Ethical Jewelry Exposé: Lies, Damn Lies, and Conflict Free Diamonds

Ethical Jewelry Expose

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Executive Summary

An estimated 3.7 million people have died in wars funded by diamonds. Millions more around the world are being poisoned by mercury from gold mining, destroying the environment just so they can scrape by to survive in their destitute lives. All this is in the name of luxury products and love symbols. Yet, the hot trend is for mainstream jewelers to brand themselves as “ethical” and “responsible.” The Ethical Jewelry Exposé reveals the origins of the “responsible jewelry” or “ethical jewelry” narratives by disentangling a complex web of interconnected relationships.
Executive summary continued...

All writing and images are open source, under Creative Commons 3.0. Any reproduction of this material must back link to this page. For high resolution images for publication, contact us at expose(AT)reflectivejewelry.com.
Foreword: Birth Of The Movement

The author recounts what he considers the birth of the North American responsible/ethical jewelry movement in 2006 and the trade’s response, his insider status, and offers a broad outline of ethical jewelry issues.

The Ethical Jewelry Manifesto

Concrete action items that can seed a campaign for broad market disruption, opening the way for an ethical jewelry movement in North America based entirely on sourcing from small-scale producer communities.

Table of Contents

Suggestions on how to approach reading this work.

The Pure Water People Parable

A story about mining and jewelry sourcing that serves as a central parable for the Exposé, followed by an introduction to plight of the small-scale artisan miner and a definition of responsible/ethical jewelry.

First Russian Doll: Manufacturing Consent
Introduction to the jewelry sector’s “One Language” orthodoxy; the layers of babble, the nesting doll metaphor and examples of how journalists and bloggers manufacture consent based on a narrative that supports the agendas of large-scale mining and retail interests.
Second Russian Doll: The Responsible Jewellery Council
Introduction to the nonprofit Responsible Jewellery Council a primary source of the “One Language.” The method here is a retrospective of their homepage, as interpreting the evolution of the images found there over time illustrate the nuances of their policies and narratives projected to the trade and public.
Third Russian Doll: "A Trade Association"
The Responsible Jewellery Council is really “a trade association with a product stewardship focus” with standards “unashamedly cribbed” from highly reputable organizations. Since 2009, Non-governmental watchdogs have had little power to influence this increasingly powerful trade association.
Fourth Russian Doll: RJC Chain of Custody Scheme
The Responsible Jewellery Council chain of custody scheme practice and its lack of truly independent oversite. Numerous examples are provided of purported standards not being upheld, as well as alleged atrocities of certified Responsible Jewellery Council members documented by journalists and watchdog groups.
Fifth Russian Doll: Death of the Fair Trade Diamond

The Responsible Jewellery Council’s Memorandums of Understanding with the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Diamond Development Initiative, the new “responsible gold,” and the death of the fair trade diamond. Positive stories allowing large multinationals to create “responsible” supply chains which change little on the ground or in the broader market.

Sixth Russian Doll: Kimberley Process' Damn Lies

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (Kimberley Process) and the origin of the conflict free narrative, how De Beers made conflict diamonds a virtue, the Responsible Jewellery Council’s endorsement of Zimbabwe diamonds undermining the Kimberley Process ethical veracity, and how Non-governmental watchdog groups lost the Faustian bargain by partnering with diamond sector.

Seventh Russian Doll: Lies, Damn Lies, and Conflict Free Diamonds

How the notion of a “conflict free diamond” is finessed by ethical jewelers to create a new diamond story, reinforcing Kimberley Process narrative while denouncing the process itself.

Eighth Russian Doll: Brilliant Earth's Long, Tall Tale

A critique of Brilliant Earth’s consumer-facing marketing, including its endorsement of the Responsible Jewellery Council, its fair trade gold origin story, the marking of “fair trade,” advocacy of recycled gold, and its diamond narrative.

The Center: Jewelry, Neocolonialism, and Strange Fruit
How the historical origins of the current neocolonial practices of the Responsible Jewellery Council can be traced back in history to the origin of early globalism and modernism.
Epilogue: Author's Personal Musings
The author’s personal reflections, including his Oro Verde story, and confessions of complicity in building the current narrative, his own ancestral connection to diamond sourcing, his belief that one plus one never equals two, and deeper motivations behind the writing.
Human Rights Watch's Behind the Bling: A Strategic Analysis
An analysis of the recent Human Rights Watch “Beyond The Bling” campaign, with suggestions for alternative strategies and collaborative opportunities.
Fairtrade/Fairmined Gold in the US/UK
The author’s personal account on the emergence of Fairtrade/Fairmined, the success of Fairtrade Gold in the UK, and its subsequent failures of Fairmined and Fairtrade Gold to gain impactful market share in the US/North America.

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