This October will see the first annual Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, an effort to bring the gospel of responsible sourcing to the middle of the country.
The conference “is really to spread the word to an audience that may not have been to [the] Portland [Jewelry Symposium] or [the Jewelry Industry Summit in] New York,” says organizer Susan Wheeler. “We want to show how deeply responsible sourcing is affecting lives in developing countries and the positive impact it can have in your store as a retailer.”
The conference, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, and is being supported by Ethical Metalsmiths.
Wheeler says that while some have suggested her conference could be competition for the similar Jewelry Industry Summit, she doesn’t see it that way, noting that she is involved with both.
“They are very different,” she says. “The Summit is about getting people involved in specific initiatives. This is about just getting people involved in responsible sourcing.”
Meanwhile, the two-year-old Jewelry Industry Summit is “now maturing,” according to former Jewelers Vigilance Committee president and CEO Cecilia Gardner, long its driving force.
“We now have a steering committee, a director,” she says, later allowing that the director is, in fact, her. “It’s a grassroots organization that needs a structure that it hasn’t had until now. We have a lot of energy and a lot of people who are committed to making this happen.”
A third summit is scheduled for New York City in March.
Gardner rattles off a stream of initiatives spearheaded by various summit committees. One wants to develop a quartz mine in Bahia, Brazil, into a template for other locally owned mines in terms of environmental impact and local stewardship. Another is studying silicosis in gem cutting. A third has developed a social media platform to publicize the progress the industry has made in responsible sourcing.
All this activity is very much welcome. Responsible sourcing has long been the larger trend. And while some feel the jewelry industry has fallen behind that trend, these initiatives give everyone in the industry more ways to be involved—no matter what size your operation.
“Our view is that everyone in the jewelry industry needs to get involved to promote responsibility and sustainability,” Gardner says. “All actions that promote sustainability in the industry are good ones.”