In an interview with JCK, goldsmith and former human rights attorney Christina Malle talks of responsible gold sourcing.


When Malle was asked how she became entangled with Fairmined Gold, she said, “About three years ago, at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, I saw the film River of Gold. Anyone who walks away from that film feels despair. Instead of feeling helpless, I felt I had to do something. At the conference, there was a gentleman named Roberto, who was speaking about a mine in Colombia that had been Fairmined certified and how that certification helped his community. They were learning techniques to use less mercury. Also, the premium attached to Fairmined helped them mitigate environmental damage. There are many ways to help a mining community have a better impact. (They could require better cell phone connections to keep up with London gold prices.) Here was someone from a mine telling me what miners could use to do better. It was a really eye-opening experience to think of the other side of the supply chain: Where is my gold from? How do I know? And what can I do to be part of a positive, or even a neutral, system?”


“I love Hoover & Strong, where I buy Fairmined. They are secondary refiners,” said Malle when asked about where she sources her Fairmined Gold. “But people operating in the primary refining world are the choke point, part of this whole system of opacity. Anyone can buy Fairmined, they just can’t use the logo unless they’re certified. And it’s just a bit more expensive than [non-Fairmined gold]—about 10 to 15% more. People who buy in volume probably don’t pay as much. The premium is from the tracing and tracking, which definitely requires a large investment from refiners. I feel there’s also a price we are all collectively paying for the status quo. There is harm to people and the planet if we underpay people for their fair labor. I understand we’re all running businesses, we’re not nonprofits, but we are all paying the price, through things like unrest around the world.”


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When asked about the recent popularity of recycled gold, Malle said, “Of course, everyone would rather use a product that’s already had a life. I love it when a client says, ‘Here’s a ring my father had in the ’70s, and I want to have something that touched his skin.’ But unless you’re repurposing or recycling the gold yourself, telling you it’s recycled is almost meaningless. United might have gotten gold from a bullion bar sitting in the bank. But that bar could have been brought from Switzerland—and illegally transferred from Zimbabwe to Dubai to Switzerland. It’s almost a meaningless thing. The LBMA is saying their definition of recycled is very loose, and if you are a clever gold smuggler, all you need to do is make some bangles out of it, and suddenly it looks like jewelry. [The term recycled] is so meaningless—if you can’t trace and track it, the term doesn’t have any teeth to it.”

Information originally sourced from JCK.

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