There’s More to Fairtrade than coffee and chocolate – even the jewelry we buy can support people and planet-friendly production practices. We talked with Kyle Abram of reflective Jewelry, the only fairtrade certified gold jeweler in the us to hear more about the important work they’re doing to impact the jewelry industry.
Please introduce yourself – what is your role with Reflective Jewelry?
My name is Kyle Abram, and I am the Brand Catalyst for Reflective Jewelry. My work involves SEO/SEM and online marketing, as well as various avenues of activism — including writing and researching on topics related to the ethical jewelry space. Ultimately, my personal aim is to support regenerative business models that move the global economy toward racial, social, and environmental justice. Being at Reflective Jewelry gives me great opportunity to do this, as our owners are very much in line with these goals — and in fact, have been working toward them for decades.
Tell me about your company. What’s your mission? What is the story behind your ethically made products?
Reflective Jewelry was founded in 1995 by co-owners (and husband and wife) Marc Choyt and Helen Chantler. Marc is the President, and Helen is the Lead Designer. As America’s only certified Fairtrade Gold jeweler, we craft designer jewelry and wedding rings, by hand, from ethically-sourced materials. Our mission is to support the producer communities in the Global South whose raw materials form the basis of the jewelry trade.
Unfortunately, jewelry has sourcing has a very dirty past and present, to put it mildly. There’s a history of colonialism and neocolonialism, as well as wanton environmental destruction. We don’t believe that gold, diamonds, or gemstones need to be sourced at the expense of people or planet — and Fairtrade Gold is proof. Beyond creating our own jewelry out of ethically-sourced materials, we want to show the industry that it is possible to change your sourcing for the better. There has been a push in this direction for some time, which has grown exponentially in the past 18 months or so — in part due to the Black Lives Matter movement here in the US. But there is much more to be done.
Why did you choose to certify your product Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is a globally-recognized brand trusted by millions and millions of consumers. Certified Fairtrade Gold breaks the cycle of poverty and exploitation for producer communities, and affords them access to resources like education and healthcare. When we were looking to improve our gold supply, Fairtrade was a no-brainer.
Here’s an important point: many consumers may not be aware that small-scale gold mining, the source of employment for about 40 million people around the globe, is the #1 contributor to global mercury pollution. Small-scale miners often mix mercury, water, and gold dust with their bare hands — and then later burn of the amalgam in the same pan they use to feed their families, sometimes even under closed roofs with no ventilation. I don’t think I need to explain how dangerous and damaging this is for the miners, their families, or the Earth. Among other benefits, Fairtrade Gold gives miners ways to use mercury safely — or even eliminate it altogether.
What makes your product unique?
Aside from the ethical sourcing aspects, many of our wedding rings, engagement rings, and other jewelry designs are made entirely by hand by our small team of artisans at our Santa Fe, New Mexico studio. The techniques and tools we use are almost identical to those employed over 100 years ago, and are rooted in Spanish and Indigenous traditions of the American Southwest. Our our website, you can even see how we create a Fairtrade Gold wedding ring by hand.
Our signature is really our two-tone gold-over-silver pieces, many of which were designed by Helen. Helen’s unique perspective draws on her own European roots as well as inspiration from the natural world, and she is the visionary artist behind the company.
How do you use your business to create a more sustainable and/or equitable world? How do you give back?
Reflective Jewelry is an activist company at its core. Marc has been a pioneer in the ethical jewelry world for over 15 years, even founding the first-ever blog dedicated to ethical jewelry, which later evolved into Fair Jewelry Action — a watchdog organization. Our website details our past and current work extensively, but a couple of recent highlights include producing our 40,000 word Ethical Jewelry Exposé in 2018 and being named the 2019 Santa Fe Green Business of the Year — a huge deal in a environmentally-conscious city like ours! We also run a program through which we will donate back 20% of sales back to nonprofit partners.
On my own end, I am involved in several capacities with Ethical Metalsmiths — including writing for their blog, The Source, and serving on their Action Coalition. I am a signatory of the 2020 BIPOC open letter to the jewelry industry, which among other things called for the jewelry industry to work to improve its sourcing from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities globally. I also spoke at this year’s Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, and have no plans to slow down my activism any time soon.
“Reflective Jewelry is an activist company at its core.”– Kyle Abram, Brand Catalyst at Reflective Jewlery
What’s next for Reflective Jewelry? Where do you see your company in 5 years, for example?
Both here and abroad, the small jewelers have always been the change-makers. It’s our hope that we will see certified ASGM (artisanal and small-scale gold mining) projects like Fairtrade Gold grow in size and scope. In just the past 18 months or so, there has been a tremendous increase of awareness around and interest in these programs, which as I mentioned was in part brought on by the Black Lives Matter movement — and we think the time is right to propel the ethical jewelry (and ethical gold sourcing) movement toward broad support of racial justice. There’s no reason why producer communities need to exist in abject poverty, and there is potential to change millions of lives.
What inspires you and your team to work towards business for good?
This has always been in the DNA of Reflective Jewelry. If you ask Marc, he’ll tell you about how, when the company was just getting started in the mid-‘90s, he and Helen worked on habitat restoration on a section of the Santa Fe river near their home. Through this process, they came to realize that the gold they were buying — whose funds were being harnessed for this act of good — was actually probably contributing to habitat destruction elsewhere in the world. This was sort of the spark for it all.
Marc and Helen remain committed to environmental and social justice. I came to Reflective specifically by looking for an opportunity to work with a “responsible” or “conscious” business, it’s really the foundation for me. I believe that commerce has massive potential to move the world toward racial, social, and environmental justice. For better or for worse, it’s all about the almighty dollar. But there are plenty of commercially-viable ways to ensure people live with dignity and respect, and that our Earth is not needlessly destroyed.
What is one key takeaway for customers to know about Reflective Jewelry and your work with Fairtrade?
Your wedding ring is the one piece of jewelry you know you’re going to wear every day for the rest of your life. Given the choice, would you rather it be made from gold that contributed to exploitation of people and harm to our planet — or from gold that uplifted producer communities, and gave them fair wages, contributed to a community fund for healthcare, and allowed them to mine in safe and non-destructive ways? Choosing Fairtrade Gold allows you to be a part of the solution, and it makes a real difference in the lives of real people. It also allows a beautiful alignment between the heartfelt values behind the symbolism of a wedding ring, and its sourcing. Over a lifetime, that makes a difference.
How can a customer get involved with your brand?
The best way to follow along with latest developments and new product releases is on Instagram: @reflectivejewelry. Of course, anyone with questions is encouraged to reach out to us at info(at)reflectivejewelry.com. Or if you’re in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, come by our gallery at 912 Baca Street!
Where can customers find your Fairtrade products?
The best place to shop is on ReflectiveJewelry.com — but you can also find many of our products on Instagram and Pinterest. Our Santa Fe, New Mexico gallery and studio is a stand-out of the Baca Street Arts District. If you’re ever in the area, please come by for a free studio tour. You can see for yourself how we fabricate our jewelry by hand!
We’re in this together
Fairtrade America partners with brands on the journey to certification and beyond. We can help with everything from finding a certified supply chain to marketing your newly certified product.Get in Touch