Living Room Session: Community Check-in

Living Room Session: Community Check-in

community living room sessions Dec 07, 2023

We kept the November Living Room Session in a more casual and conversational format, offering jewelers an open space to be in community with each other. We took this time to review our consulting services, share experiences from the recent Fairmined trip to Colombia, answer your questions, swap advice between peers, and talk about what topics you’d like to see more of in future Living Rooms.

To hear the full conversation and learn more about the topics we were able to cover during the session, we encourage you to watch the recording of this Living Room.

A reminder about what Christina T. Miller Consulting offers.

First of all, we wanted to clarify what services we at Christina T. Miller Consulting provide. To Christina, it looks like the intersection of three roads coming together. Firstly, we provide support for jewelers, specifically those who are just embarking upon or those at some challenging point in their sustainability and responsible sourcing journeys. Secondly, we're also here to help develop more socially and environmentally beneficial supply chains for the people who are mining jewelry materials and the communities that are impacted. Finally, we make sure that we are centering the needs of those most negatively impacted by our industry.

We have a lot of different ways for you to engage with us. For example, in January we’ll have a new cohort for our Foundations for Sustainable Jewelry Practices online course. It's suitable for everyone interested in sustainability in the context of jewelry, for those wondering how to deal with all these issues within the industry, whether they are starting out or already established. We also have an affiliate program for this course. So, if you would like to help get the word out about it, there's a benefit in it for you too.

As for our consulting services, we’re about to launch a new Essentials Consulting Package for small businesses and independent jewelers. The package includes eight sessions and covers different topics, from solidifying your values to implementing practices that align with those values. We look at your materials sourcing, other business operations (like production and packaging, for example), and how you communicate all of this with your audience. When we work with larger companies, we usually create a custom scope of work for their responsible sourcing and sustainability program challenges.

Takeaways from the recent Fairmined trip to Colombia.

For Cecilia Echeverri, who is originally from Colombia, it was the first trip of this kind. She was thrilled to meet miners in person and amazed to see how different the mines were, how they function in different ways, and how they're organized to serve the community and the stakeholders differently.

I think one of the things that we really need … is to have closer connection between us [jewelers] and the miners, between us and refiners. [This direct communication would] close the gaps that exist in the supply chain allowing us to get to know each stop in the supply chain from the miners, all the way to retailers. I think we really need to start speaking one-on-one, sharing from the heart,” shared Cecilia.

The biggest takeaway from Ana Brazaityte was seeing how much the miners are able to accomplish in their communities with the premium that jewelers pay. Just some examples shared by miners on this trip were: environmental clean-ups, purchasing plots of land for preservation, purchasing a plot of land to build housing for all of the miners, social programs for the elderly and for those with disabilities, improvements at the local schools, fixing the roads, etc. Paying a little bit more of a premium is a worthy challenge for jewelers to take on because it makes a huge difference for the miners who are working so hard to get this material to us:

I know that we sometimes as jewelers do have a challenge in figuring out how to market something to our clients that is a higher cost than a lot of things out there. [To shift this perspective] now, we say that it's not really a higher cost, it's what gold should be priced at, and everything else is just cheaper because it's coming at the expense of people and planet.

Other jewelers who went on this Fairmined trip also shared their impressions during the session. For example, while on the trip, Bliss Lau got to climb inside of the gold vein tunnel in the mine, and get a really up close experience with how the gold is extracted from the ore. She was able to keep a small piece of quartz containing a tiny bit of gold as well as a piece of pyrite (commonly found alongside the gold ore as well in this mine) to show to her clients together with the gold casting grain she has:

So, now when I talk to my clients, I can tell them first hand and have them hold the stones and really understand [where the gold comes from] and why it's important, and I know that it's a small thing, but that physical explanation is really beautiful. And also the physical experience of walking into the mine tunnel, seeing the miners doing their job, seeing the pride that they have… I'm forever changed from that experience.

How to address a system that doesn’t have a focus on sustainability and ethics?

One of this session’s attendees, Priya Patel, approached us with a challenge: she wants to start a jewelry business with jewelry made by artisans in India but has found a lack of transparency in production practices and material origin thus far.

To sum up the answers that came up during the session, in a situation like this, we suggest starting by identifying and prioritizing your values, asking yourself what is ok for you to accept and what things you're not willing to compromise on. That becomes a starting point. Once these things are established, you can start moving through your priorities one by one and see which goals you can accomplish next and which ones need to wait. Like Cecilia said during the session, “if you can make a difference in one life, then that's good enough for now.

Topics of Living Room sessions to expect in 2024 and beyond.

During this session, we conducted a poll about the topics you’d like to see more of in future Living Rooms. We selected three categories each with different topics: gold and gold sourcing, gemstones, and best practices/foundations. The participants also offered their own topics and shared why they attended Living Room sessions in 2023. You can see some of the poll results below.

Next year, we’ll have six Living Room sessions happening bimonthly, with the first one scheduled for February 16th.

We thank everyone who attended this session – it was wonderful to be in community with you all once again. We wish you happy holidays, and see you in 2024!

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