Why time and energy will help put Fairtrade Fairmined on the map.
Professional Jeweller’s March 2013 issue takes an in-depth look at the development of Fairtrade Fairmined gold in the UK, from client demand through to supply chain issues, pricing and marketing. Anna Loucah, a fine ethical designer that has worked with Vogue and Oxfam, describes consumer reaction, the need to change attitudes and how silver and platinum will reinforce the Fairtrade message.
Professional Jeweller: You have worked with Fairtrade gold for a number of years. How has demand evolved since the launch of the Fairtrade mark?
Anna Loucah: I have definitely seen an increase in commissions and opportunities because of my involvement in Fairtrade gold. A lot of it has come through recommendation and referral from ecologically-focused websites or through friends in the ethical fashion world. It’s still a relatively rare thing to be Fairtrade gold licensed so most people are really interested to hear more. I like the cross over it has provided into other related businesses and designers in other disciplines who are also working with ethically sourced materials.
PJ: As a fine jewellery designer to you plan to use Fairtrade Fairmined platinum?
AL: Yes absolutely, I’m working on my first Fairtrade platinum wedding collection at the moment.
PJ: Do most of your consumers have an understanding of what Fairtrade means when applied to precious metals?
AL: Most people have a good awareness of the Fairtrade logo and what it represents but many are still unaware that it has been applied to gold. I do still find myself saying ‘you know, like bananas’ quite a bit, but when I explain it people get very excited and understand the significance of it.
PJ: Have you faced any issues in the supply chain or manufacture?
AL: More Fairtrade milled products would definitely be helpful and chains and findings too. Also price is of course an issue. A lot of customers are really up for buying Fairtrade but with the price of gold being so high already, they sometimes back out when I quote in Fairtrade and reluctantly go for regular gold. I don’t want anyone to feel awkward about not doing it based on price alone and usually try and work something out so everyone is happy.
PJ: What do you think needs to happen in the UK, or globally, to increase demand and awareness of Fairtrade and ethical practises when it comes to precious metals?
AL: Somebody said to me the other day that the Fairtrade ‘bandwagon’ must be quite lucrative which I was quite taken aback by as I’d never seen it as a band wagon, more as a possible solution to solving a definite problem. It does take a certain amount of extra effort and commitment to provide [a Fairtrade] option, effort that is often not directly met with financial recompense. But as with any developing idea trying to break its way in to public consciousness, it’s just going to take time and continued energy to get Fairtrade metals and sustainable materials into the everyday dialogue of the consumer – most of us can probably remember a time when there were no organic products in the supermarket for example.
PJ: What are your thoughts on Fairtrade Fairmined platinum and silver?
AL: The introduction of Fairtrade platinum and silver is going to bring some interesting opportunities for raising awareness. It brings all the metals together into one clear message and brings it to a far wider audience as silver is so widely used and the cost of platinum and gold are becoming closer making platinum is a good option in the wedding market. Introducing the Fairtrade cert for both of these precious metals will provide the consumer with more options to become involved which will hopefully increased demand – perhaps even give the opportunity to create Fairtade gold in lower carats.