Ethics and Responsibility in the Jewelry Industry


I have a fun fact. Did you know that between the two holidays? Valentine's Day and Mother's DAY CASS. American spent get this on average a staggering ten billion dollars every year on jewelry. Not Surprising. And that's just those two holidays alone. That's not including you know the winter holidays including birthdays anniversaries or engagements. That's only on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day which is incredible. I had no idea. Yeah me neither. And that's actually just a small fraction of the three hundred billion dollars exchanged globally from the mining of approximately ninety million carats of rough diamonds and sixteen hundred tons of gold every single year. And of course with that colossal sum of money on the line well. Human Nature can and does falter sadly succumbing sometimes to unbridled greed and avarice often quite literally on the backs of others. How many of us have really truly considered the true cost of our jewelry. I mean we may very well recall the price that we paid for it. But what about this other price? The human and environmental cost cast in twenty eighteen activists organization. Human Rights Watch published a study which is called the hidden cost of jewelry and it highlights some really heartbreaking egregious instances of human rights abuses and environmental tragedies stemming from unscrupulous mining operations such as when in two thousand eight members of this and Bob Way military staged a bloody takeover of the diamond fields and the country's Murang`a district and they slaughtered some two hundred civilian miners for the next six years. Certain factors of the government's armed forces military and police oversaw a brutal and ruthless program of torture and forced labor including forced child labor and their class to pilfer the diamond fields in two thousand eleven. Human Rights Watch documented a pervasive program of sexual violence against workers at the hands of the private security company hired to protect the Tara Mine in Papua New Guinea. While Canadian Gold Mining Company began mining operations in the Maroteaux district of northern Uganda without even notifying or securing the necessary rights or permissions from the indigenous Karamojong community. The grim reality is that gold around your neck. The silver on your wrist the platinum on your finger or the gems in your ears may very well have come for one of these mines or others like them but do not despair dress listeners. Because today we're going to bring you an episode which hopefully informs and educates you about some of these issues that are going on in the jewelry industry and we hope to shut a light on the ever growing movement to write these wrongs and also to institute responsibility and transparency all along the supply chain in the Jewelry Industry today. We are joined by jewelry designer educator and activist. Bliss Lau to talk about ethics and responsibility in the jewelry trade and what we as a consumer can do to effect change. Bless all welcome to the show bliss. Welcome to the show thanks I'm happy to be here. Yeah we're so excited to talk about Jewelry Today. But before we delve into what? I think will be some rather surprising subject matter for a lot of our listeners. I'm hoping that you can tell us a little bit about your own background. And how did you become a jewelry designer and specifically when did you begin zeroing in on some of the problems in the jewelry industry that we're going to cover today sure I? I went to Parsons as a studied fashion design and then I actually started off as a handbag designer and I did that for several years and I used to have this handbag that had the chains down the front of it that looked like the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge and at some point because I studied fashion design. I kind of was procrastinating. And for fun I made myself a body chain with a chain that had used on my handbags and it became like a huge explosive interest in the industry. Basically like what we would call viral. Now that was actually I was viral and it was the first time I ever heard the word was when it went. Viral eventually made myself actually. My first ring was a ring called the kaleidoscope bring which is still in my collection and because I studied apparel I wanted to make a ring that referenced apparel in the sense of when you get dressed you get up every day. It's a form of identity so you choose to put on your shirt and your jacket and your outfit and is who you are and when I wanted to enter into jewelry space. I didn't want to create something. That was an imposition on your body. I wanted to create something that in that same way would give you choice. The kaleidoscope ring is one ring made a four pieces so every single day. You can choose to wear it differently and it can evoke personality. That's what I love about it. I actually am mostly a bespoke bridal designer now and I have moved into fine jewelry in around twenty fourteen and I did that because it wasn't really a plan My now husband proposed to me with a sketchbook and asked me to design my own rang and it was actually at the Metropolitan Museum at the Alexander McQueen show Oh lovely because he knows I love fashion and it was the first experience that I had in picking out a gemstone and thinking about fine jewelry and then learning about fine jewelry and eventually I stopped making costume jewelry and just fully dove into making fine jewelry and bespoke bridal so we know each other quite well so I know your work quite well. You have been struggling a lot personally with some of the ethics within the jewelry industry and this is like one of the new major directions of your work. So when did you first start becoming aware that there were problems? I mean all of us we. Everyone knows that there are certain issues when it comes to gold and diamonds and things like that but it feels like a really big idea and when it's a really big idea it doesn't feel like you can do anything and one of the things that I love about. The jewelry industry is that your industry is essentially made up of a millions and millions of independent small businesses myself included. And when I started one of the things that I did that really made me realize that I could make an impact with my design and also simultaneously made me realize how challenging it can be was

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