HOT TOPIC: The Goldsmiths Registration Scheme

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Fairtrade's efforts to the drive the prominence of its metals.

Three years since its official launch in the UK, Fairtrade gold is winning an increasing amount of interest in the UK jewellery industry. Kathryn Bishop takes a closer look at the news of 100 designers applying to be part of the Goldsmiths’ Registration Scheme, allowing them to use small quantities of Fairtrade precious metals.

The prominence of Fairtrade gold in the UK market could increase, following the news that the Fairtrade Foundation’s Goldsmiths Registration Scheme has won applications from more than 100 designers and retailers wishing to use Fairtrade metals.

It is understood that their use of the metal could deliver $100,000 (£59,327) back to miners in Fairtrade premiums. The money will enable mining communities to improve safety procedures and update their mining equipment, while also funding the installation of water and electricity supplies, plus improved education and healthcare for miners and their families.

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The Goldsmiths Registration Scheme was debuted in April this year, offering small designers a chance to work with Fairtrade gold and silver without having to have a full license or buy large quantities of the metals. They do this by applying for registration using a basic online registration form, which enables them to purchase certified Fairtrade gold and precious metals from a master licensee (such as Cooksons or Cred) in a semi-finished form, such as sheet, wire, tube or casting grain to use in their work. “The benefits of the scheme for the goldsmith are that registration is free,” says Fairtrade gold commercial account manager Reena Argawal. “[Each goldsmith’s] application is checked to make sure they have entered all the important details before it is accepted.”

When the scheme was launched, the Fairtrade Foundation said it would allow smaller jewellery designers, artists and silversmiths to “transform the UK market for Fairtrade gold and silver” by widening the use and customer reach of Fairtrade metals.

Three months since its inauguration, the Goldsmiths Registration Scheme has won positive uptake, with designer brands and goldsmiths such as Farah Qureshi, Catherine Zoraida, Ebba Goring and Fera Jewellery applying for the scheme, alongside retailers with design workshops, such as Wongs Jewellers, Atelier Bespoke Fine Jewellery and The Ringmaker in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Those that have been accepted on to the scheme have to abide by certain terms and conditions that include not being able to stamp their jewellery with the Fairtrade mark, only using certain pre-determined marketing materials and agreeing to the annual limits of 500g of gold or platinum or 2kgs of silver. Argawal hints that, by starting on the scheme, designers and retailers have the potential to become full licensees, akin to retailers and designers such as Fifi Bijoux, Ingle & Rhode, Ute Decker and Stephen Webster, who have more flexibility to use the metal. “The main benefit of becoming a full licensee is that you can stamp your jewellery or items with the Fairtrade mark,” says Argawal. “The item is also fully traceable back to the mine.”

For designer Ebba Goring, who is one of the first 100 designers accepted onto the Goldsmiths Registration Scheme, the desire for and decision to use Fairtrade gold has been recent. “I didn’t know anything about Fairtrade metals before I read about the scheme,” she admits. “[But] I buy Fairtrade products in my day-to-day life, so when I heard about the scheme I wanted to know more. I still have to do a lot of research but I think it’s definitely something I want to pursue and develop in my business.”

Goring hopes that the ability to use Fairtrade precious metal will widen the scope of her bespoke designs. “I wanted to be able to offer my clients Fairtrade gold as an option when commissioning wedding and engagement rings,” she says. “I recently joined The Glasgow Wedding Collective and have been asked a couple of times whether [Fairtrade gold] was something I could offer.”

However, bespoke is not her only focus. Goring is also in the early stages of research for her next collection and is considering the option of using Fairtrade gold. “I think if we have the opportunity to make our business more sustainable and ethical then let’s do that,” she states.

This perspective of wanting to make one’s business more ethical by using Fairtrade precious metals, not to mention widening its product offer, is shared by Wongs Jewellers director Peter Wong. As a retail business, Wongs Jewellers applied and was accepted onto the scheme, and has just received its first delivery of Fairtrade gold in the form of two mounts from master licensee Domino.

“What inspired me to get involved was actually The Company of Master Jewellers and that Fairtrade is important for our industry,” says Peter Wong. “No one has ever directly contacted me about Fairtrade gold, but [CMJ chief executive] Willie Hamilton had mentioned it at a few CMJ meetings. It really struck a chord with me that I should get involved during the CMJ’s UK Jewellery Conference last October.”

Wong applied for the scheme and, with gold mounts now in hand, hopes to promote Fairtrade metals to brides- and grooms-to-be. The retailer is also thought to be the first in Liverpool to offer Fairtrade gold. “It will be mainly engagement rings and wedding bands to begin with, because I think that really lends well to Wongs’ product story,” Wong explains. “We’re going to promote it and see what happens.”

The news of the Goldsmiths Registration Schemes’ successful launch was preceded by a push from the Fairtrade Foundation to raise awareness of the number of casting houses and precious metal suppliers now offering Fairtrade metals. Cred, Cooksons, Hockley Mint, Vipa Designs and WB The Creative Jewellery Group are offering some or all of their ranges in Fairtrade gold, in a bid to make the availability of Fairtrade metals even greater for the industry.

Of note is that these five companies are also offering their wedding ring collections in Fairtrade metals upon request, which ties in with Fairtrade International’s announcement in late 2013 that it planned to make 2014 the year of the Fairtrade gold wedding ring – with the hope that 50,000 couples would marry with Fairtrade gold bands.

To date in 2014, UK demand for certified Fairtrade gold has already hit 30kg; even more impressive considering demand for the whole of 2013 was 25kg. It appears Fairtrade metals are setting down their roots, which is a positive step forward for the UK jewellery industry and, most importantly, for those miners at the very start of the supply chain.
 

This Hot Topic was taken from the September 2014 issue of Professional Jeweller.

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