Using only ethically sourced gold for Chopard’s jewellery and watches is just another step in the company’s journey to complete responsibility, its Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele tells Zara Zhuang
The Kimberley Process, which curtails the flow of rough- cut conflict diamonds, was born in 2000. De Beers’ Forevermark diamonds have been responsibly sourced since 2011, the company states. Tiffany & Co. installed its Chief Sustainability Officer in 2015. In an industry that is adapting to expectations of environmental and social accountability, Swiss brand Chopard is the latest to declare its long-term dedication to the cause.
Five years after it launched The Journey To Sustainable Luxury programme to create a more accountable supply chain for gold, Chopard took its commitment to responsibility one step further, with Creative Director and Co-president Caroline Scheufele announcing in March that it would use only ethical gold in producing its watches and jewellery from July 2018.
Such gold, she says, would be “acquired from responsible sources, verified as having met international best practice environmental and social standards”. These comprise smallscale mines participating in Swiss Better Gold Association, Fairmined and Fairtrade programmes, and refineries adhering to the Responsible Jewellery Council’s Chain of Custody Standard, which governs the production of gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Ethical gold first appeared in high jewellery under Chopard’s Green Carpet collection, unveiled during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and made its way into timepieces via the l.u.c Tourbillon qf the following year.
It took a chance conversation in 2012 with Livia Firth, Creative Director of sustainability consultancy Eco-age and spouse of Academy Award-winner Colin Firth, to inspire her exploration of ethical gold, Scheufele explains during a recent visit to Singapore. “I was pretty unaware, like many of our colleagues, I suppose, of where and how we buy our gold and how we get our raw materials,” she says. That conversation “changed a lot about the way I look at things. We should have started looking into ethical gold much earlier, but we didn’t really think about it. Often in life, you don’t realise something until somebody brings it up and you think, ‘ Maybe that’s right.’”
The transition has been more fluid than abrupt, she adds, and production has steadily risen since the maison received its first kilograms of ethical gold from Colombia five years ago. At that time, besides setting up a dedicated channel within
“THIS IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST PART – TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS, BECAUSE IF THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN IT, THEY WON’T DO IT” – CAROLINE SCHEUFELE
the existing production line to keep ethical gold separate from traditionally mined gold, the company had to educate artisans in its factories of its intention to change “not what we do, but how we do it”.
“This is always the hardest part – to change people’s minds,” Scheufele continues, “because if they don’t believe in it, they won’t do it.”
Though Chopard now needs to derive the entire 4,000kg of gold it uses each year from certified sources, Scheufele doesn’t see that as a supply shortage waiting to happen, and even hopes the interest in ethical gold will catch on among more watch and jewellery brands. “It should be an industrywide standard – that’s the final goal,” she says. “And if the big mines follow, and start doing due diligence and change the way they mine, there will not be a crunch. That’s why we call it a journey – Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Considering her Swiss upbringing, making sustainability a part of her career was a natural decision for Scheufele. “In Switzerland, respecting nature is a whole philosophy of life,” she explains. “My mum would tell me, ‘You can use both sides of a sheet of paper when you draw designs, so you don’t waste it.’ Yes, I’m pretty green.”
The maison is already looking towards responsible sourcing for other aspects of its jewellery and watch materials, and coloured gemstones are of particular interest. Having incorporated Zambian emeralds from mining company Gemfields and responsibly sourced Paraiba tourmaline from Mozambique in its Green Carpet Collection launches, Chopard is working on adding in tanzanite and amethyst in the future.
Scheufele’s eventual goal is for every element of the brand’s creations to be responsibly sourced, she says. It may be a long road, but “we’ll get there, step by step”.
Right: Caroline Scheufele Below: Fairmined gold
Necklace and bangle from Chopard’s Ice Cube collection, crafted from Fairmined gold