February 14, 2007
Top US Jewelry Retailers Get the Gold for Signing Responsibility Pledge
by Anne Moore Odell
In time for Valentineís Day, seven out of the top ten US jewelry retailers sign No Dirty Goldís
"Golden Rules" to back responsible gold mining practices.
Although many people have heard about the social and environmental hazards in the diamond mining
industry, a.k.a. "blood diamonds," there has been less public awareness of the environmental and
social hazards accrued in mining for gold. The No Dirty Gold campaign, founded by Oxfam America and EARTHWORKS, is working to educate retailers
and the public to the true cost of gold.
Eleven retailers recently showed their
support for No Dirty Gold by signing the campaignís Golden Rules, which brings the total number of
US jewelry retailers who have agreed to embrace responsible mining up to 19. Seven out of ten of
the top US Jewelry retailers are now represented. The new pledges are Ben Bridge Jeweler, Birks &
Mayors, Boscovís, Brilliant Earth, Commemorative Brands, Fred Meyer and Littman Jewelers, Leber
Jeweler, Michaels Jewelers, QVC, TurningPoint and Wal-Mart.
The eight pioneer pledge
signers were Cartier, Fortunoff, Helzberg Diamonds, Piaget, the Signet Group, Tiffany & Co., Van
Cleef & Arpels. and Zale Corp. Together these 19 companies generate nearly $12 billion in retail
jewelry sales, or 22% of the total US jewelry sales.
The Golden Rules ask mining
companies to meet basic social, human and environmental criteria. Some of these standards include
the informed consent of mining communities, safe working conditions, and workers rights. Mining
companies must also take care of the environment by not dumping mine wastes in water sources,
protecting fragile ecosystems, and picking up all the costs of closing down mining operations.
Importantly, the Golden Rules require mining companies to allow independent verification of meeting
"We approach retailers by simply asking to have a conversation with them
about gold-sourcing issues. Initially, retailers were reluctant to have these conversations as they
believed that gold-mining was not an issue that affected them," said Keith Slack, Senior Policy
Advisor for Oxfam America and Co-Director of the No Dirty Gold campaign. "As the campaign has
advanced, however, more and more retailers are coming to understand that irresponsible gold-mining
practices can have a direct impact on their brands. It's important to remember that 80% of gold
that is mined today is used to make jewelry."
Signing the Golden Rules pledge was right
thing to do, Jon Bridge, Co-CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler, told SocialFunds.com. "We take the impact
of our companyís supply chain seriously and we believe all mining and manufacturing should be
conducted in a manner that respects the needs of current and future generations. Our company has
long been involved in ethical and principled leadership through the Jewelers of America, and we
were early members of the Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices."
No Dirty Gold
continues its work of including more major jewelry retailers on its list of companies that have
signed the Golden Rules. Slack commented, "Target Corporation is a major jewelry retailer that
unfortunately is lagging behind other retailers in this respect. We would like to get them on
board." Other "laggards" named by No Dirty Gold include J.C. Penney, Rolex, Sears/Kmart and
Whitehall Jewelers. However, Slack reported that Whitehall said they will soon sign the Golden
Rules pledge and No Dirty Gold looks forward to moving Whitehall off the "laggards" list.
Target has responded to these criticisms by establishing its "Standards of Vendor Engagement"
which works to guarantee that its vendors follow appropriate practices for all the merchandise
Target sells, including gold jewelry.
Public awareness of gold mining practices is still
in its infancy. As Jon Bridge of Ben Bridge Jewelry observed, "There is not overwhelming response
or even awareness from the consumer level at this time." However, besides the 19 retailers that
have signed the Golden Rules, individuals can sign the No Dirty Gold Golden Rules available on
The next step is for mining companies to actively respond to the retailersí
demands and supply "clean" gold. Jewelry retailers and consumers are sending a clear signal to the
mining industry that "dirty" gold is not acceptable. Nobody wants their wedding band or engagement
ring to come at the cost of clean water or human rights. Just as with organic food, fair-trade
coffee, and sweatshop-free garments consumers want to be able to buy jewelry that is responsibly
A number of mining companies, jewelry retailers and NGOs have entered into
discussions to develop a certification system for gold and metals. The Initiative for Responsible
Mining Assurance (IRMA) first met in June 2006 with the objective of developing an independent
certification process for minerals.
Tiffany, one of the first retailers to sign the
pledge, has taken control of most of its gold products. "The largest portion of the gold and
silver contained in Tiffany jewelry is obtained from a single US mine, which operates in a
sustainable and environmentally sound manner," said Linda Buckley, Vice President, Media Relations
for Tiffany. "The metal is then fabricated in Tiffany's own facility before being crafted into
Tiffany jewelry, either in our own manufacturing facilities or those of our manufacturing
partners," she added.
Commemorative Brands, the parent company of Balfour, ArtCarved, and
Keystone class rings brands, was the first class ring company to sign the Golden Rules. Matt Gase,
Commemorative Brandís General Manager said that the companyís commitment to social responsibility
reflects the "values of the many students around the country who have a deep commitment to human
rights and the environment." As the jewelry buying public and jewelry retailers make this
commitment to change, the mining companies will undoubtedly feel the pressure to improve their