Jewelry Industry Summit

The Open Forum on Sustainability & Responsible Sourcing in the Jewelry Industry

The Open Forum on Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing in the Jewelry Industry

2017 Final Summit Report

Firstly, we want to thank everyone that attended for making the second Jewelry Industry Summit a success! Nearly 150 people from 14 different countries came together to continue the work begun in New York in March of 2016, to take collective action towards strengthening our sustainable and responsible supply chain.

The goals of the second Summit included the development of a shared vision for key segments of the industry supply chain that support the broader industry vision for sustainable business and responsible sourcing.  Another important goal was to develop practical tools and strategies that are easily accessible, allowing businesses to make progress through continuous improvement.

Building on existing efforts and generating new initiatives, participants at the Second Jewelry Industry Summit engaged in dynamic and innovative ways to make their mark on the responsible jewelry movement. The initiatives created touch on a broad range of the jewelry supply chain and reflect the creative ways that anyone can participate in advancing the Summit mission, including some of the following:

  • The Small Jeweler Ethical Toolkit: A virtual toolkit to aid small jewelers in understanding the issues and existing standards in the jewelry industry. It also aims to provide resources and tools to help small jewelers on their ethical journey.
  • Sales Associate and Consumer Training: Getting the message out! This initiative exists to provide training and knowledge on responsible practices for retail associates in the jewelry industry. By educating those selling the products, the message and story of responsible jewelry can be further disseminated to consumers and the public.
  • The Bahia Golden Rutilated Quartz Mine to Market Sustainability Model: A model to guide sustainable development in mining, environmental stewardship, value-added activity, parallel activity in organic agriculture, and geo-ag tourism. This model highlights and exemplifies the positive global impacts made possible by committing to responsible and ethical jewelry practices.

Many existing and new Initiatives are well on their way to impacting widespread positive change within the industry, and if you're not yet involved, please contact us at to find out how you can lend support. These Initiatives will be implemented throughout the coming year by a group of industry volunteers energized by their attendance at the Summit who are committed to ensuring that these projects succeed!

[To read the full report, click on the image below.]

Speaker Presentations from the 2017 Summit

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Lisa Manley, Executive Vice President, Sustainability Strategy & Cone Communications

Lisa heads Cone's award-winning sustainability strategy & communications team. She has more than 15 years of experienceadvancing sustainability/corporate responsibility through strategic planning, executive communications, issues managements, media relations, and stakeholder engagement in both public and private sectors. Prior to joining Cone, Lisa was an EVP and regional practice leader in Edelman's Business + Social Purpose group. As a sustainability consultant, Lisa has collaborated with a diverse group of clients including Converse, CVS, Hilton, HP, Mars, PwC, Quaker, SC Johnson, Target, Timberland, U.S. Bank, Visa, Wrigley, and Xylem to integrate sustainability within business strategy, influence engagement and communication.

Cone Communications is a public relations and marketing agency that specializes in corporate responsibility communications and strategy. Cone is also famous for its series of studies on consumer expectations of responsible business, which demonstrate that consumers globally believe companies have an explicit responsibility to drive social and environmental change, and to address these issues through their operations, their products and services, and their unique expertise. 

Thea Polanic, Conscious Capitalism

Thea Polanic is a passionate advocate for the power of business to crate prosperity, beauty and happiness in the world. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. Conscious Capitalism is a movement dedicated to elevating humanity through business, founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods.

The Chicago Chapter is the first in North America, and in less that 18 months it has grown to more than 1100 members. Under her leadership, the Chicago Chapter produces programs for the general public and private events for senior executives who are committed to leading organizations that are both purposeful and unapologetically profit driven. As a result of her efforts, the international Conscious Capitalism conference has taken place in Chicago for the past two years. Thea is also a member of the global chapter advisory board, which now includes chapters i seven countries on five continents.

Thea is also the Managing Partner of ClearSpace, LLC, a Chicago based consulting firm that helps CEOs transform themselves, their teams, and organizations to meet the challenges of the future and grow and thrive. Over the past 15 years, Thea has worked closely with many senior leadership teams to align their organizations with the principles of Conscious Capitalism: having a higher purpose, creating value for all stakeholders, developing servant leaders, and having health, values-based cultures.

Conscious Capitalism builds on the foundations of classic capitalism principles: voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade, and the rule of law – and adds other elements, including trust, compassion, collaboration, and value creation. ClearSpace, LLC designs and delivers elite programs for team leaders and executives who are prepared to make a serious, long-term commitment to their own individual development and collective effectiveness, aligned with the principles of Conscious Capitalism. 

Bob Mitchell, Vice President of Social and Environmental Responsibility, Electronics Industries Citizenship Coalition (EICC)

Bob is a 16-year veteran of Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with over 10 years in sustainability. He was most recently the Director, Global Social & Environmental Responsibility at Hewlett Packard Enterprise leading a team of professionals in human rights, supply chain responsibility, and conflict minerals, among other issue areas. Bob also served on the EICC Board of Directors for nearly four years and was Vice Chair in 2016. He holds an MBA from The University of Arizona and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Virginia.

