Consumer concerns about ethical mining, blood diamonds and the like have gained currency in the last decade or so, but they still remain far from mainstream. This year, Chopard have launched their first watch using Fairmined® gold, the standard for ‘fair mined’ being determined in 2011 by the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM).
The limited edition (25 pieces) LUC Tourbillon Qualité Fleurier Fairmined from Chopard is their first watch to be made with a certification that aims to guarantee that the metal was mined in a responsible manner and that its miners have received fair payment for their work. ARM is a not-for-profit organisation that supports artisanal and small-scale mining communities in Latin America (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador).
Chopard is also working on a line of ARM-certified jewellery through a partnership with the London-based consultancy Eco-Age, which helps brands develop sustainable strategies. Miners are offered a price of 95 per cent of the London Bullion Market Association’s fix for gold, higher than the normal 35 to 85 per cent range.
Since 2013, Chopard has supported the development of the Coodmilla co-operative in the Nariño region of Colombia and intend to increase their use of Fairmined® gold from co-ops as well as supporting other co-ops to attain certification. Presently, Chopard has access to only 2kgs of Fairmined® gold per month.
As for the watch itself, its 43mm rose gold case, bezel and caseback are made from Fairmined® gold, with satin and brushed treatment. Through the sapphire caseback can be seen the L.U.C 02.13-L1 tourbillon movement. On the dark grey dial there is a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock (max of 9 days) as well as the visible tourbillon. It comes on an alligator leather strap.
Some have questioned the broader effectiveness of Chopard’s announcement in terms of consumer engagement, and the significance of this step with twenty-five watches and some high jewellery pieces. I believe that consumers do respond to this, as they respond to fair-trade products. Two kilograms a month may not sound like a lot, but engaging in corporate social responsibility can only be a good thing, and from small steps such as this, hopefully bigger ones may come, and broader commitment to these principles will be adopted.
There is currently no single universal certification scheme that can provide full reassurance that the gold watches or jewellery you buy is ethical, and there are other groups such as Fairtrade that are perhaps more well-known than Fairmined®, who guarantee a clean and transparent supply chain from mine to retail and focus on the issues of eradicating mercury, promoting safe use of toxic chemicals, conflict-free minerals and eliminating child and forced labour. Perhaps the next step for the industries involved is for an agreement on a single form of global certification.