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Introducing Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold

An attempt to reconfigure the social identity of a substance

This chapter was published in The Social Life of Materials, edited by Adam Drazin and Suzanne Kuechler (London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015). Peter Oakley’s research in this area focuses on the creation and development of the concept of ‘ethical gold’ and its impact on a range of creative industries and their supply chains through the creation of certification regimes managed by NGOs, industry bodies and other associations and organisations. The chapter identifies the key features of the two leading certification programmes, undertaking comparisons of their main features, ongoing management and efficacy and their impact on licensees and subscribers. The research also explores participants’ motivations for joining such initiatives and their experience of partaking in the schemes themselves.

The material for this chapter was drawn from seven years of ethnographic fieldwork in the UK jewellery sector. This included attending ‘ethical gold’ promotional events, private industry meetings and jewellery trade shows. Interviews were conducted with jewellery manufacturers and retailers, gold refiners and environmental and fair trade campaigners.

Related outcomes of this research include a presentation entitled The Heart of Gold: manufacturing objects and material identities, delivered at the Anthropology in London annual conference (convened by LSE and UCL, 24 June 2014); a seminar: Moralising Gold Supply Chains which was part of the Global Futures Speaker Series (Winchester College of Art, 29 April 2015); a public conference presentation Ethical Issues and Initiatives delivered at Flux: Fair Luxury (Goldsmiths’ Centre, London, 19 April 2016); and Why so many Initiatives? Ethical Sourcing Initiatives in the Jewellery Industry, a presentation given at Ethical Making for the 21st Century (Edinburgh Assay Office and University of Dundee, Dundee, 7 February 2017).