Our First Ethical Jewellery Making Symposium – It’s In Our Hands

It’s in Our Hands – Symposium on the Future of Ethical Jewellery Making in Scotland


Greg Valerio, activist & jewellery designer, holding a Piece of FairTrade Gold


In partnership with the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, we held our first ethical jewellery symposium called ‘It’s in our Hands – The Future of Ethical Making in Scotland’, supported by a workshop on sustainable jewellery practices. The Symposium looked at issues of ethics in the jewellery industry, how and why to adopt an ethical jewellery practice. The designers and makers received advice on how to tell the story of their jewellery pieces in a more engaging way by adding value to their practice in a greener way. We had an incredible line-up of internationally renowned activists, jewellery makers and professionals in the luxury industry who offered a wide range of perspectives on the most important steps of setting up a sustainable fine jewellery business. These included Greg Valerio – pioneering ethical jewellery designer and activist who explained the differences between FairTrade, FairMined and recycled materials, Ute Decker – ethical jeweller and researcher whose website presents a wealth of information on suppliers, Karen Westland, jeweller and silversmith – participant at Elements – Edinburgh’s Festival of Jewellery, Gold & Silver who voiced the views of the makers’ community. Regarding the broader history of precious materials sourcing and its environmental and socioeconomic impact, Dr Peter Oakley from the Royal School of Art introduced international case studies on the history of precious metal mining, while ethical consultant, Vivien Johnston, pointed to the opportunity for innovation that our very own Scottish gold mine – Scot Gold in Tyndrum presents, and Marian Brown, founder of Ostrero – a circular economy information agency, shared more about the many opportunities in Scotland for companies adopting a Circular Economy model. Tim Rhode from Ingle & Rhode- the first green jewellery high-street retailer, presented convincingly the business case for brands to turn to eco jewellery designs. Mary Michel, Director of the Incorporation, finished off by discussing the components of the jewellery-making chain of custody and the importance of provenance when creating unique pieces. She advised designers to always approach their practice by questioning how their art pieces, their design and materials add to their unique story and distinctive mark.   



Anticipation in the public gearing up before the start of the symposium on ethical jewellery making It’s In Our Hands.


The Idea of the Ethical Jewellery Resource

The buzz created by the topics covered resonated in our chat with the designers: “How can I become an ethical jewellery designer? Where do I get the support to start off on that journey?” These recurring questions and the general lack of organised information are also the reasons for the Incorporation of Goldsmiths to come up with the idea to build an online ethical resource and forum. At the start of 2017, our organisation started gathering practical information from jewellers, activists and researchers on work techniques, material sources and suppliers, and networking opportunities. The aim is to bring together the fragmented information surrounding ethical making and present it in an easily understandable and accessible format. This information will soon form the basis of an online living document and meeting place for makers to share information about techniques, suppliers and materials, challenges and tips. We hope that the community of ethical makers will help with this growth by continuing to tell us about their experiences and challenges. Please let us know what would be most useful for you in the resource via email at ethical@incorporationofgoldsmiths.org  Check our Twitter account for more news at @IncOfGoldsmiths and drop us a line if you would like to receive our newsletter on best sustainable practices and more information on setting up your ethical business.


Mary Michel, the Director of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, speaking on ethical jewellery making & the chain of custody