Fair 5: Jewelry and the Story Behind the Story
Our jewelry and accessories have stories. Maybe a piece of jewelry represents the story of your engagement, or a memento from a special trip, or a family keepsake. Personally, I’m not super into heels, makeup, dressing up… but I do have an affinity (read:addiction) for scarves and bags. I want all of them. In particular, I love accessories with a story. Tell me a story about the person that made that necklace, bracelet or scarf—especially if that product helps that person or community, and I am in. Every time.
When actress and singer Caitlin Crosby visited my church she told the story of her company, The Giving Keys. They started with engraving old keys for jewelry with inspirational words. Then she met a homeless couple that inspired her. The company now hires those transitioning out of homelessness. Pick a word that inspires you. Then pass it along to someone else who needs to hear it and help create jobs for people who need them. Love it!
Unfortunately some stories aren’t so encouraging—take a diamond in a beautiful wedding band or engagement ring. You may have a beautiful story of how you received it, but what about the story before it found its way to you? Sierra Leone was thrown into civil war by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from 1991—2002 in which they ravaged the country. The RUF said they were fighting for the poor but quickly turned on the poor and created a war of terror. Villages were burned, women raped and many killed and mutilated, creating millions of refugees along the way.
In addition to this violence the RUF also forced people to work in the country’s diamond mines, which they then traded diamonds for weapons. These blood (or conflict) diamonds eventually found their way into markets around the world.
But forced labor doesn’t just involve diamonds, and it doesn’t just happen in conflict zones. Gold is much worse, using forced or child labor in 19 countries and an estimated 1 million children.
That is not ok with me. I could go on with lots of statistics and information about the different gems and precious metals that use forced labor or child labor. Download the Sweat & Toil app from the US Department of Labor and you can browse the different products made or produced with slave or child labor.
I won’t trade a beautiful necklace for a human life. I won’t trade dignity and safe working conditions for saving money on a bracelet. How about a better story? Meet Moon.
Moon is the daughter of one of the founders of the Fair Trade movement in India. Walking in her father’s footsteps, Moon is an artisan entrepreneur who leads a flourishing business based in India. Today her business provides dignified jobs, life skills training and
microloans to thousands of artisans across India, plus scholarships that create a brighter future for over 1,000 children. She is also a leader in the movement to eliminate child labor in India.
Sunita is one of the women who has flourished under Moon’s mentorship – but her life once looked very different. When Sunita gave birth to her daughter Vandana at 17, she had been married for three years to a husband who abused her. Then Sunita connected with Moon and began working as an artisan. As she became confident in her own worth, her husband began to see her worth too. Moon’s vision has sparked courage in Sunita that is contagious.
Today she empowers other women to stand up to abuse and recognize their true value. These artisans work for Noonday Collection. Noonday partners with artisans around the world in developing and vulnerable communities and provides them safe working conditions and fair wages. These are good stories.
Our jewelry and accessories will always have a story—where we got them, who gave them to us and so on. But there is also the story behind the story. Let’s make that a good one too.
My 4 Favorite places to help me purchase a better story…
- The Giving Keys–helping people transition out of homelessness
- Noonday Collection–partners with artisans in the developing and vulnerable communities and provides fair wages and safe working conditions. Pays artisans up front so their wages are not contingent on sales. Noonday is about storytelling and sells through Ambassadors and Trunk Shows.
- Ten Thousand Villages–partners with artisans around the world to create a global village. Visit their website, or visit a brick and mortar store.
- Local Arizona friends who make necklaces from washers and engrave them. Proceeds go to an orphanage in Haiti. Check out the The 6:8 Project.
But there are SO many more companies creating better stories! Check out this list of 26 Fair Trade Collections. Purchase a better story with your jewelry and accessories. You can create impact for others and vote for a fair, free and safe world with your next necklace, bag or scarf.
The holidays are just around the corner. What if we purchased gifts that create impact—gifts that give back? Let’s create stories that promote freedom and empowerment. Let’s live fair together.