Fair Trade Manufacturing


If you google "fair trade jewelry," our blog, www.fairjewelry.org, will come up number one. But after that, a number of websites sell "fair trade jewelry." The network of Fair Trade organizations (IFAT) and the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) lists jewelry as a product category. In doing so, they endorse efforts of small producers who abide by fair trade principals to market themselves as "fair trade jewelry." Yet they do not exactly define what the making of fair trade jewelry might entail in the actual workshop. While general fair trade principals are relatively easy to define, the actual standards pose a more difficult challenge. If you ask companies that sell fair trade jewelry where their silver come from, how their production facilities is ventilated, what chemicals are used in solders and fluxes and how waste products are disposed of, it is unlikely that they will be able to tell you. Marc Choyt, co-owner of Reflective Images, is spearheading defining fair trade manufacturing as part of an initiative that came from the Madison Dialogs. You can read about these efforts to defining fair trade manufacturing Madison Dialogue Manufacturing and those who are joining him on his industry leading blog. Given the chaos of the market, which leads one to question, Is There Such A Thing As Fair Trade Jewelry? our stance is transparency. We manufacture all our gold over silver jewelry and most of our sterling silver jeweler in our Santa Fe, New Mexico studio. However, we do manufacture chain and a limited number of component pieces in Bali with 100% recycled sterling silver which we ship over there. Below you can read about why we claim the factory we work with in Bali works on fair trade manufacturing principals. The factory is located in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Wages:

  • Entry level people earn slightly higher than minimum wage until they are trained, unless they come with a skill level and then they commence work at a commensurate rate.
  • Average salaried workers earn about 75% above minimum wage.
  • Average piece workers earn 37% above minimum wage.


  • Free optional housing for single workers. At present, about fifty non-local employees who live outside of Denpassar (Bali's capitol), live in factory housing.. Presently, the company cannot afford to house married couples or families.
  • Payment of the local village residency tax, 10% of the minimum wage, which is in most instances a responsibility of the employee.
  • A medical fund.
  • A free lunch. This program is provided for factory workers, which as of the fall, 2007, was about 100 plates of food a day. Filtered water for all is also provided.

We have been doing business with this company since 1999. In 2006, we discontinued working with other companies that were 30% less expensive. See the story - Jewelry Design Firm Switches to Fair Trade Suppliers. The following is a brief statement from our supplier regarding labor: "For our employee's the major benefit is naturally a financial one, but we also take care to provide a safe and clean working environment, accommodation for those who do not have it, training and skill upgrading programmes, and a company financed and employee operated medical scheme. Our Human Resources Department is in constant contact with the appropriate local bodies to ensure that we are always meet or are above all Government criteria and labour laws in all regards. We can confidently state that our factory workers are among the best rewarded in the region and it is a source of pride for us that workers compete for positions in our factory and those who are employed by us are held in high regard by their peers. We do almost all of our production in house, When we work in house we know how our product is made and we know the conditions that the work is carried out in. We do not use out-workers except under very exceptional circumstances as we do not have full control and knowledge over the working processes and conditions. In the occasional instances where we do use out-work we thoroughly check the vendor's premises and working conditions beforehand." Frequently Asked Questions Why don't you just do all your silver manufacturing in the US? Like so many other products, the market for sterling silver has been driven down by off shore competition. But also, the hand work is among the best in the world and part of a tradition that stretches back thousands of years. The work done in Bali, through our company, fairly supports families and communities. Can someone in Bali survive on the minimum wage? Even without the free room and board, with a minimum wage, a person could feed, house and provide water for themselves. Also, the minimum wage is only at entry level. Once someone acquires skills, he or she is paid more. How do you assure that these standards are continually upheld? We have visited this factory three times in the last seven years; most recently in March, 2008. But basically, the ethical and fair standards in this factory are core values to the person who runs it and would exist unchanged whether we do business with them or not. Corporate Responsibility The following is a corporate responsibility statement from the Director of the factory we work with in Bali. "The village where our factory is situated plays a large part in our corporate responsibility policy. When appropriate we get involved in community events and provide help and sponsorship to local cultural, charity and environmental concerns. Where possible we recruit workers from the area and we work with the village council to identify people who most need work and prioritize them for training programs and jobs. Acting locally may be an overused cliché these days but it does help greatly in building strong, stable and more aware communities. One of our greatest responsibilities is to our clients. We chose where possible to work with other like minded socially responsible companies. We like to provide these clients with product they know was produced in a socially responsible manner, and of course besides this we strive to give them good service, quality and fair prices. It must be noted though that producing goods under fair trade guidelines is more expensive, we do not exploit cheap labor, we do not cut costs in environmentally detrimental ways, and this means our production costs are higher, we cannot compete price-wise with those who do cut these corners. This does turn away many potential clients from our company, but we have no desire to get caught in the vicious circles and spirals of cost cutting in order to catch sales, this kind of action inevitably leads to exploitation and harmful practices. For those who accept and understand this we try to make up with a better quality product,(which I firmly believe is more achievable by having a stable competent, well cared for and loyal workforce), and by better customer service in general, adhering to deadlines, good communications, design and design services, product warranties and sales follow ups etc. etc. We see a growing awareness in the world and amongst consumers in general desiring to be responsible citizens, and we believe that these people should be given the opportunity to purchase product they can use with the knowledge and piece of mind that comes from knowing it was produced by responsibly acting organizations. We want to reward and encourage people who encompass this thinking and like to think that wearers/end purchasers of our products will get many years of enjoyment wearing/using quality items that they know to be made and supplied in a responsible way." Environment The environmental standards for the factory in Bali include high quality ventilation and numerous safety measures that are equivalent to jewelry manufacturing plants in first world countries. In addition, effluents are regularly tested to assure that harmful toxins are not released into the environment. Here is the stated environmental policy of our supplier from Bali: "The environment is an increasingly important issue in our world and we take all measures possible to create and maintain an environmentally friendly approach to our organization. We abide by all local environmental and waste regulations, and regularly check our air quality and the quality of our waste water. We run programs to monitor and check on the efficiency of our electricity usage and wherever possible use energy efficient technology. Green areas is also an important factor in this increasingly urbanized world and all our factory environs which are not buildings or parking area is established with gardens and trees. Aside from the environmental aspects, this also creates more pleasant surroundings for our employees to enjoy. Wherever possible we recycle all our waste and where possible we buy recycled and/or recyclable materials. We also take care in the purchasing of our raw materials. We do not use any prohibited or endangered products and attempt to buy our raw materials from reputable and legitimate suppliers. We do specialize in the production of shell and shell products, but our supplies are coming from Pearl Farms where the shell is a by product (Both Indonesian and Tahitian Mother of Pearl) or from commercial fishermen fishing a sustainable resource, (Such As New Zealand Paua Shell which is fished in the wild under a strict Government supervised Quota System). We do not use any materials which are prohibited under the CITIES agreement for trade in endangered species, which includes all forms of corals, except for fossilized coral." Sourcing of Sterling Silver Some time in July, 2008, the entire production for jewelry made for Reflective Images will be made with recycled sterling silver from the leading eco-friendly, precious metal supply house in the US, Hoover and Strong.

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