Fair Trade Gemstones

The other day in the studio I was asked what does it mean when I say I use fair trade gems. The person had heard of this in coffee and chocolate but not outside of food.  When I buy gems I request verification of the process on the cutting floor and make sure that the labor force has been treated fairly. It is not uncommon in some parts of the gem industry to pay women and men differently (for example: a 1 to 8 difference), to over-work the labor force or even worse, use child labor in the processing of gemstones.  Because I have a moral obligation to make sure the gems I use are fair, there are some gems I have trouble getting my hands on, or it can take me a while.  I think it is worth it to be able to use a fair product and know that the sources I have are good ones and the limited stone list is short.

Fair-trade gems offer an opportunity to think about equality and fairness in the workplace; however it brings up some of the funny conversations with folks in trying to explain my views when buying.  Imagine trying to buy stones in India with a language and cultural barrier about a mile wide. We saw eye to eye in the end and I was able to go on a personal tour of the gem cutting area to be assured that all was well in their business practices. Overall, it provides better opportunities to me as a buyer, and also bringing these gemstones to my customers.

To use your own gems or pieces that might have been passed down: I also have some great resources to re-cut your gemstones. If something has been loved for a while and shows abrasion or damage, it can sometimes be re-polished or re-shaped to bring out the sparkle again.  It is a good option for recycling gemstones for use in a new project.


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