Book Report: The Ethical Jewelry Handbook

By Page on February 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm


Marc Choyt, President of Reflective Images, Inc. & writer of the jewelry blog, recently released “The Ethical Jewelry Handbook,” a resource guide for the jewelry sector wishing to adopt exceptional standards and radical transparency: The Fair, Responsible, Ecological (FRE) System. We are very thankful to Marc for sharing his resources and inviting others to build upon his work.

One of the pertinent issues discussed in the Handbook is the confusion over the definition of fair trade/ ethical jewelry.  For example, when you google “fair trade jewelry,” sites pop up featuring everything from handmade artisan jewelry to socially responsible diamond engagement rings. It’s unclear to consumers and jewelers alike what these labels mean or if the same standards apply to all the divergent sectors of the industry. Truth be told, no consistent certification systems currently are in place.  As we’ve discussed in earlier blog entries, the process to develop certifications will take time and negotiations amongst the many factions of the industry.

We appreciate Marc’s call for radical transparency. He writes, “Though millions of websites reference ‘fair trade jewelry,’ the designation is, at this point, too ambiguous for all but a few main stream jewelry manufacturers to use. The consumer interested in ethically sourced jewelry needs to look for detailed information as to sourcing, labor and environmental practices. At present, transparency is often more valuable to the consumer than any designation.”

Marc then walks you through his own rating system, FRE:

The FRE Rating System addresses this current lack of standards with a format for giving your customers detailed insight into your supply chain, from the mine to the showroom, for all components of every finished piece of jewelry your company sells. FRE empowers your customers to make decisions based on a product’s: F=Fair labor; R=Social Responsibility and E=Ecological Impact.

Beyond the discussion of transparency and certification systems, the Handbook provides tips for jewelers on responsible practice, as well as entries from Marc’s blog describing some of the developments and issues in the jewelry industry.

FRE is open source—so anyone can use it for free. If you would like a copy, email me at

Please Note: You may not collect any royalties from FRE.  Marc Choyt is credited as the originator of the system. See for more information.