Rapaport Magazine – How a British Jeweler Sources Ethical Gold

Boodles sources its yellow metal entirely from a single responsible mining project in Mali.

Picture: Boodles

Those looking for a more ethical way to produce jewelry seem to be split into two camps at the moment: those who think using recycled materials is the only way forward and those who prefer to invest in responsible mining. British jewelry brand Boodles falls into the latter camp.

“We are not convinced that every piece of gold that [is recycled] is necessarily ethically sourced in the first place,” says James Amos, Marketing Director of Boodles, a sixth-generation member of the family that runs the business. “Putting it in a magic jar and coming out the other side saying it’s recycled is a bit like money laundering – it washes out the gold. Other people would have different views, and I don’t mean to offend anyone, but that’s our view.

As such, Boodles has radically changed the way it sources precious metal. Rather than buying bullion of indefinite origin, it opted to source newly mined gold from a single mine in the West African country of Mali through refiner Betts Metals. The jeweler and refiner enjoy a decades-old relationship, and when the Betts family shared details of a new venture called Single-Mine Origin (SMO) Gold, Boodles was keen to support it. When the SMO project launched in 2019, Boodles announced that he would be one of the first jewelers to work with the initiative. In 2021, Boodles followed up with a new announcement that it had switched to exclusively using SMO gold from Mali’s Yanfolila mine in all of its operations.

Bet on bets

Betts Metals, founded in 1760, was already well established as a refiner when Dan Betts decided in the early 2000s to try his hand at prospecting. Betts – who now runs Hummingbird Resources, a company set up specifically to manage the SMO effort – bought mining rights in Mali, struck gold, then set out to create a sustainable mining project to make fully traceable gold.

In addition to adhering to the World Gold Council (WGC) Responsible Gold Mining Principles, Hummingbird is committed to “building a lasting positive legacy for those who live in the communities where we operate,” its website states. This legacy includes funding clean water systems, sponsoring teachers to provide education in rural communities, partnering with the medical organization Critical Care International to bring doctors to the area, and funding industries. alternatives for the area, such as soap factories and farms.

Crucially for Boodles, which has 10 stores to fill, SMO Gold delivers consistency. The company had looked at other programs offering certified precious metals from artisanal mines, but found them to be less reliable. Yanfolila has so far proven that it has sufficient supply to meet the jeweler’s demand. The mine’s 2023 production forecast is between 87,000 and 97,000 ounces.

“The whole package seemed really appealing to us,” says Amos. “It’s not just about being able to look people in the eye and say, ‘We know 100% where your gold is coming from’ — which is pretty important these days, but not everyone asks not. We want to support communities that need support. Some companies have taken gold mining out of [artisanal mining communities] because of the perception [ethical] problems, but we believe that we should support the communities that depend on mining revenues. Africa needs it most of all. It gives so much as a continent, its resources are amazing and we think it’s important to stick with it.

Switch to diamonds?

Boodles most recently experimented with extending the SMO concept to diamonds in her Peace of Mined collection, which she released in May. The line’s 25 jewels are all set with diamonds sourced from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, where Boodles managing director Michael Wainwright and his daughter Honour, who also works in the business, personally collected the rough in february. The two were following in the footsteps of Michael’s father, Anthony Wainwright, who first donned a white jumpsuit and descended the famous mine shaft in 1977. Boodles had his own master tailor in London to cut the stones, then sent them to New York for certification. before putting them into custom models.

Amos says Peace of Mined landed beautifully for several reasons: the strong history of traceability; family ties to the mine; and royal provenance, since Cullinan was the source of the most important diamonds in the British Crown Jewels. Indeed, Boodles launched the collection during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Despite this, Amos doesn’t see Boodles switching to SMO diamonds like he did with gold anytime soon. “I would like to say yes, but there are so many different requirements for diamonds. You need thousands of small diamonds as well as larger shaped diamonds. We chose to use only three [diamond] suppliers, all [with Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) certification]. Getting all the diamonds from one mine would not yet be possible, I am told. But 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have thought SMO gold was possible.


Article from Rapaport Magazine – July 2023. To subscribe click here.