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Fair Trade Gems: Treating the earth and the people who mine its gifts with respect
Fair Trade Gems
Improving Quality & Lives

Now when conscientious consumers sip their fair trade coffee, the fingers that hold their cups can be adorned with Fair Trade Gems.

Vertically integrated gem miner and cutter Columbia Gem House, Inc. and its jewelry-manufacturing subsidiary, Trigem Designs, now offer consumers the option of Fair Trade Gems, thanks to the first fair trade and quality assurance program in the jewelry industry.

Fair Trade Gems are closely tracked from mine to market to ensure that every gem has been handled according to strict protocols. The protocols include environmental protection, fair labor practices at the cutting and jewelry factories, and a tight chain of custody that eliminates the possibility of treated gems or synthetics being introduced into the supply chain. The program also includes promotion of cultural diversity, and public education and accountability.

"In addition to supporting employees and taking care of the environment, protecting the quality and integrity of the product is very important," explains Columbia Gem House President Eric Braunwart. "It extends the protection of the Fair Trade Gems program to consumers, who deserve to know exactly what they are buying."

This is what romancing the stone really means: making sure that people and the earth are treated with respect

All Fair Trade Gems are sold with complete enhancement disclosure: many will also be sold as untreated, since the chain of custody required by the program also confirms they have not been treated.

Columbia Gem House and Trigem Designs have been able to develop the strict protocols of the Fair Trade Gems program because the company's extensive contracts with mine operators and its large cutting operation account for 90 percent of its gem production. The mines agreed to support the company's efforts to formalize procedures that were already in place to safeguard workers, the environment, and the integrity of the gems they produce.

"It is more difficult to source gems only from miners and exporters who are able and willing to sign the Fair Trade Gem Protocols," Braunwart admits. "But I would rather be sure of the integrity of the product and of the people I am working with."

Although Columbia Gem House is the first jewelry industry company to join the Fair Trade movement, it may not be the last. "I would like to encourage other companies in the industry to join this movement," Braunwart says. "This is what romancing the stone really means: making sure that people and the earth are treated with respect so that gemstones bring positive emotions to the lives of everyone who touches them."