The eco guide to gold


Powered by article titled “The eco guide to gold” was written by Lucy Siegle, for The Observer on Sunday 28th August 2016 05.00 UTC

Perhaps it’s all those Olympic medals, but our small preview of Fairtrade gold wedding bands from Argos several weeks ago has led to a rush of queries about clean gold. So here are some further nuggets.

Be led by the UK’s pioneer jewellery activists. Greg Valerio and cred- have fought to make the supply chain transparent. Critically, they have also put ethical gold into jewellery so we can buy it. Meanwhile, small-scale independent jewellers such as and are part of Fairgold’s goldsmiths’ registration scheme.

Fairgold, the Fairtrade standard for gold introduced in 2011, addresses both humans and the environment. But it’s only part of the story. We should also be looking at the medical and technology industries – big consumers of gold.

One route to encourage uptake could be “mass balance”. Widely used by big brands in the chocolate and coffee industries, this system would allow the big players to commit to using a certain amount of Fairtrade gold in their supply chain and make up the rest with non-Fairtrade.

Many says this dilutes Fairtrade’s value and impact, however. So could local gold offer a third way? According to consortium Scotgold, there is gold in them there hills, more precisely in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, where they are hoping for 400-600 ounces of gold in the next six months.

Ethical jewellers in Scotland such as Vivien Johnston of are excited because, although there’s no such thing as a zero-impact mine, this represents an unbelievably short supply chain, creates local jobs and uses gravity and flotation to recover the gold instead of mercury or cyanide.

The big picture: seal and Alex Mustard

Signed, sealed and delivered: Alex Mustard with a young friend who is a seal in the North Sea.
Signed, sealed and delivered: Alex Mustard with a young friend in the North Sea. Photograph: Alex Mustard

It’s not every day you get to take a selfie with a seal. Photographer Alex Mustard (above) says, ‘I had turned my camera round so I could see what this young [harbour] seal was doing in the reflection.’ This is just one of many extraordinary images in Secrets of the Seas (Bloomsbury, £25), by Mustard and marine scientist Callum Roberts, who explains: ‘Animals are returning to breed on mainland beaches once more.’

Conscious luxury: Garnet slip dress £220, slinky and red, available at Frances Thackray, Leamington Spa, and (from 5 September).
Conscious luxury: Garnet slip dress £220, available at Frances Thackray, Leamington Spa, and (from 5 September).

Well dressed: luxury ethical fashion

The phrase ‘conscious luxury’ became synonymous with the push towards a determinedly more sensuous version of ethical design. It was used by a clutch of forward-looking designers in the early 2000s who wanted to display their commitment to clean design and supply chains, but who also wanted to show that they had nothing to do with hippie clichés and hairy fabrics. Now Rose Fulbright is bringing it back with her own conscious- luxury silk collections, which include loungewear, lingerie and beachwear. The slip dress is admittedly pricey, but it’s a long-term, show-stopping fashion commitment. Fulbright is meticulous about sourcing materials: silk from a European supply route, elastics made and dyed in one of the last Midlands factories, and garments constructed in her London workshop.

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