The jewelry industry is vast and complex, so establishing an ethical framework to ensure the wellbeing and safety of everyone involved is absolutely critical. That’s why nearly 20 years ago, the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) set out to standardize the industry's many moving parts — mining, sourcing, manufacturing, and more. The RJC created these worldwide standards to prevent harmful or unsustainable practices across the jewelry industry supply chain. Any organization that meets the RJC's established guidelines can earn an official certification, creating accountability within the jewelry industry and transparency for the consumers we serve.
What is the Responsible Jewelry Council?
The Responsible Jewelry Council is a nonprofit organization committed to standardizing sustainable and ethical jewelry and watch industry practices. Because the RJC was founded in the UK, you'll sometimes see the organization's title with the British spelling: “Responsible Jewellery Council.” As a worldwide collaborative effort to build trust in the jewelry industry and its supply chain, the RJC focuses on bettering all areas of the industry, from mining to retail. The guidelines and codes that jewelry organizations must satisfy in order to receive RJC certifications cover topics like human rights, gemstone sourcing, and labor. If an organization is RJC certified, its partners, vendors, and customers can rest assured that their processes have been audited and that they’re conducting sustainable and ethical business practices.
Why Does the RJC Exist?
The Responsible Jewelry Council was formed in response to some harmful practices. Unfortunately, over the years the jewelry industry has seen many types of unethical behavior across the supply chain, and until 2005 when the RJC was established, there was no system of accountability.
One primary issue the RJC took up was the eradication of unsustainable and unethical material sourcing. Diamond mining has been a topic of discussion in the jewelry industry for many years and conflict diamonds have created a lot of friction. The United Nations defines conflict diamonds as “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.”
Conflict diamonds are harmful to the geographical regions where mining occurs, to the laborers who pull the stones from the earth, and to the local communities who are impacted by unfair and unethical trade practices. Similarly, there were no measures in places for ensuring human rights in the jewelry industry before the RJC. Many people were mining stones or working on jewelry in terrible conditions. The RJC formed to combat this kind of unjust environment and enforce safety and health for all using a measurable ethics standard.
The Responsible Jewelry Council was established by 14 member organizations:
- ABN AMRO
- BHP Billiton Diamonds
- World Jewelry Confederation
- Diamond Trading Company (part of De Beers Group)
- Jewelers of America
- National Association of Goldsmiths (UK)
- Newmont Mining
- Rio Tinto
- Rosy Blue
- Signet Group
- Tiffany & Co.
- Zale Corporation
To set and enforce worldwide standards that ensure safety and health practices, fair labor, and sustainable treatment of the environment, the RJC developed the Code of Practices and the Chain of Custody guidelines. Jewelry organizations can earn certifications for either their practices or their chain of custody in order to demonstrate their ethical commitments to the world. The RJC revisits these standards regularly and makes amendments based on new trends, emerging statistics, and thorough research.
RJC Code of Practices
Earning the RJC Code of Practices (COP) certification involves a five-step process. The process includes a self-assessment, an audit, a report, a certification decision, and then finally a review and recertification. The COP is an in-depth framework and a living document that outlines several parameters for certification, including:
- Responsible supply chain, human rights, and due diligence
- Labor rights and working conditions
- Health, safety, and environment
- Gold, silver, platinum group metals, diamond, and colored gemstone products
- Responsible mining
RJC Chain of Custody
The Chain of Custody (CoC) certification ensures the ethical sourcing, tracing, and processing of metals used in jewelry. The standard document “defines the requirements for creating a CoC of precious metals that are responsibly produced, processed, and traded through jewelry supply chains, and that are third-party assured at every stage.” The certification process involves a self-assessment, an audit, certification, another surveillance audit to ensure continued compliance, and a certification renewal after three years. The Chain of Custody certification outlines areas like:
- Due diligence for responsible sourcing
- Management for internal systems and outsourced contractors
- Systems to confirm eligibility and sustainability of materials
- Issuing documentation for metals to verify sustainability
Finding a custom jewelry manufacturer that values and is certified by the RJC is important; your partners, vendors, and customers will feel confident in your jewelry selection knowing that it was ethically produced. MJJ Brilliant is proudly certified by the Responsible Jewelry Council and commits to enforcing these standards to ensure the health, safety, and equitable treatment of everyone in the jewelry making process. Contact MJJ Brilliant today to talk about beginning your custom jewelry manufacturing project in a responsible and ethical way.