Staff at Birmingham manufacturer Hockley Mint and Nuneaton retailer Johnsons Jewellers have been inspired by a recent visit from Fairtrade gold miner Josephine Aguti, who shared her story of life living and working close to artisanal gold mines in Uganda.
Aguti was joined by Fairtrade Africa’s gold project manager Gonzaga Mungai from Kenya, and Jon Walker from the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation. Together, they visited Hockley Mint and Johnsons Jewellers, discovering how Fairtrade gold is crafted into fine jewellery and sold in the UK.
After a tour of Hockley Mint’s manufacturing floor led by managing director Gary Wroe, a special lunch was organised so Hockley Mint staff could hear first-hand about Fairtrade gold, and better understand the origins of the metals they are working with on a daily basis.
Aguti explained how Fairtrade’s support is positively impacting the lives of artisanal mineworkers in East Africa, recalling how she herself began working in the mines at the age of 12 to support her mother and family.
She said: “Life was extremely hard for me growing up, but Fairtrade will change many lives and the journey to become a Fairtrade mine has already changed our lives for the better.
“We are working in safer conditions and Fairtrade is helping us to empower women to stop domestic violence – a big problem in the community – and to prevent child labour, the horrific results of mercury poisoning and terrible mine accidents.”
The delegation then travelled to Johnson’s Jewellers in Nuneaton to meet its director Libby Johnson and the shop’s staff. A group of local schoolchildren also visited the store as part of their curriculum studies in Fairtrade.
Speaking of the visit, Libby Johnsons said: “I thoroughly enjoyed Josephine’s visit to store and listening to the differences becoming Fairtrade will make to her and her family’s life.
My staff and children from a local school were completely captivated by Josephine, listening to her stories about how she mines for the gold.
“It was a fantastic experience to meet her and if only everybody in the trade could get to meet Josephine and her colleagues, they would appreciate the hard work and commitment that these miners put in, for us to be able to sell beautiful gold jewellery.”
During their visit to Johnsons Jewellers, Aguti and Mungai were introduced to a display of Arctic Circle Diamonds, one of the brands set to use African Fairtrade gold, and also manufactured in-house at Hockley Mint.
Johnson added that by selling jewellery brands that use Fairtrade Gold, such as Arctic Circle, the business could make even the smallest of differences to the lives of so many miners and their families. “We were also particularly keen on having a fully-traceable diamonds that are sourced, mined and polished in the same country. Our customers are becoming increasingly aware of following the path of where there jewellery comes from, and we hope that Arctic Circle jewellery will give the confidence to our customers that their jewellery is fully traceable,” Johnson added.
Arctic Circle managing director Judith Lockwood said: “Understanding the power of a world changing diamond and the future for Fairtrade gold that we know changes lives was quite emotional and incredible. To visit Johnson’s with Josephine and the Fairtrade team, to watch the faces of the staff and to hear the children is a memory that will live in me for years to come.”