You might know which shop your go-to statement necklace or favourite gold earrings were bought in, but what about who made them, where the materials came from and at what cost to workers? Fair trade doesn’t begin and end at coffee and chocolate, there are lots of brands in other sectors working to make sure the makers and producers have got a fair deal, not least an increasing number in the jewellery world. Happily, there are lots of jewellery designers, makers and sellers who can answer those questions, and craft gorgeous, ethically sourced pieces.
How do you know if something has been made according to fair trade principles? Accreditation can be confusing. The Fairtrade Foundation is the body that licences the use of its Fairtrade mark on products in the UK (look out for its distinctive label, and note the one-word spelling). Only certain materials have a set standard. It brought in the gold mark in 2011 and the silver one in 2013, meaning that producers have shown that the small-scale miners working on extracting the precious metals were paid fairly and can invest in living and working conditions in their communities. The British designers on this list all currently source their gold from Peru, but there are African mines in the pipeline to be accredited.
Some brands here may not have the UK Fairtrade mark, but might be members of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) or the British Association of Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS) and are dedicated to trading fairly. It may be that the materials used, such as brass, do not have a set Fairtrade standard, but the groups they work with operate within a certain set of fair trade guidelines. It is always worth asking for more information to see what the claims are based on and for more information on the standards they are adhering to.
We talked to the people behind the brands and some of the designers and makers to find out as much as we could about the provenance of the pieces. All of these stood up to scrutiny and are jewellery that we’d love to wear. Prices start at £20 for brass beauties and go up to four figures for the likes of diamonds and other precious stones set in gold.
1. Cred Jewellery Origins Ear Jacket: £59, Cred Jewellery
Cred has been a trailblazer for the fair trade jewellery movement and is passionate about ethical mining practices. It was behind the first transparent supply chain of gold and platinum from Colombia in 2003 and has continued to work with companies and accrediting bodies to make sure jewellers know the origins of the precious metals they’re using. It uses Fairtrade-certified silver and gold from the Sotrami mine in southern Peru in its collections (where a lot on the gold on this list comes from). We’re fans of its Origins range with the pretty three-dimensional designs. The ear jackets – a decorative earring back that sits below the earlobe and comes with a stud – are our favourite. Made from silver with rose-gold plating, the teal enamel on the stud really makes these pop.
2. People Tree Arrow Necklace: £20, People Tree
People Tree is another fair trade pioneer and uses Fairtrade-certified organic cotton in its clothing range. The brand also has a jewellery line for which it partners with artisan groups to ensure workers get a fair deal. The collection is made up of simple but striking geometric shapes in brass and natural colours. This brass and bone arrow pendant is the work of Bomboulou, a fair trade Kenyan business that gives opportunities to makers with physical disabilities.
3. Just Trade Alexandra Bangle: £30, Just Trade
East London-based Just Trade works with eight groups of artisans worldwide to produce stylish handmade jewellery. This striking brass bangle was made by women from the Hope Jewellery project based in Lima, Peru, a fair trade project that helps its makers provide a more secure future for their families. Gently prise the cuff to get it on, then you can adjust the fit depending how you want it to look on your wrist. Also look out for the brand’s eye-catching coloured necklaces made from polished tagua nuts, known as “vegetable ivory”.
4. Mosami Do Small Things With Love Cuff: £124.95, Ethical Superstore
Made using Fairtrade sterling silver from the Sotrami mine in Southern Peru, this pretty cuff with a raised leafy decoration makes a great present for an ethically minded loved one. It’s hand-stamped with the quote: “Do small things with great love” (the words of Mother Theresa, no less). Part of the proceeds will go to Made By Survivors, a charity that works with victims of trafficking in India, Nepal and Cambodia.
5. Argos Fairtrade 9ct Gold Court Shape Wedding Ring: From £129.99, Argos
Last year, Argos began stocking Fairtrade gold wedding bands, with the metal also coming from Sotrami. The selection is simple but elegant – choose from a classic D or court shape in white or yellow gold. Each band comes in a number of different thicknesses. If you don’t have a huge wedding budget and provenance is important, a set of these will win you some brownie points.
6. The Rock Hound Fairtrade Yellow Gold Nugget Ring: £360, The Rock Hound
The Rock Hound’s founder Susi Smither has been a Fairtrade gold licensee since she set up her brand in east London in 2015. Her GoldRush collection makes the metal, also from the Sotrami mine, the star of the show. “It looks like it came out of the ground so it will get people engaging with the connection between mine and market,” she says. Each piece is handmade in the Hackney studio and you get irregular little nuggets on earrings, a necklace, a ring and a brooch. We love this gold ring for its striking imperfectness.
