The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewellery - GulfToday

The ethical gold rush: Gilded age for guilt-free jewellery

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Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to "100 percent ethical" creations.

Forget how many carats -- how ethical is your gold? As high-end consumers demand to know the origin of their treasures, some jewellers are ensuring they use responsibly sourced, eco-friendly or recycled gold.

Specialised producers now tack a "fairmined" ecologically friendly label on their output, and the Swiss house Chopard last year became the first big name to commit to "100 percent ethical" creations.

The Geneva-based firm, which makes the Palme d'Or trophy for the Cannes Film Festival, says it now uses only verified suppliers of gold that meet strict standards to minimise negative environmental impacts of mining the precious metal.

Good as recycled gold

Concerned jewellers are keen to ensure they can trace the source of their entire supply to an ethical production cycle and to firms certified by the not-for-profit Responsible Jewellery Council, which has developed norms for the entire supply chain.

RJC members must adhere to tough standards governing ethical, human rights, social and environmental practices across the precious metals industry.

The French luxury group Kering, which says it has bought more than 3.5 tonnes of "responsibly produced" gold since 2015 for its Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo and Gucci brands, has committed to 100 percent use of "ethical" gold by 2020.

"We are trying to maximise the proportion of Fairmined and Fairtrade gold -- but their modest production is in great demand so the bulk of our sourcing remains recycled gold, (which is) certified 'RJC Chain of Custody'," says Claire Piroddi, sustainability manager for Kering's jewellery and watches.

No gilt-trip

"The issue of supply really resonates with the public at large," adds Thierry Lemaire, director general of Ponce, a jewellery firm that was established in Paris's fashionable Marais district in 1886.

The company is RJC-certified and uses only recycled gold.

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A jeweller works on a ring in an ethical gold jewel workshop in Paris.

"There is a logic to that -- if we want to do our work well, then let's go the whole hog and respect nature. That can be done today because the entire chain has become standardised.

"Studios such as ours that work for major names on Place Vendome are all certified," Lemaire says, referring to an upscale square in Paris.

He represents the fifth generation of family firm Ponce, which produces 45,000 gold rings a year from recycled gold.

Working in a pungent atmosphere of heated metal, refiners sit hunched over polishing machines, a large leather hide slung over their knees to catch the tiniest shaving.

Agence France-Presse