Electronics Industry Citizen Coalition (EICC) was founded in 2004 by a group of leading electronics companies and is a non-profit coalition of electronics, retail, auto, and toy companies committed to supporting the rights and well being of workers and communities worldwide affected by the global supply chain. EICC members commit to and are held accountable to a common Code of Conduct and utilize a range of EICC training and assessment tools to support continuous improvement in the social, environmental, and ethical responsibility of their supply chains.

In addition to setting and holding members accountable to core standards and providing training and assessment tools, the EICC regularly engages in dialogue and collaborations with workers, governments, civil society, investors and academia to gather the necessary range of perspectives and expertise to support and drive its members toward achieving the EICC mission and values of a responsible global electronics supply chain.

Today, the EICC is comprised of more than 100 electronics companies with combined annual revenue of over $4.75 trillion, directly employing more than 6 million people. In addition to EICC members, thousands of companies that are Tier 1 suppliers to those members are required to implement the EICC Code of Conduct. More than3.5 million people from over 120 countries contribute to the manufacture of EICC members' products.

Diamonds Unleashed: Empowering Women Through Educational Opportunity

Born in a village outside of KrishnAgiri in Southeast India, Maheshwari, was raised in a single room hut without plumbing. “My life there was very different,” said the bright young woman. “I sleep on the floor. I don’t have a bathroom.”

Her family are quarry workers and members of the Dalit caste, the lowest in India’s social hierarchy. Her class, combined with her lowered status as a female in rural India, promised to seal Maheshwari’s destiny at birth.

Credit: Kate Lord Photography

Credit: Kate Lord Photography

Gender Inequality in India

Women in rural India are expected to marry and live with their husbands’ families around the age of puberty, rendering formal education outside of the home little more than a waste of resources in the eyes of tradition.

“’Why study? Why educate a girl when her job is to raise a family?’…They’re the same questions every village asks when someone sends their girl to school for more than a few years,” Maheshwari explained.

Yet despite the odds, the bright scholar now holds a college degree, has plans to pursue post-graduate studies and one day become a geneticist. In a country of 1.2 billion where only two out of five women can read and write, her journey seems nothing short of extraordinary.’

Diamond Industry Supports Girls Through Education

Maheshwari’s educational opportunities can be credited to her self-motivation, her family’s determination and the support of the diamond industry.

Maheshwari’s unique path began to form when she attended a scholarship-funded boarding school of Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project. The first in her family to receive schooling past the eighth grade, her parents’ initial interest in her attendance had less to do with education than it did with security. “My mother believed that by sending me to Shanti Bhavan, at least one of her children would be provided with food and shelter every day,” said the scholar.

The scholarship was paid in part by She’s The First (STF), an international non-profit organization that works with local NGO partners in low-income countries to award scholarships to talented women like Maheshwari. Scholarship recipients exhibit what Christen Brandt, STF’s Co-founder and Director of International Operations describes as “a true desire to complete their schooling and help give back within their communities.”

A portion of She’s The First’s funding is provided by Diamonds Unleashed who in partnership with Canadamark, Dominion Diamond Corp, is a new company founded by jewelry designer Kara Ross, whose striking designs are recognized worldwide. Ross developed a unique method to support organizations that foster women’s empowerment. All proceeds from the new line go to initiatives to further the education of young women worldwide, including She’s The First. The pieces themselves are available at all price points, which is part of the company’s commitment to allow women of all demographics to own their own diamonds, while helping young women around the world reach their full potential.

The Role of Education in Empowering Women

Because of the resources provided to her, Maheshwari was able to complete her secondary education in spite of continued hardships. When Maheshwari was 13, her father passed away. It was devastating to the family, and gave her mother the added burden of providing for her children. Yet, despite the challenge, her mother encouraged her to continue her studies. As a result, “I got an excellent education and everything else I needed,” said the scholar who may now have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty for herself and those surrounding her.

Credit: Kate Lord Photograpy

Credit: Kate Lord Photograpy

According to Brandt, she was also one of the first program graduates to visit the United States and to attend the Alumni STF Campus Leadership Summit in New York City.

Maheshwari recently helped create the STF international scholar alumni group, which connects scholars from all over the world for a monthly discussion. “We have learned the value of education in a girl’s life and want to pass that on,” she said of her engagement and interest in organizing the group.

“Given the chance, we girls are not just the first to get an education but also the first to choose our own dreams,” said the scholar, whose own dreams are well on their way to becoming reality.

Sources:, Magho (Daughter), a film presented by She’s the First.

For more information on Diamonds Unleashed, please visit For more information on She’s the First please visit

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Story and images courtesy of

Step by Step, Myanmar Gem Sector Emerges from Isolation and U.S. Sanctions

Since 2008, after the passage of the Lantos JADE Act, the importation of jade and ruby to the United States has been banned.

