With Love from Laura
What is ‘responsible jewellery’? And how is Fenton ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainable’?
Wondering what ‘responsible jewellery’ is? Discover our expert guide, to help you buy your jewellery consciously.
Jewellery is something which we all treasure, often given or received to mark a special milestone in our lives which is why we believe jewellery should always come with integrity, and be something that you can be proud to own. But what exactly is responsible and sustainable jewellery? And how do you determine which jeweller to buy from?
What is sustainable business?
The concept of corporate social responsibility or ‘good business’ is not new. However it has gained huge prominence in public discussion in recent years. You may have seen debates around ethical or sustainable sourcing emerge, only to be followed by accusations that, rather than leaning into these policies wholeheartedly, brands have paid lip-service to them, a practise that is commonly known as ‘green-washing’, making it difficult for consumers to know who to trust and which brands to buy from.
What is ethical jewellery?
Broadly speaking the term ‘ethical jewellery’ is used to refer to any jewellery which is seen to have a lesser impact on our planet and its people than traditional jewellery making practices. This can be anything from recyclable packaging, using recycled gold, off-setting carbon emissions, through to conscious supply chains practices. The problem here is there is a lot of ambiguity within this - there is no one clear universal definition.
The same can also be said for the terms ‘ethical diamonds’ and ‘ethical gemstones’ as there are so many factors at play, and a lack of a distinct criteria on which the terms can be judged.
How is Fenton jewellery ‘responsible’ and ‘sustainable’?
This is why, when we were discussing how to talk about our sourcing practices and supply chain at Fenton, the standard words such as ‘ethical jewellery’ and ‘sustainable jewellery’ didn’t feel right for us. That’s not because these aren’t good terms with excellent meanings, it’s more that by the time we came to the debate they had become popularised and at moments even contentious.
We were looking for a simple, truthful way to describe what we do, how we do it and what goes into the making of the products and packaging that end up in your hand. To do that it felt like we had to develop our own vocabulary alongside the supply chain itself to describe it... and here it is.
Here we were really inspired by Everlane and the concept of ‘radical transparency’ they floated back in 2010. The idea that one of the most important things you can do as a brand is to just give your customer the facts still feels as powerful today as it did then.
The jewellery industry is famously murky and sadly there are many brands that don’t even know what is happening in their own supply chains, let alone take responsibility for it.
One of our main priorities has been to ensure that, not only do we know what’s going on with the wider sourcing environment for our gemstones or on the factory floor of our partner ateliers, but as much as we reasonably can, we communicate this information to you. That’s why we’re the first company in the world that will tell each of every one of our customers the country of origin of their particular gemstone, something that we’re all very proud of.
A lot of people will use a blend of ethical jewellery or sustainable jewellery for this term and for us it encompasses a blend of both. We’ve taken the term ‘responsible’ as something we can make our own. We take it to mean that we wish to enhance the lives of the people we work in our supply chain, rather than exploit them, as well as the wider environment and community around these individuals.
This means working with small artisanal mining communities and best-in-class international gem miners.
It means hand selecting each of our partner ateliers and asking them to fill in an audit we’ve designed to assess their treatment of their workforce and environmental practises.
It means putting time into our packaging, our leaflets and our own team so that we can say we’re doing our best at every touchpoint of Fenton.
We were so proud to be the third jeweller in the UK to be awarded a B Corp earlier this year, it was great to have that encouragement from a body we respect so much. Our responsibility starts with our own team which is why we are also proud to be a London living wage employer and we pay all of our team above their local average living wage and only work with partner manufacturers who do the same. We know that businesses can always do more and the concept of responsibility is a journey without end and we are committed to that. It’s been a journey of discovery so far and we’re all excited to keep learning as a team and sharing our findings with you.
Honesty, or a lack thereof is something we’ve noticed particularly in relation to the jewellery industry. In short, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors which, when dealing with an emotionally charged customer looking to make a significant investment, is basically tantamount to exploitation in our view.
Our concierge team and indeed, our whole team are in agreement that we should be clear with the customer what their options are and provide thoughtful advice as to what we would recommend in their position.
A classic example - we do not think that non-heated gemstones are necessarily worth the additional mark-up (up to 10x) for most customers, however we will never suggest a gemstone that has been glass-filled, these can shatter with impact and are unstable for a responsible jeweller to sell. Another classic? Bigger isn’t always better and having a jeweller who respects your budget is important. Because we cut out so many middle-men when sourcing we undercut like-for-like quality in the UK by anywhere between 2-10x depending on whether you’re looking at independent jewellers, Burlington Arcade or even Bond Street.
We take great pleasure in the fact that, because of this, we know that we’re giving each of our customers amazing value for a beautiful product that will last for generations. A jeweller should be someone that you go to, to celebrate the happiest milestones in your life and we believe that honesty sits at the heart of that relationship.
Countries we source our gemstones from and why:
Some of our core partner atelier criteria:
- No workers under the age of 18.
- Women and men are paid the same for the same work.
- Women form a part of the senior management team.
- All workers are paid above the local average wage.
- No major accidents or incidents in the last five years and safe working conditions throughout.
The core principles behind responsible and sustainable jewellery are an intrinsic part of Fenton. However, we’re choosing to write our own narrative, with transparent language which is clearly defined. Our overriding goal is to provide you with a jeweller who you can trust, and provide you with a honest choice when investing in your own modern heirloom - whether that’s a ring, earring, necklace or bracelet.