Your Guide to Buying Fair Trade Jewelry

“I’ve turned my passion for hand-crafted gifts into a globally-minded business, providing an outlet for artists and artisans to share their work with the world.” – Jannett Spearman, Owner Spearman Artisanry

Recently, you may have seen the label Fair Trade attached to some cute jewelry collections. While your love of the unique designs may have sparked your initial interest, it may have also exposed you to a thoughtful movement. Fair Trade extends far beyond coffee and clothing to the jewelry industry. As shoppers have become concerned with stories about international sweatshops, you may have noticed an uptick in advertising that labels jewelry as Fair Trade.

However, it can be confusing. Sometimes, the issue gets cloudy when fair trade items are advertised alongside similar, sweatshop items. Below is our quick guide to buying Fair Trade jewelry.

What Does Fair Trade Mean?

Fair Trade Artisans in Peru

Jannett Spearman, Owner (left) visits artisans in Peru to source new inventory.

If you’re not sure what the term Fair Trade means, you’re not alone. In fact, it was just recently added to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Essentially, it’s a movement with the goal of helping producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. This helps lower poverty, ensures the ethical treatment of workers and encourages environmentally sustainable methods.

Awareness for Fair Trade products is slowly growing. In recent years, Americans have started to consider how goods are produced. This has pressured several Major retailers to examine buying and production practices.

To summarize, Fair Trade focuses on “Three Core Beliefs”:

  • Producers have the power to express unity with consumers.
  • Current world trade practices promote the unequal distribution of wealth between nations.
  • Buying products at a fair price is a more efficient way of promoting sustainable development than charity.

Lock Hughes details this in the article “What Fair Trade Actually Means—and 4 Products You Can Feel Good About Buying.”

How Does Fair Trade Benefit Communities?

  1. It helps ensure basic human rights for farmers and workers around the world.
  2. The practice benefits the planet.
  3. The farmers, workers, and fisherman behind each product earn extra money with every sale.

If you hold similar values, then you’ll want to consider buying jewelry from ethical sources.


How Do I Find Fair Trade Jewelry?

Finding Fair Trade jewelry is easy. You just need to ask the right questions. Then, you can make an informed purchase. Below are the questions you should ask to find out if jewelry is fair trade.

1.Which countries supply your jewelry?

This question provides insight into the source of the product. For example, some countries have a long history of sweatshops where workers are subjected to unfair wages and unsafe conditions.

The US Department of Labor lists several countries that regularly use child labor or forced labor. Although the organization may not be purchasing from a sweatshop, this question offers insight into their intentions. If they have intentionally set up relationships with responsible groups or directly with makers, they will express that immediately. If they seem unaware or uninterested in the labor conditions of the exporting country, their jewelry may not be Fair Trade.

By asking this question, you can start a conversation about the working conditions of their artisans.

2.How do you select your makers?

Most organizations select providers based on price. While this isn’t a bad thing, the jewelry may not be Fair Trade. Look for companies that have relationships with their artisans or a connection to the local community. Then, they’ll be more interested and engaged with the working conditions and wages of the workers.

3.How do you pay your artists?

This question can be complex. However, the answer should be simple. You just want to make sure the money isn’t going through a middleman that delays payment or takes a large cut. Ideally, workers should be paid quickly and fairly for the jewelry they make. If you get an answer that sounds like money funnels through several channels or groups to reach workers, it might not be Fair Trade. Try to find businesses that buy directly from the makers and pay artists promptly.

4.What is your mission?

Typically, businesses and organizations that focus on Fair Trade build their business around supporting the workers. These companies know the working conditions. Their owners visit makers regularly. They listen to the stories from those communities. Their mission will reflect this focus.

Simply ask about their mission. You should be able to trace their business model back to a desire to help makers in specific communities.


A Little Research

Often, you can find this information on an organization’s website or by talking to someone at the company. If an organization offers Fair Trade goods, they’ll be more than happy to explain their process and show you more about how they help maker communities around the world. If you want to know more about Fair Trade or how Spearman Artisanry sources our products, feel free to contact us. We’d love to talk to you!

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