As we move into a more socially conscious world, fashion tends to move with the people and the jewellery industry is no exception. With information so readily available, consumers are more informed now than ever – and traceability is at the forefront of their minds. Traceability is not a new concept, however in recent years the term has become popularised. The consumer’s interest in the who, what, when, where and why of their jewellery is reflective of current global affairs. Due to the current social and ecological state of the world, ethically conscious choices have gained momentum, especially amongst younger generations. Because of this, there is an expected level of transparency from industries, enabling consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases.
WHY IS TRACEABILITY IMPORTANT?
For consumers, simply assuming that manufacturers are sourcing their materials ethically is not enough and the future standard of traceability is outright transparency. Phrases such as “complacency is complicity” tend to surface in these circumstances. In the case of traceability, if a company is not disclosing where their products are coming from and its journey to the consumer, then they are being complacent in the context of ethical practices. Therefore the consumer will have to assume they are unethical due to the lack of disclosure. So how can the jewellery industry implement transparency into their practices to avoid this?
Global luxury brand, Tiffany & Co. tend to stay ahead of the curve because of their openness to embracing change. In 2020, their pledge to full transparency in their traceability paved a way for ethical practices in the industry and also set the standard for consumers. As a leader in diamond traceability, Tiffany & Co.’s initiative with the “Diamond Craft Journey” shows how individually registered diamonds of 0.18 carats or larger are made and how they journey through the supply chain to the small blue box. Tiffany & Co.’s longevity as a brand can be attributed to their ability to adapt to trends and market to Gen Z and Millennials. Kamadoli Costa, Tiffany & Co.’s chief sustainability officer says, “our customers deserve to know that a Tiffany diamond was sourced with the highest standards, not only in quality but also in social and environmental responsibility.”
Not only is traceability important from an ethical stand-point, but it is important in order to stay relevant in the industry. Melanie Grant, the newly appointed executive director of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) says, “those who embraced [sustainability] thrived but also gained new and younger clients… those who dismissed it in many ways got left behind.” We spoke with Melanie Grant about all things traceability and sustainability. “Modern shoppers want confidence to buy watches and jewellery they own or gift that have been sourced responsibly and made in a way that is fair to people and the planet. Traceability gives them that confidence to buy,” she says. Achieving sustainable practices doesn’t have to be a lonely road. The RJC offers free training and downloadable tool kits to help businesses get started with their two flagship standards, the Code of Practices and Chain of Custody Standard.
Big changes are already in motion and the future of traceability is not far away. How can the jewellery industry stay ahead of the curve? Melanie says, “Collaboration is key. Modern shoppers don’t want to be dictated to; they want to feel that they have been heard and they want to see brands working together to show their creativity and their commitment to big, real-world problems.” Alongside the adoption of collaboration, Melanie expects to see the continuation of creative practices, such as AI, blockchain, and visualisation of impacts data in the industry. As an industry leader, the RJC is excited to “continue to deliver on our mission of continuous improvement in the integrity of the global jewellery and watch supply chain,” says David Bouffard, the chairman of the RJC board.
With the addition of Melanie Grant, her dedication to helping everyone understand what they can do to be a part of the sustainability movement is proving its significance. Melanie’s appointment to this role is not only monumental to the RJC, but to the overall understanding of sustainability and traceability in the jewellery industry.
Jewellery World recently conducted a survey regarding traceability and the findings confirmed the noticeable shift in the industry. 50 percent of the respondents’ customers are inquiring about lab-grown diamonds with only 25 percent of the respondents rating their customers’ interest in a gemstone’s origin below a five on a scale of one-to-ten. Unsurprisingly, 62.5 percent of respondents agree they have noticed a change in the interest of ethics and traceability amongst their customers.
The shift towards improved sustainability and ethical practices is a key driver in the rise of consumer demand for lab-grown diamonds. With a lab-grown diamond, the journey is cut down, guaranteeing less room for ethical liabilities. However, with the current digital technologies available, companies can easily take the pressure off their consumers and ensure they don’t have to jump through hoops just to make an ethical purchase.
HOW DO WE BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN RETAILERS SUPPLYING AND TRACKING THE PRODUCT?
The journey in which a diamond, gem, or stone travels isn’t as simple as mine to consumer. Luckily, new technological advancements can aid in the process of traceability. Companies like Everledger implement digital Blockchain technology created with the purpose of increasing transparency in global supply chains which gives consumers peace of mind when making purchases. In simple terms, blockchain technology is an advanced digital mechanism that creates a record of a gemstone’s journey which ensures all relevant information about the gemstone’s source and the thought out considerations for the planet and the people along the supply chain is sufficiently provided.
Platforms like Everledger provide tamper-proof information on the gemstone’s journey, giving designers, retailers, and consumers deserved reassurance. Furthermore, the consumer relationship is secured on the basis of trust as they can ensure the products they purchase are sourced with care. Leanne Kemp, CEO of Everledger says,“the diamond industry is complex and global, with many players involved in the supply chain. Ensuring that every diamond is traced from the mine to the retailer is a massive undertaking that requires collaboration and investment from all participants in the industry.”
Australian fine jewellery wholesaler, Searay Jewellers are also passionate about moving the jewellery industry into a more sustainable future. Business developer, Christina Loccisano explains that Searay’s subsidiary company, ChainTrace is developing an online marketplace where all products have been digitally traced from mine to make in order to keep up with evolving technology. “The future relies on small business owners being able to efficiently use smart contract and blockchain technologies,” Christina tells Jewellery World. “Consumers are becoming more interested in provenance and sustainability of products, and so the future of traceability technology will play a huge part in building trust and proving company claims.”
It is clear to see that track and trace technologies are quickly becoming a part of the industry standard. However, just being against unethical practices will not be enough moving forward. Jewellery industry professionals will need to actively participate in being against these unethical practices and push for positive change, with transparency in traceability acting as the first step. The future of traceability is dependent on the world around us. In order to stay ahead of the curve and avoid being left behind, companies must be observant of the social discourse occurring around them.
The jewellery industry is built on years of established customs and tradition and when there is change in the air it can be understandably intimidating. Although it may feel sacrilegious to begin with, these positive changes are not just important for the future of traceability, but for the entire future of the jewellery industry.