BASEL, Switzerland — Chopard plans to use gold only from certified fair-mined sources starting this year, raising the stakes for other luxury players to shore up their credentials in the realm of ethical sourcing.
“Obviously the younger generation is much more asking questions and asking for transparency — it’s not only in our industry,” said Caroline Scheufele, copresident and creative director of the family-owned Swiss high jeweler.
A conversation with Livia Firth kicked off the idea several years ago, by Scheufele’s account.
“I met Livia Firth when Colin Firth got the Oscar for ‘The King’s Speech’ — we were chit-chatting because he was wearing a beautiful watch from our manufacture, L.U.C, a flat elegant black tie watch,” Scheufele said.
Firth was explaining the work of her company Eco Age when she turned to Scheufele with a question: Where did Chopard’s gold come from?
“Before I finished my answer, I knew somehow where she was going to take me, so very shortly after, we discussed in the family that it would be a very good project to really start looking into our raw materials and the whole supply chain,” Scheufele said.
Her answer had been a bank — perhaps UBS or Credit Suisse.
Firth put Chopard in contact with the Alliance for Responsible Mining, and soon the jeweler ordered its first 80 kilograms of fair-mined gold, or gold from smaller mines that meet certain environmental, human rights and safety standards.
In 2013, Chopard introduced the project to the public, sending French actress Marion Cotillard down the red carpet in Cannes wearing a cuff bracelet and matching earrings made of the fair-mined gold.
“I would never have thought we could achieve this incredible target of 100 percent ethical gold so quickly,” Firth said.
The move is good for the entire industry because it shows that ethical supply chains are possible, in Firth’s view.
Other luxury goods companies exploring more ethical sourcing include Kering, owner of high jeweller Boucheron, which has been buying fair-mined gold since 2014. Kering bought 55 kilograms of fair-mined gold in 2014, an amount that has increased to over 700 kilograms in 2016.
Chopard’s investment in artisanal gold started in 2013, helping small-scale mines like the Coodmilla Mining Cooperative in Colombia obtain fair-mined certification. The jeweler provided financial and technical resources alongside ARM. Next on the list is a mine in Ancash, Peru, which Scheufele plans to visit in the coming months.
“I’m very anxious to personally go and see how it’s all done,” she said, noting that the program helps miners have fixed salaries, which means their children can get an education, and improves safety standards.
The biggest challenge has been to convince artisanal mines to go through the certification, noted Scheufele, adding that ARM mostly handles that aspect.
Chopard has had to set aside machines to keep the fair-mined gold separate from gold coming from other sources.
“I always say that when the fair-mined pieces get made, it’s like a VIP client going through the production because it doesn’t touch the other gold,” explained Scheufele. Chopard has its own in-house foundry, and having a goldsmith in charge of a piece from beginning to end has simplified the process for making the bracelet that Cotillard wore, she added.
Support from celebrities has also helped the project, Scheufele said, citing Julianne Moore and Cotillard as examples.
“It’s obviously nicer to be accessorized in a fair-mined gold necklace,” she noted.
“You hear here and there that a mine broke down or collapsed and you have 20 people dead — and all of this is not very luxury, not very ethical,” stated Scheufele.