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.

Photo Credit: ANDRIK LANGFIELD PETRIDES/Unsplash

106 comments

Marie W
Marie W23 days ago

Thank you

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming5 months ago

TY

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson5 months ago

Thank you.

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming5 months ago

TFS

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Carl R
Carl R5 months ago

Thanks!

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming5 months ago

TY

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y5 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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