The Fair Trade Jewelry Conference at the JCK Jewelry Show in Las Vegas last Monday was so profound for me that it honestly has taken me over a week to process it. I was familiar with some of the issues discussed but learned a great many things about the various movements in ethical, fair trade, fair made and green jewelry and why they should matter to everyone who gives, receives and enjoys fine jewelry.
While most people have heard of the controversies regarding blood diamonds they may not have investigated the issue deeply enough to know that diamonds from Africa are not universally bad. As Russell Simmons stated in his keynote at the JCK Show
, diamonds have done a lot of good in some countries. Botswana earns the bulk of its export revenue
from the diamond trade. But it is important that workers receive a fair price for their labor, worker health is protected, and steps are taken to minimize the environmental havoc caused by diamond mining. Right now, the Kimberley Process
exists to ensure that diamonds are conflict-free. The multi-nation agreement monitors the $38 billion in rough diamond trade. The question remains whether this collaborative organization should be doing more to protect the workers and the environment.
The conference was moderated by Martin Rapaport, the kingpin of diamonds
, who is also deeply interested in fair trade and in jewelry processes that are of greatest benefit to the miners and producers. Rapaport showed a video of his trip to Sierra Leone in which he met with the diamond diggers about what they wanted. The diggers expressed frustration that they do not receive a fair price from the dealers. Even when they find a stone they know is good, a dealer will tell them it is black or cloudy and in that situation the digger has few options and has to take the price he is offered. For the people of Sierra Leone, who have no factories they can work in, and a limited tourism trade, the backbreaking work of searching for diamonds is one of the few opportunities to make any kind of money.