The author in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, USA.
My wife and I founded our designer jewelry company, Reflective Jewelry, back in 1995. Neither of us had any business experience. We had both traveled widely and lived in developing countries.
Fairjewelry.org first started in 2007, and at that time it was the first ethical jewelry blog in the world. At that time we employed 15 people in our Santa Fe shop. We had been attended major trade events for many years, including the Designer Section at JCK. We sold our product in hundreds of stores nation wide and sold forty to sixty wedding rings a month on our websites.
I focused on writing about jewelry issues from an insider’s perspective. Yet, I was always felt like an outsider in context to the jewelry trade. Before starting our company I taught in a high school for Native Americans; and before that I spent two years as a volunteer in Haiti, running an orphanage and working in Mother Teresa’s clinics in the slums around Port au Prince.
My involvement in business was informed by my passion for environmental and social justice issues. Since April, 2015, my company has been the only certified Fairtade Gold jeweler in the USA. Thus, my writing emphasized fair trade, human rights, and environmental impact in context to the jewelry sector.
In 2012, Greg Valerio joined me and we launched Fair Jewelry Action (FJA). FJA initiated several ground-breaking initiatives and campaigns. We were a strong and influencial advocate for fairtrade gold before and after its formal launch in 2011. We launched fUplifting The Earth, and a broader campaign on behalf of Native Greenland ruby miners.
We advocated traceability and transparency in the supply chain. Our objective was to direct more of the wealth creation of the jewelry sector in small-scale artisan producer communities– particularly in context to cultural integrity and assuring environmental sustainability.
During the last few years, mainly due to business challenges, I did not have time to write articles. We almost lost our company. Valerio pulled out of participating in FJA in 2016 and soon after retired from jewelry.
Given my lack of engagement, I had to make a decision as to whether I should take down the blog or keep it. Once I started writing the on ethical jewelry sourcing, the way forward became clear.
The jewelry landscape has changed since I first launched this blog over ten years ago. The notion of “ethical” has been co-opted by corporate voices and vested interests who want to create the appearance of “responsible jewelry practices.” Despite the attention ethical issues garner in the larger jewelry trade, there has been little change on the ground for producer communities which supply jewelers with their mined products.
Moving forward, I plan on utilizing FJA to comment on issues of concern and to launch new campaigns that will catalyzed changes in the North American jewelry sector.