Fair Trade Beads and Ethical Beading

We are often asked if our beads are fair trade. We have one COFTA certified bead supplier - Jabulani Jewellery. (COFTA is the cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa, At the time of writing the COFTA website does not list Jabulani due to it's very recent certification). In addition we use several other suppliers who we are confident operate on an ethical basis.

Although there a few Fairtrade jewellery manufacturers, to our knowledge few if any other beading suppliers are available as approved Fairtrade.
Whenever possible we prefer to buy from the factory so we do have some insight to the manufacturing process. We have listed below a guide to the source of most of the beads of this site so that you can judge for yourselves.

Sterling Silver Wire
The only item made in England, we believe that employment conditions are good!

Semi-Precious Stones
Precious gems and semi precious stones are mined worldwide, often from countries with poor working conditions. We have no means of pinpointing the precise origin and and production method of stones though we are usually aware of the general location of origin.
We source many of our beads from large, high profile factories in India and China. It is likely that employment conditions would be less than considered acceptable to Westernised countries; this would be the case with any precious or semi-precious gemstones sourced from any such country; in fact, the end cost of the product is tied in closely with the working processes and the source of such gemstones. Quite simply, if it were possible to source gemstones from countries with higher employment ethics this would result in far higher costs; in today's bead market, this would make gemstone beads or stones completely unsaleable due to the cost of manufacture; the market is entirely driven by the customer and how much they are prepared to pay for such items...if we had a demand (and customers were prepared to pay the far higher costs in manufacture of 'ethical' items) we would be delighted to be able to stock them; as it stands to our knowledge such ethical sourcing of these items (as with freshwater pearls) is not possible at present. Our market experience is that pricing is the major customer buying consideration.
With few exceptions if you are concerned about ethical beading you should avoid all gemstones (including diamonds!).

Freshwater Pearls
We source from large Pearl farms in China and Thailand. It is likely that the employment conditions are less than considered acceptable to Westernised countries; see our comments above regarding semiprecious gemstones which are applicable to the issues relating to the production of freshwater pearls.
With few exceptions if you are concerned about ethical beading you should avoid all cultured pearls.

Sterling Silver Beads and Findings
The sourcing of silver is complex and a definitive answer is difficult. Silver ore is mainly mined in Peru, Mexico, China & Australia. We cannot comment about the working conditions as the information is not available to us.
Machine made findings such as bolt rings, earwires, chain, split rings etc are made in China, Italy, India, Germany and United States. We source mainly from distributors so cannot comment about the working conditions.
'Pin' heads headpins and eyepins are now sourced directly from the factory in the United States.
Most of our Sterling Silver beads (STS) are sourced from Bali, Indonesia directly from the manufacturer. We believe that employment conditions are satisfactory; the type of bead we source from Bali tend to be made by small companies who employ artisans - we are generally satisfied that they get a fair deal.
Fancy clasps are mainly sourced from Israel directly from the factory. We believe that employment conditions are satisfactory.
Note: We no longer source Sterling Silver from India which is a producer of 'Bali style' beads as we have found the product to be lower quality than we were happy with; we also felt that if we described something as 'Bali' silver then it should originate from Bali! Real Bali silver has a far higher quality and detail than Indian copies and is easily recognisable, we are more comfortable with production conditions in Bali and Indonesia than those in India.

Karen Tribal Silver
The king of Thailand has encouraged the Karen tribe to develop local handicrafts including silver manufacturing as an alternative to Opium production. Each tribal family specialises in an individual style. We source directly from the tribes, so can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory. Although not certified, these suppliers meet the general definition of Fairtrade.
Note many Indian silver manufacturer's offer 'Karen' silver lookalike, this tends to be less than the high purity silver and quality usually associated with the genuine item.

Murano Glass Beads
We source directly from the factory in Italy. We can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory we regulary visite the factory and meet the workers.
Note beads offered for sale outside our website by other retailers which they describe as 'Murano style' are likely to manufactured in India or China; 'Murano style' DOES NOT mean Murano produced (they can often get round this by purchasing the glass from Venice then using low cost labour)...this of course impacts the ethics issue but also quality and origin issues!

Swarovski Crystal Beads and Pearls
We source directly from the factory in Austria. We can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory as we have direct contact with Swarovski management.

Jabulani Beaded Beads
We source these directly from the COFTA approved (Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa) manufacturers in South Africa, by providing employment for up to 120 home workers in the HIV/AIDS ravaged Zulu region of South Africa. The beads are made by homeworkers in a cooperative association.

Rocailles
Manufactured in Japan, we source these via distributors, but can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory.

Dichroic Beads & Pendants
Nearly all of our dichroic beads are made in the United States from small, individual artisans with whom we have a close working relationship. We source directly from the makers so can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory.
Dichroic pendants are sourced mostly from the United States (from artisans as above), but some are from Mexico. These (Mexico made) were sourced via a distributor so cannot comment on the employment conditions.

Note many dichroic beads and pendants offered for sale outside our website by other retailers are likely to be manufactured in India or China.

Stringing
Beadalon is manufactured in the United States. We source directly from the factory and can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory.
Beading wires are mostly made in Germany. We source these via distributors, but can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory.
Imitation suede is manufactured in South Korea. We source via distributors, but can be confident that the employment conditions are satisfactory.

Leather cord is made in India. We source via distributors so we cannot comment on the employment conditions.

Tools
Pliers
are sourced from the factory in Pakistan. It is likely that the employment conditions are less than considered acceptable to Westernised countries; it has been our experience that customers tend to want to purchase on price point.
Other tools made in China, Pakistan and Taiwan are sourced via distributors so we cannot comment on the employment conditions.

Further Reading
FairTrade Foundation www.fairtrade.org.uk
World FairTrade Organisation http://www.wfto.com
Cooperation for FairTrade in Africa www.cofta.org
Karen Hilltribes Trust www.karenhilltribes.org.uk