With the emergence of desired democratic reforms and the rise to power of the NLD (Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party) in 2015, the U.S. government began easing sanctions to encourage U.S. investments in the Myanmar economy.  The jewelry industry, however, remained frustrated, as jade and ruby remained the sole products subject to ongoing sanctions.  On October 6, 2016, the Obama Administration removed the remaining sanctions, making it once again legal to import ruby and Jade from Myanmar.

After several meetings with the US Department of State, the AGTA brought together a coalition of industry groups, including the Jewelers of America, the American Gem Society, the New York Gem Dealers Association, the Thai Gem and Jewelry Association and a host of individual donors from the U.S. and around the globe, to initiate a fact-finding mission to better understand conditions on the ground in Myanmar.  

On October 3rd, a delegation, which included AGTA President Jeffrey Bilgore, AGTA CEO Doug Hucker, JA President David Bonaparte, Dr. Jim Shigley of the GIA, Tim Haake, Legislative Counsel at Haake and Fetzer. and Erin Murphy and Peter Kucik of the Inle Advisory group, Myanmar business specialists, arrived in Yangon.

During our ten days in Myanmar, which included visits to Yangon (Myanmar’s former capital, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar’s administrative capital which houses Parliament), and the legendary gemstone center of Mogok, meetings were held that encompassed members of the gemstone industry, our current Ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marceil, and his delegation, members of civil society, members of Parliament, and dozens of Ministerial representatives.

The delegation offered suggestions as to how the U.S. community would respond better Myanmar’s gemstone community, centered on the tenets of the AGTA Code of Ethics.  They included separating the gemstones sector from the more problematic jade sector; a ten-year plan for the rehabilitation of mining areas; the development of a tax regimen that encourages compliance rather than avoidance; and the introduction of new laws that honor international labor laws, including child labor.

In Mogok we met with scores of mine owners, artisanal miners and their associations, and visited three gem-producing mines. Universally, members of the mining community expressed a desire to re-enter the global gemstone community after decades of corruption and mismanagement within the gemstone sector.

Yes, there are a host of problems plaguing the country and certainly they impact the gemstone industry, but it is abundantly clear that the people of Myanmar want to improve on the democratic reforms they have achieved thus far and they are serious about engaging the international community in building a vibrant and responsible gemstone marketplace.  

To see the details of our visit and read the Myanmar White paper please go to

Bahia Golden Rutilated Quartz Mine, A Model for Artisinal Gem Mining as a Foundation for Sustainable Economic Growth

Responsible Sourcing Initiative: connecting small scale artisanal mining with the consumer.   

Objective: Imagine, develop, and implement a model project that can be replicated using the natural capital resource from a region of artisanal small scale mining for gemstone as the foundation for “sustainable” economic development, environmental stewardship, and community security. Connect the story from source to consumer.

The Setting: A remote village, Remedios, Novo Horizonte, situated at the western edge of the Chapada Diamantina in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Latitude S 13 degree, at 900-1200 meter elevation. The plateau is a confluence of 3 diverse biomes, the Atlantic Coastal Rainforest (Mata Atlantica), the Serrado, and the Caatinga, resulting in exotic rare plant diversity.

Value added at the source. Sorting, processing, cleaning, introduce basic cutting & bead making. Empower Women. Focus on training women (not exclusive) in bead making and basic lapidary, all profits to the workers. This photo shows a weekly market for the women to sell the stones they collected.

Legalize not marginalize. Register miners in a co-op, legalize mining areas. (over 700 garimpeiros have been added to the cooperatives)   

Transparency. Create a certificate of origin and pay the required taxes to municipality and state for proper export. This view is the tunnel access to the Pyramid Mine.

Regenerative agriculture. Food security. Carbon sequestration. Implement organic and permaculture gardens connecting to France 4/1000initiative, UN food security.

Cultural sustainability, respect and celebrate the unique culture from the region. This group of children were playing in the village Remedios. The natural blending of cultures and race.


Real world example:

Located in a remote region of the Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil, the objective of this initiative is to brand the unique rutilated quartz gemstones found here to add value to the community and empower women by training in basic cutting skills. Up to 2500 artisanal miners including women, and their families depend on this resource.  Beyond supporting the infrastructure to mine and process the stones (including improving mine safety), the plan is to create sustainable methods of growing food, supporting an elementary school, and emphasizing environmental stewardship. It is contemplated that our model will be able to be replicated in other artisanal mining settings. 

The initial task of gaining support from the community, federal, state, and municipal government in the region has already been achieved by Brian Cook’s efforts in formalizing land and mining rights, legalizing miners through cooperatives. 

Creating the infrastructure to support the initiative is needed.  A facility to process stones, teach cutting skills, with a residence and garden including additional rooms for visitors to observe and participate. A Kickstart project promoted industry wide should be able to raise money for this vital infrastructure.


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