By July 2018, Swiss luxury watch and jewellery brand Chopard will use only 100% ethically-sourced gold in its products.
These days, an increasing number of us are opting to let our consumption choices reflect our commitment towards a more sustainable lifestyle — whether it’s adopting for a “buy less, buy better” approach, to taking the trouble to find out whether our food is organically farmed or ethically caught, or if our clothes and shoes feature eco-friendly materials and are produced in non-sweatshop conditions.
Funnily enough, the issue of sustainability rarely crops up when we’re bedazzled by the bling of fancy watches and jewellery — something especially ironic since it’s estimated that 20 tonnes of rock and soil must be dislodged and discarded during the gold mining process to produce enough raw gold to make just a single ring.
According to Smithsonian.com, “Much of this (mining) waste carries with it mercury and cyanide, which are used to extract the gold from the rock. The resulting erosion clogs streams and rivers and can eventually taint marine ecosystems far downstream of the mine site. Exposing the deep earth to air and water also causes chemical reactions that produce sulfuric acid, which can leak into drainage systems”.
Guardian.com states that “about a fifth of the world’s gold produced every year comes from small-scale mines where millions of people work in hazardous conditions without access to modern technology … The ad hoc process is not only harmful for the individuals involved, some of whom are children, but pollutes their local environment. It is also highly inefficient, on average extracting only 40% of the available gold”.
If it’s impossible for you to give up your penchant for shiny pretty things, perhaps the next best thing is to go for vintage pieces, or to buy products made with ethically-sourced gold.
During the recent Baselworld 2018, leading Swiss luxury watch and jewellery brand Chopard announced that by 1 July 2018, it will be using 100% ethical gold — which it defines as “gold acquired from responsible sources, verified as having met international best practice environmental and social standards”. This makes them the first company in the high-jewellery business to do so.
Chopard’s gold will come from two traceable routes:
- Artisanal freshly mined gold from small-scale mines participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA), Fairmined and Fairtrade schemes; or
- from Responsbile Jewellery Council (RJC) Chain of Custody gold, through Chopard’s partnership with RJC-certified refineries.
Actor and Chopard Ambassador Colin Firth: “This commitment to ethical gold and to the continuing support of artisanal gold will really make a difference to the people at the beginning of the gold supply chain — people who are often forgotten. At a time when so many of our commodities are virtual, a watch remains tangible. And the story of a watch is very much to do with hands: there are hands that mine the ground for gold, which passes through the hands of the craftsmen who make the watch, which then passes into the hands of the person who’s going to wear it.”
Actress and Chopard Ambassador Julianne Moore, added: “As someone who has the opportunity to wear beautiful clothes and jewellery on the red carpet, it is wonderful to have an ethical choice. I can feel good about what I am wearing and by wearing it, tell a story about responsible business choices!”
In actual fact, Chopard, which was founded in 1860 and taken over by the Scheufele family in 1963, has been working towards sustainability for the past three decades. Here are the key milestones:
1978: Developed vertically integrated in-house production and invested in mastering all the crafts, from a rare in-house gold foundry, to the skills of high jewellery artisans and expert watchmakers. This enabled Chopard to manage all the processes from manufacturing to final product.
2013: Unveiled The Journey to Sustainable Luxury initiative in partnership with sustainability consultancy Eco Age (founded by Colin Firth’s wife, Livia). This multi-year programme sought to improve the environment and the lives of those at the very beginning of the supply chain. It partnered with South American NGO Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) to support artisanal mines, and unveiled the first Green Collection creations, a delicate cuff bracelet and matching earrings set in Fairmined gold and using diamonds from RJC certified suppliers, which French actress Marion Cotillard wore on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.
2014: At Baselworld, Chopard launched the world’s first Haute Horlogerie watch made of Fairmined gold, the L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined. For the Cannes Film Festival, Chopard crafted the Palme d’Or trophies in Fairmined gold. Chopard co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele was presented the Environmentalist of the Year Award at the Bravo Business Awards, and with the United Nation’s Fashion 4 Development Award.
2015: Chopard supported a new artisanal gold mine in Bolivia, launched new pieces for the Green Carpet Collection of High Jewellery and another Fairmined Watch, the L.U.C XPS Fairmined. It also launched Palme Verte, its first diffusion jewellery in Fairmined gold inspired by the design of the famous Palme d’Or. Announced a partnership with Swiss refiner, Precinox, to establish the world’s first secure commercial export route for Fairmined gold from Bolivia to Europe.
2016: Announced a partnership with one of the world’s leading suppliers of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, Gemfields, and unveiled a capsule collection of Green Carpet High Jewellery featuring responsibly sourced emeralds, which Julianne Moore debuted on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Launched the L.U.C Full Strike, its first minute repeater, crafted in 18ct rose Fairmined gold.
2017: Chopard revealed a unique capsule collection in the Green Carpet Collection, the Garden of Kalahari, crafted from an incredible D Flawless diamond from Botswana, responsibly sourced in the mine of Karowe: the Queen of Kalahari, and Fairmined Gold, which Charlize Theron wore on the red carpet at Cannes. Launched new pieces from the Ice Cube collection, a jewellery diffusion line crafted in Fairmined gold.
Launched a fragrance range of four unisex scents containing sustainable ingredients. At Milan Fashion Week’s inaugural Green Carpet Fashion Awards, the award statuettes presented to winners such as Valentino, Prada, Gucci and Armani were crafted by Chopard using Fairmined gold. In light of the escalating Rohingya crisis in Burma, Chopard ceased sourcing Burmese gemstones.
2018: Chopard announced that by July 2018, it will use 100% responsibly sourced gold in all jewellery and watches and measure impact against UN Global Goals for sustainable development.
On Chopard’s promise to use 100% ethical gold:
“It is a bold commitment, but one that we must pursue if we are to make a difference to the lives of people who make our business possible.”
– Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard
All images courtesy of Chopard