Wal-Mart to Sell Traceable Jewelry

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. on Tuesday launched a new line of jewelry that will allow consumers to see online where their jewelry was mined and manufactured.

The Love, Earth jewelry line will be available at Wal-Mart stores, Sam’s Club locations, and on Walmart.com and Samsclub.com. The line being sold at Wal-Mart will feature 10k gold and sterling silver, and the Sam’s Club line will include 14k gold and sterling silver. The collection is “designed to symbolize the Earth’s elements and based on the precepts of recycle, reduce, and respect,” the Bentonville-Ark.-based retailer said in a statement.

Wal-Mart says the new jewelry line marks a shift in how affordably-priced fine jewelry is produced and sold. The new line is the result of collaboration between Wal-Mart, Conservation International, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation group, and Wal-Mart’s supply chain partners, including: including Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto, Denver-based gold producer Newmont Mining Corp., and Florida-based jewelry manufacturer Aurafin.

Rio Tinto, in its own statement about the jewelry program, said it will initially supply gold and silver for the jewelry line from its Kennecott Utah Copper Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah.

“Companies like Rio Tinto and Wal-Mart have an opportunity to change the way products are manufactured and used to reduce impacts on the environment and local communities,” said Andrew Harding, President, Kennecott Utah Copper.

Aurafin, a Richline Group, said in its own statement that the Love, Earth program is in line with its, “corporate goal, of being responsible to ethical, social, and environmental practices.”

Wal-Mart said it “selected partners in the mining and jewelry manufacturing industries that already demonstrated environmental and social leadership.” During the next phase of the partnership, the retailer plans to expand the number of approved mining and manufacturing suppliers and introduce diamonds to the Love, Earth line.

Consumers can trace the path of their Love, Earth jewelry from mine to store by visiting www.loveearthinfo.com. In addition, on the Web site, they can learn about suppliers’ environmental and social programs and the standards used to select suppliers and ensure the entire process is more sustainable.

Wal-Mart said its Love, Earth is its first step toward having all of the gold, silver, and diamonds used in the jewelry sold in its Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Club locations come from mines and manufacturers that meet Wal-Mart’s sustainability standards and criteria. The criteria address both environmental, human rights and community issues. By 2010, the retailer aims for at least 10 percent of its jewelry offerings to achieve these standards.

“Wal-Mart recognizes that our customers care about the quality of their jewelry and its potential impact on the world,” said Pam Mortensen, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Wal-Mart.

“With its considerable influence, market reach and commitment to sustainability, Wal-Mart has brought together like-minded suppliers, mining companies and conservation partners to work together to build a traceable jewelry supply chain at an impressive scale,” said Assheton Stewart Carter, senior director of Business Policies and Practices at Conservation International. “We hope others in the jewelry industry will follow this leadership example and thus enable consumers to make simple choices that benefit the environment and mining communities when shopping for jewelry.”