by Monica Bouman
Fair Trade Jewellery
Swiss master jeweller from Bern, Jörg Eggimann, asked himself the question: “Why do we only produce fair trade bananas and not fair trade gold?” He will be the speaker at one of the plenary sessions at Caux, Switzerland, the Initiatives of Change international conference centre, on 4 July 2011.
This initial idea led to the development and promotion of jewellery which can be certified as fair trade jewellery. Customers can buy exquisitely designed and crafted jewellery made from raw materials which have been mined ethically. For this he received the Swiss Ethics Award in 2010.
Jörg Eggimann and Alice Cardel talking about how to inspire people to buy jewellery with a fair trade history (Photo: Monica Bouman)Alice Cardel, organizer of the training week for the IofC Caux Conference 3–8 July 2011, read an article on Eggimann in Le Temps and she recognized him as a change maker and she wanted to meet him.
On a cold and sunny morning in March Jörg Eggimann welcomed the two of us to his studio which he shares with a violin maker. He is a skilled master craftsman, devoted to his art. We were impressed by the beauty and creativity of his designs in gold, silver and platinum, some combined with precious stones. (See his website)
We asked him how he became the ambassador for fair trade in jewellery? He explained his love for working with precious metals which allowed him to become a master craftsman. Before opening his own shop, he was employed by various big companies in Switzerland. He became aware of the divide between the wealthy clients who buy the end product and the producers of the raw materials in Africa, Asia and South America. It bothered him, but he could not do anything about improving their social and environmental conditions as an employee. It was good to step away from the large company to open his own shop and studio, but he knew he had to connect to the mining sector. “I am an artist, not a miner and I had to find safe suppliers of raw materials.”
The internet was the answer. He found Thomas Siepelmeyer, a geologist, who is an intermediary for EcoAndina, an NGO active in the Andinnan Cordillera. This NGO is marketing gold for a co-operative of miners. Cyanide and mercury are not used in the mining of the gold. They clean the gold with water and it commands a higher price. Furthermore, EcoAndina not only provides adapted solar technologies and water systems; it also initiates projects for schools, community dining rooms and neighbourhood kitchens. Thus Jörg Eggiman can certify that 90% of the precious metals and stones he uses for his creations are produced under decent conditions not only for the miners, but also for the environment.
Alice Cardel asked him how the steps he has taken affect his life. Jörg Eggimann explains: “Since I started to spread the idea of fair trade in jewellery, I discovered that I am not alone in this endeavour. This motivates me to continue.” He knows that there is a long way to go before fair trade jewellery is available and accepted world-wide. “The certification process is at its very beginning, but it is a start.
Jörg Eggimannhe receiving the Swiss Ethics Award 2010 for the project "fair trade jewellery" from the manager of the Swiss-Excellence-Forum, Werner von Allmen"Since I received the Swiss Ethical Award 2010, I am pleased to say that young couples are coming to my shop to choose and buy their fair trade certified gold wedding rings."
Eggimann’s personal history fits in well with the Caux training programme. Alice Cardel has invited him to attend the conference this year. He will tell his story in one of the plenary sessions.
Alice explains: “The training courses aim to help participants gain knowledge of their inner power to change and to raise awareness in others. We are delighted that Jörg Eggimann has accepted the invitation. He said: 'I’ve made the change and now I want other people to know the story behind their jewellery.” Caux will indeed provide him with a platform for raising this awareness.'"
Before leaving his shop, we took some pictures, and with an “Auf Wiedersehen!” we greeted the pioneer of fair trade gold in the midday sun.