7. Christina Oswin Rocks Stacking Rings: £175 each, Christina Oswin
We’re suckers for a stackable ring, so these ones with a cool hammered “gemstone” detail caught our eye. Christina works from her Bath studio and uses Fairtrade gold and silver in many of her designs (anyone thinking of popping the question should have a look at her textured wedding bands). She sources the metal for this sweet stack from Peru. Choose from white, rose or yellow gold – or better still, get someone to treat you to all three.
8. Zoraida Fairtrade Gold Shooting Star Pendant: £200, Catherine Zoraida
Catherine Zoraida has an impressive CV. The Colombian-born, Scottish-raised jeweller has previously designed collections for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Lulu Guinness and now her own range of handmade jewellery has won her fans beyond the fashion world. With intricate, playful pieces inspired by the natural world – from seahorses to strawberries – she’s introducing fairly traded metals into her collection and is soon to be launching a bigger range around this 9ct gold shooting star pendant. The pendant’s dainty, at 8mm across, and comes on a 16-inch chain (other length options are available). The Duchess of Cambridge is a Zoraida fan, so investing in one of the pieces would put you in good company.
9. Arabel Lebrusan Braided Ethical Gold Wedding Ring: £324, Arabel Lebrusan
This Bedford-based designer has a large collection of intricately crafted Fairtrade-certified pieces, many of which have a vintage vibe to them. This delicate 18ct braided ring is a 1.8mm band that comes in yellow, white or rose gold from Peru’s Sotrami mine. If you’re looking for an engagement ring, there are lots of options featuring ethically sourced gemstones too.
10. Made Honeycomb Necklace: £40, Made
Made aces affordable statement brass jewellery that becomes the star of an outfit, while working with everything in your wardrobe. It’s a quality that has not escaped the fashion pack. Over the years it has collaborated with the likes of Whistles, Topshop and Asos. The jewellery is handmade in the Kenyan workshop, and the brand strives to provide a safe and fair environment for workers. Materials are sourced from local businesses and Made uses reclaimed brass where possible. We’d pair this honeycomb-inspired necklace with a black tee to show it off.
11. Arctic Circle Northern Lights Earrings: £1020, Clearwater Diamonds
Arctic Circle’s mantra is “It’s cool to care”, and we agree. The British maker uses diamonds that are fully traceable – that means they’ve been mined responsibly – with minimum impact on the natural environment, and the workers have been paid a fair wage. The jewels here come from north-west Canada and then are set in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter using Fairtrade gold. The Northern Lights collection features some striking shapes, like these elegant curls. There are also pendants and drop earrings in the range.
12. Oria Heart hook earrings: £298, Oria Jewellery
London brand Oria might specialise in wedding and engagement rings, but it does some other Fairtrade-certifed pieces in gold and silver, like these pretty textured heart earrings, made from 18ct gold. These also come in a stud version and as a pendant necklace. The hearts are 6mm across, so ideal for anyone who prefers jewellery on the delicate side.
13. Julia Thompson Two For Joy: £662, Julia Thompson
Julia Thompson is based in rural Somerset and her intricate designs are influenced by the surrounding countryside, including her “Two for Joy” magpie-themed collection. The pieces are handmade using Fairtrade-certified gold from Sotrami and recycled silver and you don’t need to be superstitious to appreciate this pair of birds drawn to the diamond quartz jewel. Choose from a 16- or 18-inch chain, as this piece is made to order, it will take four to six weeks (you can also get a bespoke version made from entirely Fairtrade gold for £832).
14. Alexis Dove Rose Gold with Peach Sapphire Ring: £980, Alexis Dove
All of Alexis Dove’s bespoke engagement and wedding rings are available in 18ct Fairtrade yellow or white gold from Peru. The collection, handmade in Sussex, features sparkling sapphires, rubies and diamonds on hammered gold bands, combining to give the pieces an almost vintage feel. This one, with its oblong-shaped, peachy pink, cushion-cut sapphire, is seriously pretty. You’ll need to contact the designer for the Fairtrade option.
The verdict: ethical jewellery
For an affordable piece using fairly mined metals, try Brit fair trade trailblazer Cred jewellery. If you have a bit more to spend, we love the originality of The Rock Hound’s designs that lets the metal do the talking. Anyone after an engagement or wedding ring, try Arabel Lebrusan for gorgeous vintage-inspired creations with a contemporary twist.
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