I first met this source at the 2020 Tucson Gem Show. I was surprised to see a sign that advertised “ethical sourcing” and immediately went to investigate. I discovered a Brazilian family business, run by a father, mother, and their sons. The business has existed for over 30 years, but recently the mother became concerned about conditions in Brazilian mines and polishing factories, and their effect on local communities. She gradually transformed the business following the principles of Fair Trade and articulated her own ethical values. Among these values are: to be environmentally friendly, work with miners co-ops, have a participatory workplace, develop long-term relationships, sponsor education for miners’ children, and respect cultural identities.
I had a long conversation with this inspiring woman, discussing both our own businesses as well as the larger industry. We already shared many of the same values, but I was intrigued by her commitment to respecting cultural identities. In Brazil, mines are often located on land owned by indigenous peoples. Often, miners are from somewhere else and usually don’t have any vested interest in protecting the local environment or distributing wealth into the local economy. To respect cultural identities means to do business with local indigenous peoples, rather than transient outsiders.