NAG, BJA, designers and industry members criticise Dispatches’ view.
The British jewellery industry has responded in force to the airing of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme The Real Price of Gold, with the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) and the British Jewellers’ Association’s (BJA’s) Ethics Committee disappointed that neither parties were contacted by the programme makers.
The screening of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme titled The Real Price of Gold has received a mixed reaction from the jewellery industry, with some pleased to see ethical gold highlighted at a national level but others criticising the programme’s lead Dierdre Bounds for her lack of knowledge about the industry.
The NAG and BJA Ethic’s Committee nominated Fifi Bijoux’s Vivien Johnston to put forward its argument, with both parties agreeing that the programme had raised some interesting and worthwhile points about the issues the British jewellery industry currently faces, but with several misleading viewpoints, particularly with regards to recycled gold.
They said: "It was useful for consumers to understand the complexities which jewellers looking for ethical supply chains are confronted with when trying to establish traceability in the gold supply chain within a current system not designed for transparency.
"Whilst it is undeniable that these issues remain a reality within the industry, the programme did not address in full the various initiatives that are being undertaken by the gold industry and the subsequent user; the jewellers.
"The programme was misleading in stating that there was not enough recycled gold in circulation when in fact well over 80% of gold used in UK jewellery manufacture is from recycled sources. The programme presented recycled gold as an ethical or morally superior alternative to newly mined gold. However, recycled gold currently accounts for the majority of the gold used in the UK market.
"It is inaccurate to assume that boycotting all newly mined gold therefore presents a more ethical alternative. Indeed, the introduction of certified Fairtrade Fairmined gold, as well as other gold producers who have established best practices for both social and environmental standards demonstrate the shift among the industry towards transparency, traceability and social responsibility in mining.
"The NAG and the BJA were not called upon to make comment, despite being the collectively largest representatives of the jewellery industry in the UK."
Earlier this year, the NAG and BJA formed a joint Ethics Working Committee in order to address, among other issues, the current lack of traceability for gold supplies and the lack of understanding about the processes involved.
Yad Luthra, a spokesman for Channel 4 on behalf of Dispatches, responded: "Channel 4 declines to comment further. The programme speaks for itself and offers a balanced exploration of the gold industry while highlighting the issue of the sourcing of unethical gold."
Retailers and designers however have aired their views online at professionaljeweller.com. Emma Burgin of Alex Monroe said: "We were incredibly frustrated by the Dispatches show here at Alex Monroe. The overwhelming attitude put across was that the jewellery industry doesn’t care about people and the environment – only profits. We would really like to stress that this isn’t the case, certainly not for us."
"We frequently get asked questions about [where our gold comes from] by our customers, and at times, they can be difficult questions to answer as the information just isn’t readily available. We would love to use Fairtrade Fairmined gold, especially for commissioned pieces, but we cannot get a license to buy it and there aren’t enough left for little companies like us," Burgin added.
Edward Chapman also put across his viewpoint online. He said: "As someone who has spent all his working life in the jewellery trade and ran my own bussiness for the last 25 years in the Birmingham jewellery quarter, I can say for what’s left of the British manufacturing industry that they buy their gold from reputable bullion dealers. who to the best of my knowledge. buy from reputable mines."
"Maybe [Dispatches] should direct its questions to these people rather than browbeating shop assistances in Argos. Jewellery only accounts for a very small part of any mined gold and these days the jewellery trade in the UK for the main part runs on all the recycled re-refined gold that has been scrapped, due to the fact that gold is four times the price it was five years ago. If you were to close all the gold mines tommorow there is more than enough gold in circulation to run the jewellery trade ad infinitum as gold is continually recycled and reused," he added.
"You’re more at risk of death or serious injury trying to run a bussiness in the jewellery trade from the amount of robberies armed and otherwise that are going on at the moment," Chapman surmised.