Fairtrade Gold Hits British Jewelry Markets

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"New standard aims to boost livelihoods of artisanal miners."

Leading British jewelers launched certified "Fairtrade" gold on Wednesday, in a bid to boost livelihoods of artisanal miners working in perilous conditions and ensure ethical standards and traceability.

Celebrity jeweler Stephen Webster joined the push to sell gold jewelry made with the new Fairtrade label, part of a growing market in ethical goods ranging from tea to travel.

"Fairtrade" gold pays a premium price to artisanal miners, who represent 90% of the gold mining labor force.

A group of 20 UK jewelers including Webster are supporting a dual "Fairtrade" and "Fairmined" label that aims to avoid child labor and use of poisons in mining processes, and guarantee full traceability of ethical gold.

"People are happy to pay a premium to know that that money will do some good," said Rachel Pullen, manager at Jon Dibben, a Surrey-based jewelry maker.

Just 400 kg of "Fairtrade" gold will be available in the UK market in the next 12 months.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation and the Alliance for Responsible Mining, "Fairtrade" gold is forecast to account for 5% of the global market in the next 15 years as the initiative is rolled out internationally.

Webster, who has designed jewelry for pop stars Christina Aguilera and Madonna, said he plans to launch a collection created entirely out of Fairtrade gold.

Gold prices have doubled since the height of the global financial crisis in late 2008, but artisanal miners have not cashed in, said Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation.

Juana Pena Endara of Bolivia's Cotapata Mining Cooperative, one of two groups that have received Fairtrade and Fairmined certification, said the price premium she will receive could be used to buy new machinery and improve production processes.

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