Echoing the Call for Diversity and Inclusion in the Jewelry Industry
It’s no secret that the jewelry industry, like most industries, is intermixed with complex racism and damaging imperialism. For one, there’s a notorious lack of diversity and representation among jewelry trade groups. But more fundamentally, the jewelry industry itself depends on laborious extraction of metals and minerals in the global South to enable exorbitant profits for small groups of mostly white people in the developed world.
To illustrate, we’ll take a quick look at gold. As we speak, billions of dollars of gold is extracted from African countries, then smuggled out into Dubai - funding violent conflict groups along the way. The gold ends up in Switzerland, where 70% of the world’s gold is refined. At the source, 20 million small-scale miners face price inequality and high interest rates that essentially make them economic slaves to poverty and exploitation.
The system is imbalanced. In response to this, a group of 29 Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) U.S. and U.K.-based jewelry professionals published an open letter to the industry. The letter serves as a call to action, addressing the overall lack of education and advancement opportunities for emerging designers. The letter also emphasizes that while the industry often appropriates and capitalizes on BIPOC culture, the voices of designers falling into this category are often underrepresented or missing altogether.
As a participant in the jewelry industry, Many Hands is committed to acknowledging and overcoming the social and systemic oppression facing BIPOC artists and communities. One way we do this is through education - just being willing to have the conversation in this blog post. We also make an effort to acknowledge any piece with a known origin of inspiration from BIPOC cultures, traditions, or historical objects. Our standards for sourcing, designing, and distribution are set to find ways to help tip the scales and echo the voices in the open letter.
To really improve ethics standards in the jewelry industry, it is necessary to call out the power and racism at play. We must insist upon supply chains that support social and economic justice for BIPOC communities around the world. Any discomfort associated with this process is a necessary part of the progress; it’s really a sign to keep going.
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