One of the things I love about designing jewellery is sourcing the gemstones to work with.
What I dislike is the transparency in how these stones came to market - what was the impact on the environment? Did the miners get paid properly and were they provided with acceptable working conditions? What about the stonecutters?
The truth is, for coloured gemstones, there is no Kimberley process like there is for diamonds. Traceability is emerging in the industry for more precious coloured gemstones such as rubies, sapphires and emeralds but it leaves a huge amount of stones unaccounted for.
This means that for the most part I have to put my trust in my suppliers. That they have reassured me they are doing all they can to buy stones that aren't mined unsafely or cut and polished using child labour for example.
In order to bypass these concerns I predominately choose to buy stones that are cut and polished by hand in Yorkshire, U.K. The rough materials are not considered highly commercial and so are often 'collected' rather than 'mined' by small groups of people digging on private land (with permission, of course). A lot of material is often 'old stock' too, collected many decades ago and kept in private collections as specimens. These are stones like agates, fossilised wood and dinosaur bone, jaspers and Australian chrysoprase.
The next best thing I have selected to work with are bi-products of industry. Sea glass, for example, is collected by me from the shores of the U.K after tumbling wastefully in the waves for many years. Or Surfite which is polished resin left over from the manufacture of custom surfboards. Fordite is also very similiar - it's the layers of car paint that attach to the inside of the spraying booths. It becomes hard enough to cut and polish just like any other gemstone.