The world’s first independent ethical certification system for responsibly mined gold – Fairtrade and Fairmined gold – celebrates its first anniversary this Fairtrade Fortnight (27 Feb – 11 March).

Highlights  for Fairtrade and Fairmined gold jewellery’s first year included bespoke commissions which adorned the fingers of TV presenter, radio DJ and model Lisa Snowdon and Livia Firth as part of her Green Carpet Challenge at the 2011 Oscars.

The Fairtrade Foundation, which certifies the gold, announce that 350kg per year of gold will soon be available to jewellers, with more to follow.  In the first year of trading, four gold mining organisations have become certified and an additional two are currently going through the inspection process and will enter the system in May.

The Fairtrade Foundation reports that sales of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold bullion reached  an estimated £700,000 in 2011.

People living in the isolated Peruvian community of Santa Filomena have already reaped the benefits Sotrami, the first Peruvian mining organisation to be certified, began working with Cred Jewellery. Thanks to the Fairtrade premium, the community invested in healthcare, built an extension to the primary school and bought computers for the senior school. They opened a not-for-profit convenience store which means the 500-strong community can buy food at reasonable prices.

Retailers and jewellers say customers have responded positively to the gold, indicating that businesses will continue to expand their commitment to Fairtrade’s model of ethical sourcing. Fairtrade and Fairmined gold jewellery commissions have adorned the fingers of TV presenter, radio DJ and model Lisa Snowdon and Livia Firth as part of her Green Carpet Challenge at the Oscars this year.

And supplies of gold are set to increase further. Thanks to a grant of £820,318 from Comic Relief over the next three years, the Fairtrade Foundation will be partnering with Fairtrade Africa, the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Solidaridad to develop gold supplies from artisanal and small-scale miners in Africa.

Mining in Africa often involves unsafe use of mercury, deforestation, poor working conditions and child labour. The programme will work with eight mining groups in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to develop their technical skills to improve hazardous working conditions. Training will also concentrate on eliminating child labour and the democratic organisation of the mining groups. This will mean that gold mined by impoverished African artisanal and small- scale miners can get into international markets through transparent supply chains.

The project aims to raise consumers’ awareness of the challenges faced by the African miners as well as influencing the international public policy agenda, through the development of a network of civil society and local governments.

Fairtrade Foundation Business Development Manager Victoria Waugh says:  ‘We are very excited to celebrate the anniversary of the world’s first responsibly mined gold and are delighted that Comic Relief are making this hugely significant investment which gives a real opportunity to some of the world’s poorest miners in Africa.

‘Through the financial and developmental benefits of Fairtrade – including additional premium, pre-finance and long-term business relations with traders – even more producers have a chance to lift themselves out of poverty and create sustainable livelihoods for their families and communities.

‘We’re calling on the jewellery industry to support artisanal miners by choosing to source certified gold for their business, and consumers to take a step for gold miners by buying jewellery pieces marked with the Fairtrade and Fairmined dual stamp.’

The Fairtrade Foundation is currently working with 40 jewellers, almost double since the launch, and has licensed 591 individual jewellery pieces plus several entire collections.  New companies which have come on board since the launch include Cool Diamonds, Charles Green, Anna Loucah, Steven Einhorn, Samantha Salmons, Jessica Poole, Hattie Rickards, Dale Aldington-Hunt, Oak Fine Jewellery, September Rose, Melville Fine Jewellery, Arabel Lebrusan, Kaanaanmaa, Pravins, Diana Porter Jewellery, Alex Monroe, Lynsey Pluck, Regal Jewellery, Erica Sharpe, Good as Gold and Vipa Designs. Anna Loucah Fine Jewellery designed the first Fairtrade and Fairmined gold to be seen on the Oscars red carpet in 2011, and will launch initial pieces from her new ‘Sacred’ collection during Fairtrade Fortnight 2012 with the full collection, including engagement rings, planned for later in the year.  Made from Fairtrade and Fairmined ecological gold with diamonds, the pieces have a geometric feel and feature kinetic elements.

Pioneering Fairtrade licensee Cred Jewellery has signed an exclusive manufacturing and licensing partnership with British bridal jewellery manufacturer Brown & Newirth.  Their Fairtrade and Fairmined gold wedding rings were launched at The Jewellery Show this month, and will be available under both the Cred and Brown & Newirth brand names.

Specialist diamond jewellery brand, Cool Diamonds is now offering customers the choice of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold when ordering designs in store and through their website

Wedding ring and jewellery manufacturer Charles Green have created an 18 carat bridal collection in Fairtrade and Fairmined gold.  The range includes engagement rings with matching ‘wed fit’ plain and diamond set wedding rings.

The Fairtrade Foundation plans to build consumer awareness of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold over the coming year and will help consumers better understand why buying jewellery made from Fairtrade and Fairmined gold for a special occasion holds greater value and significance.

Estimated UK retail sales of all Fairtrade products in 2011 reached £1.32bn, a 12% increase on sales of £1.17bn in 2010.