There are a number of products used in various forms of jewelry that are derivatives from animals. Common examples of organic gems are pearls, coral, and ivory. Lesser known products derive from other animals such as rhinos, big cats, sharks, and sea turtles. The value of some animal products is a driver of poaching and illicit trade that directly threaten endangered species. While the problem is fueled by much bigger demand than jewelry applications, some concerned jewelers are stepping up to try to make a difference.
The Richline Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has joined with other jewelers in an effort to curb the illegal acquisition of wildlife and related products by the precious stones industry. Richline, a Tamarac, Florida-based jewelry maker and marketer, teamed up with firms such as Ethical Metalsmiths, Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Networks and Jewelers of America, to cut demand and supply of such products.
The effort, part of the ongoing Richline Responsible initiative, aims to raise awareness of the wildlife trafficking crisis and support President Obama’s U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance
, launched in 2013.
“We felt it was our responsibility to help spread the word, and are thrilled to see so many key industry organizations are willing to get involved,” Mark Hanna, chief marketing officer at Richline, said in a statement. “We must raise awareness throughout the jewelry industry in order to diminish demand.”
In his cover letter to the 2014 Executive Summary for the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking
, President Obama declared “The entire world has a stake in protecting the world’s iconic animals, and the United States is strongly committed to meeting its obligation to help preserve the Earth’s natural beauty for future generations.”
In addition to the urgent concern for the affected animal populations, the crisis has impacts to the overall environment and to civil societies. The executive order issued by the White House in in 2013 describes the national interests related to the problem.
“The poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their derivative parts and products (together known as "wildlife trafficking") represent an international crisis that continues to escalate. Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organized criminal syndicates. The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security. Also, the prevention of trafficking of live animals helps us control the spread of emerging infectious diseases. For these reasons, it is in the national interest of the United States to combat wildlife trafficking.”
The Richline initiative endeavors to achieve its goals by working to keep illegal wildlife products out of the jewelry industry’s supply chains, and by educating customers about the devastating impact of illegally trafficked goods. It should be noted that the vast majority of jewelry products such as designer engagement rings
do not contain materials of this nature.