It is incredibly important for consumers and brands to make responsible and informed choices when sourcing materials or products for goods. This is especially true in the jewelry industry, where irresponsible sourcing has been known to contribute to conflict funding, unfair labor practices, and other serious humanitarian and environmental issues. The choices we make every day in the products and brands we choose to buy from and support can make a big difference in the impact that we, as humans, have on each other as well as the planet. At Staghead Designs, we strive to work with suppliers that prioritize traceability and responsible sourcing (hello, Misfit Diamonds!) in order to provide custom rings that have been made ethically and can be worn with peace of mind.
Did you know that an approximated 90% of all the mining labor in the world is done by artisanal and small-scale miners who use limited technology and tools, and that these miners provide for around 70-90% of all colored gemstones on the market? About 30% of these miners are female, and many African countries have especially high numbers of women miners. While artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sounds very positive, there are some issues surrounding it:
- Many miners work illegally without permits, they may not have access to safety equipment or training, and they may not see much profit from their work.
- It is very hard work that can be incredibly dangerous and chaotic, and by the time a gemstone reaches the market it will have exchanged many hands to the point that the stone cannot be traced to its origin.
- While there have been attempts to improve traceability in gemstone sourcing in the past, most methods have failed.
But luckily, a new collaboration project out of East Africa is working to change this.
Introducing Moyo Gems
Moyo Gems is a women-led initiative that empowers independent women miners of East Africa (mainly Tanzania and Kenya) and sources gemstones that are responsibly traced from mine to market. Moyo Gems aligns with the ten principles of fair trade which aim to make working conditions better, fight poverty and injustices, focus on the planet over profit, fair payment, and much more. The initiative started when Pact, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to human development and improving accountability, teamed up with the female miners of East Africa to co-design the entire Moyo Gems process. The program comes at no charge to the participating miners.
So how does this process work?
In order to join the Moyo Gems initiative, all Tanzanian miners must become members of the Tanzanian Women Miners Assocation (TAWOMA), which is one of the co-founders of Moyo Gems. This nonprofit organization helps fight discrimination and exploitation of women and children in the mining industry of Tanzania. Kenyan miners must join the Association of Women in Extractive Industries in Kenya (AWEIK).
Once a miner becomes a member of the initiative, they are provided with free worker safety training, gemology training, help securing legal mining rights, financial literacy classes, and other services. In addition, miners are given a source to sell their gemstones through. Typically, these miners would sell their findings in a local village, but the Moyo Gems program provides a direct international market for miners to sell through to make more money. Prices offered by the Moyo Gems program are based on the type of gemstone, clarity, color, etc. As required by law in Tanzania, miners must have a broker to help negotiate price, but the miners take home 95% of the export price with just 5% going to the broker. Outside of the program, miners would typically see 10-30% of the export price. The Moyo Gems programs works with six local trusted brokers that were nominated by the community, and miners can choose whichever broker they want.
Even though the miners are enrolled with Moyo Gems, they are completely self-employed and have free choice to sell through the Moyo Gems program or not based off prices they are offered or simply because of personal choice. However, participating miners have reported earning three to ten times their normal profits when working through the Moyo Gems program as opposed to selling in local villages, and most miners are eager to sell as much material as possible through the program. The miners then spend their profits locally as they choose, benefiting local villages and communities!
Today, men are able to participate in the Moyo Gems program, but the majority of miners and the main focus of the initiative remains on women and balancing the playing field in the mining industries of East Africa. The program hopes one day to expand into other areas of Africa and change the way gemstones are mined and sold. Learn more about the program and stay updated on their website by clicking here.
Designing a Custom Ring With a Moyo Gem
We are incredibly excited to be working with Misfit Diamonds and Moyo Gems to provide these ethically-sourced gemstones to be used in our custom engagement ring designs. Through our Staghead Mine x Misfit Gems collection, we offer a selection of Moyo Gem sourced sapphires in a variety of colors, cuts, and sizes. Simply search "Moyo" using the search bar on our site to see all available stones. Once you choose your dream stone, choose from our collections of fully customizable ring designs or start from scratch and work with our designers on a totally new design. Either way, you'll end up with a ring that's not only beautiful to look at, but provides peace of mind in knowing that it's ethically-sourced and supports the female miners of East Africa!