Ethics and sustainability were among the main topics of conversation at the inaugural State of the Art Jewelry Summit, which took place in June at Harvard University’s Mineralogical and Geological Museum (MGMH). The event brought together academics, industry experts, visionaries, and an audience that spanned multiple disciplines to discuss the latest research, technology, business and art developments in the jewelry world.
The African view
To kick off the conference, keynote speaker Dan Schrag shared a startling fact about CO2 emissions. While the US, Europe and China are the biggest emitters, one might assume that Africa, with its abundance of mining operations, is near the top as well. However, the continent is actually responsible for less than 4%, according to Schrag, an environmental science and engineering professor at Harvard.
Wallace Chan, summit presenter. (Responsible Jewellery Council)
Panelist Monica Stephenson offered a similar stat related to sustainability, but also a warning. “Sub-Saharan Africa is responsible for less than 3% of total emissions, but I have seen firsthand that the artisanal miners and communities there will bear the brunt of the damage from climate change,” said the founder of gem supplier Anza Gems, which works to benefit those communities.
One African success story that came up was Botswana. The country “utilized diamonds mined there to transform its economy,” jewelry designer Thelma West noted on a separate panel. She commended Botswana for this accomplishment and suggested that the nation should receive more recognition for it.
Cohosting the summit were Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) executive director Melanie Grant, Gemological Institute of America (GIA) CEO Susan Jacques, and MGMH curatrix Raquel Alonso-Perez.
The RJC in particular addressed environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, using the event to launch its “ESG Toolkit.” The document, which aims to help jewelry businesses improve their sustainability practices, outlines practical steps for putting together an ESG report that will comply with global standards.
One thing that became clear during the gathering was the importance of working together and pooling resources. “The exchange of ideas, knowledge and culture is fundamental for the advancement of the worldwide industry,” declared panelist Laura Inghirami, founder of branding consultancy Donna Jewel.
Others highlighted the power of a single person to inspire change. In his closing remarks, MGMH director and Harvard professor Charles Langmuir recounted how he’d once followed someone’s lead and ordered a coffee without a plastic lid. One individual’s small decision could influence 100 people, he stressed, and those people could then influence 1,000, creating a ripple effect that could have a far-reaching positive impact.
Laura Inghirami (left) and Thelma West (right). (Responsible Jewellery Council)
This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.
Main image: Summit cohosts (from left to right) Melanie Grant, Susan Jacques and Raquel Alonso-Perez. (Responsible Jewellery Council)