It’s almost Mothers Day, and mom who knows right from wrong better then anybody, doesn’t want a gift sourced from others’ suffering. As a daughter, adoring aunt, and buyer at the Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores, I know that Fair Trade jewelry is always the right gift for mom. Jewelry sales soar in our stores this time of year and luckily we have a large selection of jewelry that is sourced right.
A majority of the jewelry in the mainstream market is sourced from silver and gold mines in the Global South. The extraction of these metals is highly toxic and destructive to mining communities and environments. Countless examples exist of high fatality rates in miners, poisoned water sources, sickened families, and destroyed ecosystems. Check out the powerful example of Canadian Goldcorp mine in Guatemala from the perspective of the indigenous Mayan community in the award winning documentary Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth.
Here’s where it gets complicated: silver and gold smiths from the hill-tribes of northern Thailand to the pueblos around Mexico City continue long traditions of metal work that supports their communities and families. We believe that the work of these small-scale gold and silver smiths should be supported, and for this reason we carry a limited amount of their jewelry in our stores.
While the primary focus of the Fair Trade craft movement up until now has been the labor that goes into the final product (gotta start somewhere), many of us are asking what about the raw materials?
Amazing alternatives to gold and silver are available today. Much of the jewelry we carry in the Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores is handmade from recycled metals or natural materials. My favorite line is the jewelry made from tagua nut, also known as eco-ivory for its color, beauty and resilience. The smooth white palm seed, about the size of an avocado pit, is collected from the rainforest floor after having fallen as fruit and usually stripped of its edible layers by animals.
Before the invention of plastics, and when ivory had become scarce, tagua seeds had been used for hundreds of years as a raw material for luxury goods, but with the invention and increased use of plastics, tagua was not put to use. In the last decade, with an increase in environmental awareness, tagua is valued again for its beauty and characteristics as a natural, biodegradable, and renewable resource. The tagua used in the production of our jewelry, is sourced from strictly government-controlled environments, making sure that sufficient seeds are left to perpetuate the palms and the tagua native habitat.
Unlike many lines of seed jewelry, which may be playful but not a substitute for gemstones set in silver and gold, this line of tagua is simple and stunning. The smooth ivory-like seeds are carved into slabs, died in vibrant color, and sometimes etched into elegant, one-of-a-kind pieces. And like gemstones or precious metals, I was thrilled to learn that tagua comes in different qualities depending on where it is sourced. The tagua jewelry that we carry is handmade in Colombia, where the level of moisture in the air determines the quality of a seed that can be carved into a solid smooth slab.
63 artisans in Bogota, Colombia find full-time work in the production of the tagua jewelry that we carry. The company assures that all business decisions are made democratically, with pricing being set collectively by the workers. A majority of the artisans make the jewelry in their homes and come to a center, which conducts regular 3rd party inspections and evaluations for work-site safety, to drop off their product and attend meetings.
This Mothers Day, explore your options, and use your buying power to promote socially responsible industry that has a positive impact on people and native habitats. I know mom would approve!
Check out our full selection of Fair Trade jewelry at the Global Exchange Stores today!