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Did Dispatches get it wrong?

Last night’s Dispatches programme on gold on Channel 4 was a prime example of an outsider misunderstanding an industry.

Deirdre Bounds may know something about ethical travel, but she knows nothing about the jewellery industry. Within the first 10 minutes of the programme she asserted that the diamond issue had already been sorted. Anyone who has been in this industry five minutes (which as a relative newbie is probably true of myself) knows that the gemstone supply chain is even more convoluted than the gold one.

Then she spends the next half hour showing children down a mine and saying the supply chain needs to be sorted out.

Only after 45 minutes does she acknowledge that the jewellery industry may already know that not all gold comes from well-run safety conscious mines, which is why people such Greg Valerio and Oro Verde have been campaigning for fairtrade, fair mined gold. This campaign saw its first victory on February 14 when the first gold bars from the first certified mine (La Victoria SA Mining Enterprise in Peru, in case you’re interested Deirdre) were made available to companies that Ms Bounds referred to as “small independent retailers”. Such as Stephen Webster?

Bounds made “sorting out the supply chain” sound like something that could be done in an afternoon if only people put their minds to it and, throughout the programme, made it looks as though the industry was deliberately misleading the consumer.

No one is saying there shouldn’t be more information out there about where companies get their gold from, but the truth is, a lot of them don’t know. Ignorance isn’t an excuse and we do need to do something about some forms of artisanal mining but, as anyone who has been following the story of fair-trade fair-mined gold knows, it takes time.

The industry is well aware that there is an issue with the supply of gold, but it is making a decision, by working with Fairtrade, to do things properly but making sure that those who use ethical gold know its provenance.
We’re getting there and it would have been better if Deirdre Bounds had looked at the positive steps the industry is making rather than shouting nonsense from the top of a double-decker bus.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Anonymous

    I could not agree more. When a high street jewellery representative mentioned the vast quantity of recycled gold that is used by retailers Bounds totally ignored the comment. Nobody likes the horrific conditions the African people were working in but when the situation was explained they were were independently opening illegal mines. There was no evidence of slavery, or people forcing children into mines. The boy who was interviewed worked in a mine to earn more money than his parents could provide.This may sound a very blunt but they were stealing from the African government. I do think that the local people need more education on the health hazards of the chemicals & the mines themselves. Bounds then proceeded to explain how she should get £350 scrap for a 14gm 18ct gold chain & acted horrified when she was offered less. If she can find anybody paying way over scrap for a gold chain then I would be very surprised.

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  • Anonymous

    I agree with a lot in the post. The diamond industry is far from sorted, supply chain tracing is very convoluted, there is a long way to go in responsible gold mining, and fair trade gold is making some important progress (yet is still a sliver of global gold production). However the notion that the industry, jewelry and mining alike, are taking all the steps they can to provide customers with clean gold in as misleading as you claim this documentary is.

    Fact is, nearly no one that is walking into a jewelry store to buy a gold wedding band, or necklace, is going to have an expert knowledge of the supply chain. They do, however, expect those companies to do their due-diligence to know that their gold is not coming from a child's hands, or a mine polluting communities’ drinking water.

    Supply chain tracing is possible if the industry put their minds to it. I hesitate to continue to provide the industry cover by saying they need MORE time. It could have been done by now, if there had been a commitment to do so. I’ll put it this way, if everyone who bought gold in the world stopped until the complete supply chain was traceable, I have a feeling the industry would miraculously find a way (much like the ways they are finding to trace in the Congo because recent legislation in the US mandates it). It's time for these companies, mining and jewelry alike, to stop dragging their feet and be advocates for fair labor, human rights, and environmental protection. Until then they are complicit in the brutal conditions workers and communities must endure in and around gold mines because "it takes time to figure it out". Time they've wasted of delay tactics, and time these communities do not have.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that "the truth is, a lot of them [industry] don’t know" where the gold is from.

    Are we as consumers ok with a company running on a model of "ignorance is bliss"?

    Thanks for your post I think it's an important and evolving topic.

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  • I think that there are a lot of people within the industry who could do a lot more than they do and like to hide behind the complexity of the issue. Indeed it is very complex and watching the dispatches broadcast was a bit like watching 'Ant and Bee do Dirty Gold' as it was over-simplified - and came to simplistic and slightly inaccurate conclusions in the name of 'good television. There seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding about how much recycled gold is already in the 'standard' suply chain anyway and no mention at all about the fact that just becuase the gold is recycled, it doesn't mean you know where it came from originally. Nor were any of the other issues about recycled gold metioned.
    I have spent my years in the industry with people throwing their hands up in defeat when I mention ethics showing me an attitued where they feel that they may as well do nothing becuase it is all too hard and if you can't be 100% ethical you may as well not bother at all. I have always believed that small steps in the right direction are much better than none at all. And with these small steps we, as a company have come far as have many others in the more ethical side of the industry.
    Fair Trade is a strong answer and we are delighted to be one of the first 20 jewellers to be able to offer this. However this alone is not enough.
    Many in the ethical side of the business now do not rate the Responsible Jewellery Council - however, I think that they are doing something good - putting a really good ethical framwork in place for us to use. We are currently in the process of going through the self-audit process and hope to have the audit certified by the end of this year. It has been hard work but has certainly taught me a few things that I could have been doing better and which we are now changing. People are too fast to knock the RJC becuase it was set up by some 'big guys' some of whom may not be all that squeaky clean way back...but that doesn't mean they can't start to do something positive and can't actaully turn over a new sheet and try harder.
    We will all get there if everybody takes small steps.
    Harriet Kelsall

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  • I have yet to see the programme, but I think this whole ethical gold thing is being blown out of shape. I cannot think of one single industry where ethical practices cannot be questioned. I disagree that Fairtrade is strong answer. It has been proven on several occasions to be exploitive itself. Throwing a few grammes of 'ethical' gold at 20 independent jewellers is no help to anyone, particularly the rest of us who cannot get near it. I do not see you as pioneers, I think conversely that you are riding off the back of a small scale problem (relatively speaking) and making the rest of the trade look like they are dealing in a 'dirty' product. 99.5% of the gold us jewellers use is bought on open markets and is recycled anyway. New gold goes into bankers safes. It is a dangerous game to play as the industry is under constant criticism anyway. I don't want to come across as being heartless and unconcerned - anything we do to improve our trade is good, but my goodness we have to be careful about it. All happy with your diamonds? Sure your sapphires were not brought into the light by a child? Do you know the source and mining practises of all your suppliers wares? Of course you don't. We can all do our best, but give everyone a chance of rationalising the situation, rather than a small group riding off the back of other peoples plight.

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  • I think the Tresor Paris bracelet is good tresor pairs

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  • The jewellery industry competition is intense, should be prepared to battle plan, let oneself of the industry is in the lead.Do you like Tresor Paris? tresor paris

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  • Superb posting

    Hope to see more christian jewelry collections from your side

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