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Topic: Beading with a social conscience?  (Read 3856 times)
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« on: August 17, 2004 12:47:15 PM »

It has recently been brought to my attention that many beads (especially semiprecious gemstone beads) are made in factories in China, India, and other countries where the workers are subjected to terrible conditions.  Many of them come down with lung diseases from inhaling too much of the dust from the grinding process, and some die prematurely.  They are also paid such low wages that they don't really have what they need to survive, but they are forced to work for whatever they can since other jobs are not available.

I am currently looking into sources for fair trade beads.  I've encountered some opposition, mainly of the usual sweatshop issue argument: if we boycott the companies with "bad" factories, these people will lose their jobs and may be even worse off.  But that argument doesn't fly.  If we boycott, and let the companies know why, perhaps we can influence factory owners to buy the proper equipment for their workers.  Seem far-fetched?  Maybe it is, but it's worth a try, right?  After all, if enough people do this, bead companies are more likely to just suck it up and buy the equipment than to shut down.

I work with polymer clay, but I have also been making a lot of beaded jewelry lately.  I've decided that, from now on, I will use mostly fair trade beads in my jewelry.  I am not worried about paying more for the beads.  A socially conscious customer base will be willing to pay a little more for jewelry that is handmade by me from fair trade beads.

Does anyone know more than I do about which beads are most likely to have been made in a safe way, if it is better to buy beads made in certain countries, etc?  I am trying to do research on the subject but it seems like there just is not a whole lot out there.

Please let me know if you have more info, or if you're interested in supporting this cause.  I am going to compile a list of online bead stores where fair trade beads can be purchased and put it on my web site.  I may even wind up starting a nonprofit organization to educate people about this problem, and to promote further research; but I'm getting ahead of myself.   Wink

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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2004 02:54:08 AM »

great idea!
i know delicas are made in japan, i visited their showroom and live in japan so i think they are pretty good, they certainly work more hours than in western countries, but so does everyone here, and they do make decent wages i assume because japan is pretty good about such things and the cost of living here is high.  i must say i don't know for sure though, but made in japan is likely to be better than made in developing countries for regulations...

it would be great to get a list of factory owners and ceos of bead companies and their addresses and each month or something send out someone new to write to about our concerns... this way we could find out what they have to say and they would know that people care.  alot of companies just do what is easy, but are willing to change if they know anyone is noticing.  It would be great to make this a segment in national beading mags i think.

also, most lampwork beads are probably a good choice as they are handmade by artisans.   and how about the origins of gemstone beads? alot of people assume metal and gems are all equal and they aren't!  anyway, perhaps advocating for using less overall, using recycled goods, and donating a percentage of bead spending money or profits to some organizations we care about is a good goal too.  Many people save receipts so they can take them off their taxes, well we could just add 1 percent and then take that off our taxes too! 

so how is your project going? any luck?


now, whether in punishment or reward, through all eternity, she must love and believe in what she did not understand.  -dennison
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