A first-ever summit on ethical issues in the jewelry industry will take place this August in Chicago.
Organizers say the Jewelry Industry Summit, which will include panels and be run with the help of a facilitator, will tackle issues including responsible sourcing for the diamond, metal, and gemstone industries. The discussion will also include representatives from governments, NGOs, and financial institutions—three institutions that have often looked at the industry quite skeptically.
The two planning committee members authorized to speak on behalf of the summit—Lisa Bridge, vice president of education for Ben Bridge Jeweler, and Eric Braunwart, president of Columbia Gem House—both say they are not totally clear about what the gathering will be able to accomplish but hope for a free-flowing discussion.
“I think people in our industry want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how to do that,” says Bridge. “This is to get people in the room to have a conversation together about what can be done. Our industry has a much better understanding of the complexity of the supply chain than someone writing legislation.”
Braunwart says the meeting stems from increased pressure from consumers as well as governments. He notes that he just heard about new regulations on the shrimping industry. “Because the shrimping industry didn’t do anything, the government did,” he says.
The meeting and similar initiatives have been criticized by some sectors of the colored-gemstone industry who worry that it will crowd out small players by recommending actions that can be accomplished only by large corporations.
Braunwart says he’s sympathetic to those concerns and hopes other dealers participate in the forum.
“A lot of the gemstone people have been on the ground for years, close to the mines, more than people in the gold or diamond business have,” he says. “So we need to hear their voices, and I hope they take a seat at the table. It’s much better to be included in the discussion than to find things are decided without you.”
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