What’s the Human Cost of Jewelry?

“Joseph” started working in gold mines when he was 12. Now in his mid-teens, the Filipino boy often sees his breathing compressor fail when he’s working underwater. He’s also developed a skin disease.

Joseph is one of the many people we forget when we buy a piece of jewelry. Besides the usual cost at the store, precious stones have a big human cost too.

The Human Rights Watch is pushing a campaign to help people like Joseph. As Mother’s Day approaches this Sunday in the UK, the advocacy group is urging consumers to look #BehindTheBling.

Many already know they should avoid blood diamonds, meaning diamonds that finance bloody conflicts, generally in Central Africa. The nonprofit Responsible Jewellery Council tried to cut down on their sale, but Human Rights Watch claims even these standards aren’t high enough.

And there are other human rights problems associated with mining precious stones and minerals — like child labor.

As the Financial Times reports, about a million children work in small-scale mines. Although around 1 in 5 of the world’s diamond and gold supplies come from small mines, most companies don’t trace their products’ origins to individual mines.

We need to hold jewelry companies accountable. Human Rights Watch is urging people to start by tweeting at jewelry companies using the hashtag #BehindTheBling. While the group is asking companies like Rolex and TBZ to start tracking their jewelry’s origins, it’s also intent on making sure others keep their promises.

For instance, the diamond giant Tiffany & Co. is the only jewelry company that ranks strongly in trying to responsibly source its products – at least according to the Human Rights Watch. The group is now asking the company to make audits public and name its diamond suppliers.

Tiffany was one of 13 jewelry companies ranked for their kindness to human rights in February. The jewelry industry doesn’t seem too pleased.

“We have reviewed the Human Rights Watch report and reject the suggestion that RJC has got ‘flawed’ standards, governance and certification systems,” Gerhard Humphreys-de Meyer, communications coordinator for the Responsible Jewelry Council, told Rapaport News

Even if that claim holds true, when it comes to human rights, we can always do better.



Jan S
Jan S4 days ago

thank you

Sabrina D
Sabrina D4 days ago

It made think of the poor conditions of life and work of so many people.
Thank you for posting it.

Danii P
Danii P5 days ago

Thank you

Angela J
Angela J5 days ago


DAVID fleming
DAVID f6 days ago


Marija M
Marija M6 days ago

Tks for sharing.

DAVID fleming
DAVID f7 days ago

We are all guilty of buying it im afraid

Henry M
Henry M8 days ago

Anything value might have a dark story.

Dot A
Dot A8 days ago

- (correction) Intended for Rosslyn O * not Rosslyn R~

Dot A
Dot A8 days ago

Thanks Rosslyn R., - for being a testament to not judging all by the bad behavior of some. I agree, jewelry itself is not 'bad', and your story demonstrates how the human spirit most often wishes to make the world a better place by doing good. We always have a choice: to act with care and kindness, - or to be cruel, selfish, and without good conscience. I like your story of care and kindness, Rosslyn! The lasting beauty is always from the loving heart. I trust that your gifts will be treasured for the love you bring to them.