Building Chains of Trust with Susan Wheeler
October 18, 2019
Responsible sourcing and transparent supply chains are key topics within the jewelry trade and they have become more important than ever to jewelry consumers. Across the industry, companies of all types and sizes are embracing, and in some cases creating their own, transparent sourcing initiatives and programs for metals, diamonds, and other gemstones. But, developing trustworthy and reliable sourcing channels requires more than simply focusing on technical logistics and savvy marketing. It also demands attention be paid to any potential far-reaching social, economic, and environmental impacts.
Award-winning jewelry designer and founder of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference (CRJC), Susan Wheeler, has emerged as a leading voice in the responsible jewelry movement. It began with her own efforts to create “beautiful and timeless jewelry based on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” In 2017, she organized the first Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference to bring together key industry players to discuss how to make jewelry supply chains more transparent and to address the needs of all communities, world-wide, that are affected by jewelry industry demands. Now entering its third year, the CRJC has grown in both size and scope, connecting jewelry makers, suppliers, executives, educators, and students, with members of the ethically mined and gem sourcing communities from around the globe.
In this episode, Susan discusses her own journey toward responsible practices, the story behind the creation of the CRJC and its mission, initiatives to improve gemstone traceability, and the powerful roles that communication and collaboration play in facing the challenges of making jewelry "beautiful from beginning to end."
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- 3:00 - Logistical challenges involving the 2019 Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference
- 3:32 - Susan’s journey into responsible jewelry
- 5:25 - The origins of the CRJC
- 7:05 - Achieving broad participation at the conference, representing all affected communities
- 8:52 - The global reach of the jewelry industry, environmental concerns regarding deforestation and mining
- 11:27 - CRJC and industry goals, gold concerns, UN Sustainable Goals
- 13:52 - The importance of connection and collaboration to effect change.
- 14:32 - Moyo Gems/Tanzanian Womens Miners Association
- 15:30 - What the industry is getting right, importance of industry-wide transparency and communication
- 16:25 - Consumer awareness surrounding responsible sourcing
- 18:01 - Initiatives to improve gemstones sourcing, third-party tracing and certifications
- 23:39 - Current options and tips for obtaining trustworthy responsible gems
- 25:50 - Supplier efforts to improve traceability
- 26:45 - Forming your own direct connections with mines and other gem sources
- 28:26 - The responsible sourcing challenges still facing the industry and related communities
Related MJSA Journal Articles and Resources:
- Greener Paths (Members Only)- Jewelers share their personal journeys into sustainable practices. By Shawna Kulpa (April 2019)
- The Sustainable Story (Members Only) - How to talk about your responsible efforts. By John Shanahan (April 2018)
- A Sense of Source (Members Only) - The growing awareness and importance of artisanal mines. By John Shanahan (April 2017)
- Happy Endings(Members Only) - By embracing responsible sourcing, jewelers help save the planet and its people, and get a good story to tell their customers. By Terri Wallo Strauss (April 2016)
- What’s New in Sustainable Sourcing? (MJSA Online Learning Webinar Recording, Nov. 2018) - Susan Wheeler joins Andrea Hill to share some of the most exciting developments and insights from the 2018 CRJC.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Susan Wheeler Design Jewelry
- The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference (CRJC) - Founded by Wheeler in 2017, the CRJC brings together jewelry professionals and members of the global mining and sourcing communities to discuss how to make jewelry supply chains more transparent and make jewelry business more beneficial to all members of the industry vertical.
- Responsible Gem Boutique - Gem fair buying event that runs alongside the CRJC featuring both single source providers and distributors of responsible colored gemstones and diamonds from around the world.
- United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals - Sustainable development goals aimed at all countries in an effort to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth, and tackle climate change and conservation issues.
- Ethical Metalsmiths - Organization of jewelers dedicated to supporting responsible jewelry practices through education, connection and action.
- The Jewelry Industry Summit - Interactive summit events focused on sharing and developing strategies for more responsible jewelry sourcing.
- Andrea Hill - MJSA’s Designer Advocate and CEO of the Hill Management Group, Hill provides strategic consulting and marketing services to many small and mid-sized jewelry businesses.
- FAIRMINED - Assurance label that certifies gold from responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations.
- Responsible Jewellry Council (RJC) - standards organization for the mine to retail jewelry supply chain.
- SCS Global Services - Company offering third-party sustainability claims for metals, diamonds, and gemstones.
- Alliance for Responsible Mining - Independent initiative supporting artisanal and small-scale miners as well as creating and implementing standards for responsible mining operations.
- Everledger - Blockchain technology developer.
- Anza Gems - Gem supplier featuring gems sourced directly from East Africa with proceeds helping to fund local schools.
- Moyo Gemstones - Supplier of responsibly sourced gemstones from the female miners of Tanzania.
- Columbia Gem House (MJSA Member) - Fair trade and responsibly sourced gemstone supplier.
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