We were super lucky to experience the renowned Tucson Gem show for the first time in-person this year and we are so excited to share what we learned with you!
What is the Tucson Gem Show? (and why did we go this year…)
The Tucson Gem Show is not actually one show, but a vast array of shows that span the city for over three weeks! Suppliers from around the world converge to celebrate and sell a multitude of gems, minerals, and fossils. We were most excited to attend the Ethical Gem Fair - a four day event sponsored by our friends at the Ethical Gem Suppliers collaborative. We’ve spent the past several years working closely with many of these like-minded folx on Ethical Metalsmith Zoom meetings, Webinars or through their online stores and we were honored to connect in person! Not only was it thrilling to be around so many passionate gemstone enthusiasts, we were also energized by seeing and feeling so many beautiful gemstones in real life!
The Ethical Gem Fair brings together gemstone suppliers focused on responsible sourcing, with jewelry designers from large and small businesses who are all committed to environmental and social ethics at every point along the supply chain. While we’ve already been working with many of these suppliers - such as Columbia Gem House, Moyo Gems, VirtuGem, and others - it was amazing to actually meet these partners, find new ethical gemstone sources, and see so many beautiful stones in real life! Each of these suppliers were excited to answer questions and share each gemstone’s origin story. The ability of these suppliers to trace the complete story of a stone, from where it was mined, to who mined it, who cut it, and whose hands it passed through all the way to the gem show was incredible. Many of these suppliers buy rough gemstones directly from the miners and work to support local artisans who cut and polish the stones near the mines. They support the local mining communities with projects and programs chosen by the people that live there and we are so excited to work with more direct suppliers like Moyo Gems and VirtuGem in the future!
What is Ethical Jewelry?
‘Ethical jewelry’ has become a bit of a buzzword that has, unfortunately, become a fixture of many greenwashing campaigns in the jewelry industry. Because this term is at the core of our values rather than merely a marketing strategy at W.R. Metalarts, we are going to define what Ethical Jewelry means to us.
We believe in informed transparency about all of our materials’ sources. We are committed to supporting artisanal miners and mining communities, promoting healthy and safe working conditions, and avoiding environmentally destructive practices. We are committed to deepening our understanding and working to address the historical and ongoing harm of the jewelry industry on indigenous communities and communities of color all around the world. We do not claim to have all of the answers; we are constantly evaluating our practices as we gain a more nuanced understanding of our complex industry. We believe transparency is critical so that you, our clients, can trust that we’ve done all we can to create the most beautiful jewelry - not just the end result, but beautiful at every step of the journey.
The way that we back up these values to ensure that you, our client and collaborator, have as much information available to you as possible is to put our suppliers through thorough vetting processes. We don’t take our suppliers at face value when they say a stone is “ethical” or “sustainable” we push a supplier to give us the whole story about the journey of a stone and if they are not able to back up their claims of “ethics'' with sources or credentials, we won’t work with them. It’s difficult to find suppliers who we trust completely but once we find them, we forge incredible relationships built on our shared values of transparency and doing good.
Knowing the story of a gemstone - what we learned!
Attending the Gem Shows in Tucson allowed us to make new connections, deepen existing relationships, expand our knowledge, and level up our capacity to offer stunning ethically and sustainably sourced gemstones to all of our clients. We teamed up with some of our like-minded designer friends to tackle critical conversations with suppliers within and beyond the Ethical Gem Fair. Some suppliers were honest about not knowing the origin of their stones. Many suppliers make claims about the origins of their stones, but are vague when pushed to back up these claims, trusting word-of-mouth or their long-standing relationship with one individual towards the end of the supply chain. By asking questions about the origins of traditionally-mined gemstones, we aim to push the industry to consider the human and environmental impact of our trade, proving there is a market for ethically sourced gemstones. We also found a few new suppliers that were able to answer the tough sourcing questions, including one Montana-based miner who sells his own sapphires at the show every year!
The best part... what we brought home!
We’re excited to work with our clients to find a special stone that fits your own story, whether that has to do with the geographical source of the stone, a specific color, or one that aligns to your values. Start your custom project with your dream gemstone today!