Your engagement ring will probably be the most precious (both in monetary and sentimental value) piece of jewellery you will ever own. It represents the hope and promise of a life to be lived together. It is the start of your journey into married life that may well include children and grandchildren. It is a knowing that you have found the one to walk by your side on this crazy journey we call life. It is a happy time, a blessed time!
All of these feelings of hope, love and promise are expressed symbolically through this one ring; a ring that will be cherished forever, destined to become a family heirloom with a story to tell.
Sometimes a man may be brave enough to choose the ring for himself and surprise his bride to be and others may find the ring they love together. Whatever way you reach the moment of deciding to buy a ring you may want to pause a minute and have a think about the provenance and history of the materials that went into the making of it.
What happens if the ring I choose to buy is not an ethical engagement ring?
The world of gold mining is a dark and destructive force; in fact, it represents the exact opposite of all the lovely feelings I have just described above. Let me explain:
Gold mining is one of THE most destructive practices in the word today and is responsible for many horrendous human rights violations as well as harmful environmental processes.
I know right? Who wants to wear an engagement ring that violated others human rights?!
Let’s take a look at how these rights have been violated:
- Child labour; 65,000 children working in gold mines in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru alone and tens of thousands more in Africa, Columbia and Brazil. Each poorly paid and risking death from mercury, dust, heat, tunnel collapse, explosions and falling rocks to name but a few of the hazards they face.
- Sex trafficking; prevalent in many gold mining camps, set up by Organized crime groups who buy girls as young as 11 or even less. Vera Belazelkoska reported that more than 2,000 mostly underage girls are forced into brothels inside the Madre de Dios mining sites in Peru. A human rights lawyer told her that the bodies of young girls are found every day on the side of the road.
- Mining companies have forced their way into the Amazon rainforest, killing and harming the indigenous tribes who are wanting to protect their ancestral lands that provide their livelihoods and provide food and shelter for them and their families. Some of these tribes are being forced into slavery to mine for gold.
- The Yanomani tribe, who live in the rainforest in Brazil and Venezuela have been shot, had their villages destroyed and are being continually exposed to diseases such as malaria that they have no immunity against. Some of them have been found with slave numbers tattooed on their shoulders.
- Small-scale artisanal gold miners being paid less than $2 a day to feed their families
- Extremely dangerous working conditions including the handling of mercury which causes illness and disease as well as birth defects in their children.
If that is not enough to convince you to buy an ethical engagement ring, let’s take a look at the destruction it causes to the environment:
- Deforestation of vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest by mining companies in search of gold. In Columbia is it estimated that 25 acres of rainforest are being destroyed every day in the Madre de Dios region in Peru’s Amazon Basin, bordering Brazil and Bolivia.
- The dumping of mercury and cyanide (approx. 180 million tons a year!) into our rivers and subsoils, causing the death of fish and other aquatic animals and wildlife; effectively killing our mother earth and its inhabitants. The large mining corporations have created dams to prevent the leaking of mercury into our rivers and oceans, but there are reports of at least two dams a year bursting and spilling vast quantities of mercury. Mercury poisoning can travel for more than 500km downstream. As well as hundreds of tons of airborne mercury particles, poisoning the air we breathe.
Can I buy an ethical engagement ring that has been made with recycled gold?
Many jewellers have jumped on the ethical marketing bandwagon and have adopted the use of the term ‘recycled gold’ claiming it to be ethical or eco gold; but here’s why it doesn’t live up to its ethical credentials:
- Large quantities of gold are being smuggled into the west, by Organised crime syndicates, who have adopted the above strategies to obtain it. Gold mining has now become a bigger business than the exportation of cocaine in South America and is finding its way into our jewellery via nefarious means, often ending up being unwittingly recycled in bonafide recycling centres. You simply cannot trace this ‘recycled gold’ back to its origins, and therefore it continues to strengthen the production of newly mined gold.
- Buying recycled gold does not help to stop the exploitation of small-scale gold miners, indigenous tribes, innocent children and victims of slavery and sex trafficking; nor does it doesn’t prevent the destruction of our environment.
So, there you have it. Now you know…
I certainly would not want to look at my forever engagement ring and think of all the bad shit that had happened along the way (death, destruction, trafficking and slavery) just for it to reach my second finger on the left. It would make me feel so sad. Which is why I only use certified Fairtrade gold that can be traced back to its origins with a fully transparent history.
Hopefully, this information has helped you make an informed choice about the ring you decided to buy for your engagement or any other gold jewellery you may consider buying in the future.
What type of ethical engagement ring should I buy?
One that has been made with 100% certified Fairtrade gold with conflict-free stones and gemstones.