Christina T Miller living room sessions

Living Room Session: Ethics and Responsibility in Jewelry, part 1

csr ethics jewelry glossary project living room sessions Sep 25, 2020

Ethics and Responsibility in Jewelry: What is Ethical Jewelry?

On Sept. 25, 2020 we collaborated with Mark Wheeler, Director of the SDSU Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs and Ethical Metalsmiths to bring you the first of what will be a series of Living Room Sessions that take an ever deepening look into what an ethical jewelry practice looks like generally and specifically.

Thank you to our co-host - Ethical Metalsmiths, our ethical guide - Professor Mark Wheeler, and public question askers - Jared Holstein and Christine Dwane.

And, thank you to all participants for your collaboration on this session!


Ethics starts with a set of questions to keep in mind: what or whom do I love? What do I care about most? What is most important to me?

These questions creates a guiding light to orient our actions as we pursue ethical practices. We have the free will and the power to decide what we do and how we act. Based on what we love and what we value as most important, we have the power to make decisions that support, uplift, or improve those things or people we value most.

How can we create trust among members of the jewelry supply chain that we can trust?

Understanding how to create trust among ourselves and our communities is a fundamental, legendary ethical question. Trust presupposes that the other in whom you are placing trust is acting on your behalf or in your interest, for your sake, or for your behalf and not for their own purposes using you as a means or a tool to get what they want.

How do we ensure that the information we are using to make good decisions is accurate?

This question is about truth. Truth is grasping what is, as it is. Sometimes this is characterized as accurately measuring what is present - on another level, it is being aware of what is and what it reveals to you. Even in an established measuring mechanism, the need for trust remains. It’s extraordinarily difficult to measure things effectively and accurately, but we are not rendered impotent by this. We must trust each other as witnesses of our truth. Our reliance on each other reporting in a sincere fashion to the best of our abilities the truth that reveals itself about the truth of our labor, of our practices, etc. will never go away.

How can we be more human in how we assess the realities of our supply chain?

If we are all committed to improving the trustworthiness of the supply chain, this is the first step towards creating trust within the jewelry industry. Are there others interested in this same thing? Can we weld ourselves together through the trust relationships we have with each other?

Then we identify the adversaries or those who challenge our commitment. They are our best teachers because they show us an alternative point of view which we must appreciate in terms of understanding it, and then the work becomes, “How can we work with our adversaries so that, despite their best efforts, we can ensure the trustworthiness of the materials of the jewelry supply chain?”

The more agents working towards a trustworthy supply chain, the more trustworthy it will be. The laws are only as good as the people enforcing them. It ultimately turns on us.

When there are limits to the industry and our own individual capacity, how do we determine what practices to prioritize and why? At what point in this process is it fair to claim we are ethical jewelers?

This is a complex industry with complex problems. Keep in mind that individually we are all finite in our capacities. It's easy to become overwhelmed. The ethical must take into account the fact that we are limited. No one is unethical if they have failed to do the impossible. I must work within what is possible for me and together we must work within what is possible for us.

If all of this is in hand then you are in a position to judge yourself as ethical. Am I acting according to my best self? In the end it always comes back to you and me doing what WE can do.

We can look at others and ask “Are they being ethical?” and then a different set of questions emerge. In order to figure it out, we have to investigate and make judgements. If we decide there are people being unethical and its important enough to ensure they are held accountable, then we have moved to the social and political spheres that can be engaged with as a community.

4 moral frameworks for ethical decision-making: consequentialist, deontological, virtue-ethical and feminist frameworks.

Ethics reflections: what can I do, now and today, to make the jewelry industry better? What can we do, now and today, to make the jewelry industry better?

What can I choose to do differently now, today to make jewelry or the jewelry industry better given what I love most about it, what I hope it will become and, what it will be if it were at its best? What can I do now and today?

Start by becoming aware of what is possible. Ask, what does the day hold for me/us? In this, feel your capacity to choose - become aware of that power to choose. This is where you need to be whenever you wish to be ethical - mindful and deliberate about your choice.

How would you answer these questions:

What do I love most about jewelry - today? OR
What do I love most about the jewelry industry - today?

Thank You to our Guide, Guests, and Collaborators!

Mark R. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, SDSU-Imperial Valley
Professor of Philosophy
Director, SDSU Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs
Ethics Consultant for Ethical Metalsmiths

Professor Wheeler is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at SDSU Imperial Valley. He is a Full Professor in the SDSU Department of Philosophy and the Director of the SDSU Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. Professor Wheeler earned his B.A. in philosophy at Colgate University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Rochester. He joined the SDSU Department of Philosophy in August 1995 as an Assistant Professor.

Wheeler pursues research in ancient Western philosophy, contemporary value theory, and contemporary metaphysics. He has had the good fortune to work with many talented students and colleagues during his 25 years at SDSU.

Wheeler has served on the Academic Senate for the California State University (ASCSU). While serving on the ASCSU, he was the Legislative Specialist and the Parliamentarian. Wheeler has served as the President of the SDSU Chapter of the California Faculty Association, as the Chair of the SDSU University Senate, as a representative for College of Arts and Letters on the SDSU University Senate, and as a member of the SDSU University Senate Executive Committee.

Founded in 2004, Ethical Metalsmiths has made an impact on the field of jewelry design through education, connection, and action. Ethical Metalsmiths is a community of caring buyers, jewelers, designers, and suppliers. Committed to responsible, environmentally-sound practices for all facets of the Jewelry Industry, we strive to connect and educate people globally from mine to market.
Learn More at

Join Our Community

Stay up-to-date with our latest content, industry news, and more. Plus, you'll receive timely notifications about our upcoming Living Room Sessions!

Check your Inbox/Junk folder to confirm you want to receive emails from us. Don't worry, your information will not be shared.