NO DIRTY GOLD or SILVER
Tiny, artisanal mines operate in extraordinarily unsafe conditions, with the crudest of equipment and a lack of safe access. To avoid digging out large openings that might require bracing, children are forced deep into tiny spaces underground to extract this precious metal. The children working in the mines, some as young as six years old, help dig shafts with pickaxes, lift and carry heavy bags of ore and pan the gold with an amalgamation process involving mercury. Mercury attacks the nervous system, resulting in neurological conditions leading to tremors, coordination problems, vision impairment, headaches, memory loss and concentration problems.
Gold is in the Top 13 World Products Most Likely Produced by Children, according to the US Department of Labor. This practice is seen in 17 countries, including: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Mali, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Niger, North Korea, Peru, Philippines, Senegal and Tanzania
Since gold is not tracked from mine to refiner to market (as most diamonds are, courtesy the Kimberley Process), there is no way to know for sure that your gold or silver is not dirty unless it is recycled.
In addition to saving and improving the lives of children, recycled gold saves our earth, as well.
NO DIRTY GEMS
Colorful and sparkling, gemstones have captivated man since their first discovery. But the extraction of these beautiful crystals from the earth is a very difficult chore, indeed.
Often, mining is the best-paying job in a given area. Most countries view that difficult job as one in which only adults of free will should be engaged. Others, however, freely use children for this dangerous work.
Children working in gem mines are exposed to dangerous conditions, which may be fatal or pose serious risks to their long-term physical and mental development. As well as the very real risks of dying during rock falls and cave-ins, children working underground
in mines or in harsh conditions above the surface face other risks:
• silicosis – an occupational lung disease
caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, characterised by shortness of breath, cough, fever and bluish skin;
• respiratory system damaged by toxic dusts and chemicals;
• constant headaches, hearing and
sight problems from excessive noise and
vibration, poor ventilation and lighting
• joint disorders, muscular and orthopaedic ailments from carrying loads too heavy for their age, or fromrepetitive work;
• injuries from flying rock shards or
The only way to know for sure that your colored gems are not dirty is to not purchase gems mined or cut in countries known for the use of child labor in the mining or cutting of gems.
NO DIRTY JEWELRY
In the developed world, jewelry-making is only dangerous to the extent that high-speed hand-tools are involved. Otherwise, jewelers protect themselves from potentially dangerous fumes and processes by using protective gear and modern equipment.
In the developing and third world, however, jewelry making is performed using the most remedial of tools and processes, exposing the workers to untold dangers. Imagine those tiny, innocent hands working on jewelry for long hours in such conditions.
Much like the problem with DIRTY GEMS, the only way to know for sure that your jewelry is not dirty is to not purchase finished jewelry crafted in countries known for the use of child labor in the jewelry-making industry.
SPREAD THE WORD
As a consumer, tell your friends and family! Since jewelry is often given as a gift, let your loved ones know that the way we can celebrate and enjoy the beauty of precious metals and gems is to not have it tainted by the spectre of child labor. As questions of your jeweler! If they claim to "not know," or want to turn a blind eye to their Thai-made jewelry or Burmese rubies...find another jeweler who cares about this issue.
As a retailer, dig deep. Challenge your suppliers, and find ones who source ethically.