner of Indie Design Brand of the Year at the That’s 2019 Lifestyle Awards Ceremony Angie Wu of AWÜ Studio, a contemporary conceptual jewelry brand founded in 2014.
A Matter Of Life And Death: When Poverty Calls For Mining
Most artisanal miners or small-scale miners who work independently are not environmentally conscious. If they are, they certainly do not have the means to adopt the cleaner mining processes that require specialized and costly machinery.
It is estimated, however, that approximately 90 percent of the global mining workforce is made up of artisanal and small scale miners. This is a huge proportion of income for millions of people in developing countries. If we were to take artisanal miners out of the jewelry production chain, this would impact heavily on family poverty across the world.
A Conflict Of Interests: The Illegal Diamond Trade
As defined by the United Nations, conflict diamonds are “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”
Most of the world’s precious stones and minerals can be found in the poorest regions of the world and, in some cases (especially in Africa) these regions are experiencing civil wars. Efforts have been made to make diamond mining more sustainable, but conversations on how to support these communities are essential if conditions are to improve.
Improved legislation and regulation will ensure that diamond production is traceable and will hold miners accountable. After all, 20 percent of the global diamond supply is currently produced by this sector.
The Diamond Cuts Both Ways: Understanding The Dangers Of Polishing
Beyond mining, another key aspect of jewelry production is gem cutting (or polishing), which produces microscopic dust which can damage the lungs. A lot of workers in these facilities are not provided with appropriate safety gear, and many of us are unaware of these risks.
Nevertheless, efforts are being made to educate people about gem cutting and improve working conditions. Those that are concerned about the social impact of jewelry manufacture should ask their jeweler where the gemstones were cut before making a purchase.
The Solution: Putting A Stop To The Usage Of Mined Materials In Jewelry Crafting?
Cristina Villegas, from the international development non-profit Pact, believes this not to be the case in point. At the 2017 Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, she highlighted that artisanal mining feeds millions of families that might not otherwise be able to eat.
For consumers who can’t ignore the environmental and ethical impact of mining, recycled gems and gold may have more appeal. Hoover and Strong, a wholesale jewelry manufacturer, has a range called Harmony Recycled Metals. This product line is manufactured from 100 percent recycled precious metals, and refiners around the world have jumped on the bandwagon.
In China, precious metal pioneer Heraeus is leading the way – they are one of the largest precious metal traders in the world, with award-winning recycling processes and facilities all throughout China. They claim that their new precious metals factory in Nanjing, which is committed to reducing emissions and energy consumption, is their most advanced facility yet.
Looking for an ethical alternative to spice up that jewelry case? Colored gemstones and lab-grown diamonds also offer a promising option for consumers who want the beauty of gemstones without the ethical complications of the mining process.
One sustainable step at a time.
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WRITTEN BY CLAY MORRISON FOR TEMPER MAGAZINE, 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
EDITED BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON
FEATURED IMAGE: MV ACCESSORIES, 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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