Ethical Making Resource Launched: Fairtrade, Fairmined and Sustainable

20th April 2018

The Incorporation of Goldsmiths have just launched their Ethical Making Resource: a website dedicated to the social, economic and environmental sustainability dimensions of jewellery design and making.

The Incorporation of Goldsmiths has created the Ethical Making Resource in the interest of helping jewellery and silversmithing community of makers to access information which supports their ambitions towards ethical making.

Previous research had found the pre-existing information unclear, difficult to locate, and sometimes dubious in origin and accuracy, and this new resource has been produced in collaboration with the sector to make it as clear, useful, truthful, concise and accessible as possible. The resource takes the form of a website covering everything from the sourcing of materials (a particular concern in the metal and gem industries, where unethical practices are rife) to sustainable studio practices which minimise chemical use and maximise resource efficiency.

At Creative Carbon Scotland, we’re thrilled that this resource is being made available to makers, especially as we know through our work with Craft Scotland and the Green Crafts Initiative that there is a big demand for this information and support from jewellers. We have supported the development of the resource in advising around the environmental sustainability dimensions of the resource.

Ethical Making Symposium

The resource was launched at the Incorporation’s second Ethical Making Symposium – one year on from the inaugural event which spurred the research and action presented at the 2018 symposium.

Over the course of the day (held at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall – a venue member of our Green Arts Initiative, and itself committed to sustainability in its own operations) delegates heard from a range of practising makers, academics, and support organisations, including:

  • Dr Greg Valerio, MBE on how he has tried to change the ethics of the sector – from a ‘we do not do ethics’ approach, to the introduction of the Fairtrade and Fairmined standards. Greg challenged all makers to be honest and be engaged in the ethics of their practice: doing what they can in small steps to transform their part of the sector.
  • Ute Decker, Jen Cunningham and Alison MacLeod on how the issues of unethical and unsustainable production are essentially ‘man-made’ problems which can equally be solved by humans, and how makers must ensure that jewellery that is externally beautiful has not had a destructive and ugly origin. Each of the three makers spoke of the origins of their practice, with an emphasis on how small changes (like putting pressures on their suppliers, investing in tools which enabled them to recycle small amounts of metal, and launching small ranges of Fairtrade products) have transformed their approach.
  • Ian Nicholson on how his work as director of the Precious Metals Workshop and his visits to international mines have influenced his commitment to Fairtrade and Fairmined metals and spurred his ‘Going for Gold’ project, which aims to raise awareness of the issues around artisanal gold mining.
  • Dr Peter Oakley on the complex issue of recycled silver (a material that has traditionally been a by-product of other metal-mining industries, and which has a majority industrial rather than jewellery use) and the role of education and academic research in this field.
  • Jane Barnett and Theodora Panayides on how consultancy organisation Levin Sources is working on responsible sources and mining practices, how such material sourcing is often a long journey, and how ultimately ethics are subjective so each maker should define their own approach.

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”
Mark Twain, via the Ethical Making Symposium

To complete the symposium, the Incorporation of Goldsmiths hosted a ‘Circular Economy Design Challenge’ and competition, where delegates had a short amount of time to design an item of jewellery that was inspired by the
principles of the circular economy: an economy in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, maximising their value, recover materials at the end of that particular use, and reject the ‘take, use, dispose’ model of our current system. ‘Designing for disassembly’ and being inspired by the ‘waste-free’ model of natural systems was a theme throughout the ideas generated.

Commitments from the Sector

Also at the Ethical Making Symposium were several announcements from those in the jewellery-making sector about their new commitments to ethical and sustainable making. In particular, a commitment from all the jewellery and silversmithing courses, HND level and above, in Scotland to include ethics and sustainability within their courses curriculum, and to make responsibly-mined materials the norm in their workshops – making it the expectation for all new jewellers, and developing a generation of informed makers.

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The Incorporation of Goldsmiths is a not-for-profit organisation, based in Edinburgh, which runs the Edinburgh Assay Office and supports the jewellery and silversmithing trade in Scotland and beyond.

The Green Crafts Initiative is a joint project between Craft Scotland and Creative Carbon Scotland aiming to enable the craft sector to contribute green actions within Scotland’s cultural industries. Becoming a member of the Green Crafts Initiative is easy, quick, and free! Complete this form and we’ll be in touch.

All photos by James Robertson.

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We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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