At Leber Jeweler Inc, we hold fast to the ideal that jewelry can be an expression of a person’s values. We have long been a recognized leader in the movement toward combining high ethical standards and fine jewelry. We remain true to our conviction that a business, like every individual, has a duty to apply both charity and wisdom to everything one does. These values us to create the first line of socially responsible jewelry, Earthwise Jewelry®.

Every work from the Earthwise Jewelry® Collection is meticulously crafted in our artisanal workshop in Chicago, carrying on a tradition of excellence since 1921. With a deep and abiding respect for both the planet and the people who are a part of every piece we create, we offer our designs as keepsakes to be cherished for many years to come.

The Ethical in Jewelry

The word ethical is too often misused. Clever marketers use the term to appeal to consumers’ desire for a better world. We are so inundated with those advertising messages that many of us are rightly questioning what it means to be ethical today.

For us, to act ethically is, at its very core, to be guided by a system of moral principles that apply not just to a single product, but also to how a business is run and how we as individuals choose to live our lives.

When Frank Leber first came to this country from what was then called Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1914, he became an apprentice in a Chicago jewelry workshop to learn his craft from skilled artisans. In 1921, he set out on his own and opened Leber Jeweler on the city’s Southwest Side. His vision was to offer people the finest jewelry possible sold in an atmosphere of honesty and integrity.

Both my grandfather and father believed in the idea of living ethically—that serving the community, whether local or global, is a fundamental part of running a successful business. This is a tradition we carry forward each day we open our doors.

In the early 1990s when we first began laying the groundwork for what would become Earthwise Jewelry®, no one before had dared take on the human rights and environmental issues we were confronting. There were very few answers to the difficult questions we posed. But we felt that by addressing the complex moral issues that faced our industry, our company was pursuing the vision of my grandfather’s and my father’s dream of what a business can and should accomplish.

To us, acting ethically is not a marketing strategy. It is how we live our lives, sharing in a responsibility towards other humans, animals, and the planet. Our jewelry is just one small part of the much larger equation.

What is Fair Trade?

At Leber Jeweler Inc we sought out ways to make the jewelry we were designing as socially responsible as possible, long before the phrase fair trade became part of the popular lexicon. We were not trying to create a niche nor were we following any marketing study that said this would be profitable, believing instead, in the words of Plato, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” We had been in business since the early part of the 20th century and were simply trying to do the best we could to make the finest jewelry possible, even if sourcing the products we offer responsibly made our task harder.

To us, fair trade isn’t a sticker. Fair trade isn’t a slogan. It’s a way of doing business in which people at all points along the supply chain are treated with dignity and respect. This includes our own neighborhoods as well as the communities we work with a half a world away.  Fair trade is not only about buying a product from a distant village, but it is an all-inclusive philosophy that encompasses both domestic products as well as those produced internationally. It is a means of conducting trade to assure that all members of the supply chain, from Africa to Iowa, truly benefit from the opportunities trade can offer. While some fair-trade organizations contend that fair trade does not apply to goods produced in the developed world, we disagree. We believe that no worker, regardless of where they live, can be left out of this process—or global trade will never be truly fair.

In its most basic form, fair trade is about social accountability. It means working with our trading partners to improve the status, conditions, and protections of workers. It should include measures that protect the environment. It should be a guiding principle behind how all goods are traded and not just a highly specialized niche comprising a tiny fragment of all global trade. We believe that all products sold should be fairly traded, or they shouldn’t be traded at all.

So let us all think big. Let us not make fair trade a marketing term for a select few specialty items. We should all work toward the day when we don’t need to say that trade was fair, since it will be a given.

Social Responsibility Standards

Fair-trade issues as well as the rights of individuals and all living things throughout the world have always been of deep concern to us. We stand firmly against conflict diamonds and gold, all forms of unfair labor practices including the use of child labor, and environmentally damaging mining. The following standards and goals guide our business practices every day.

Gemstones

Environmental Goals for Mining

  • Mine in a manner that protects all streams, watersheds and ground water from all forms of pollutants, including silt, debris, trash, and all chemical and biological contaminates.
  • Mine in a manner that minimizes the destruction of plants, wildlife, and habitat to the lowest degree possible.
  • Reclaim and replant all land once mining has been completed in order to restore it as closely as possible to the original conditions prior to mining and exploration.

Environmental Standards for Sourcing

  • Sell only gemstones that have been produced using environmentally sound mining methods.
  • Seek written assurance from all suppliers that warrant that the mining and all methods used to process rough gemstones are as environmentally sound as possible and in accordance with all local laws.
  • Insure that all waste or hazardous materials produced during mining, cutting or processing is disposed of in a safe, legal, environmentally sound manner, and in accordance with all local laws.

Labor Goals for Mining & Cutting

  • Mine, cut and process gemstones using labor that is paid a fair and living wage, and allowed to work free from extortion, threats of violence or obligation under any form of indentured servitude, in a safe work environment.
  • Mine, cut and process gemstones in a manner that prohibits the use of any form of child labor, forced labor, or trafficked labor, either in the mine or cutting facility itself or in any support capacity.
  • Provide equal opportunities for the employment and advancement of all qualified individuals, including women, members of the LGBT community, or ethnic minorities, in all areas of production, processing, and distribution.

Labor Standards for Sourcing

  • Sell only gemstones that have been produced using legitimate labor that has been paid a fair and living wage.
  • Seek written guarantees from all suppliers that no child labor, forced labor, or trafficked labor, or any unfair labor policies are ever used to produce the gemstones. All suppliers further assure that all labor conforms to all local labor laws or requirements in the country the rough is produced.

Should Leber Jeweler Inc. find gross or repeated disregard for labor or human rights concerns, we will cease all commercial transactions with the offending mining or cutting operation.

Gold and Platinum

Standards for Sourcing and Refining

  • Source reclaimed gold and platinum from legitimate sources, accounting for any subsequent waste stream in its production.
  • Process and refine all reclaimed gold and platinum in the United States in a manner that meets or exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), along with all regional and local regulatory agencies.
  • Maintain a standard that recycled gold and platinum is defined as precious metals containing 100% recycled content using metal derived solely from the reprocessing of finished end-use items that were either produced domestically or previously imported as manufactured items prior to transformation.
  • Recognize that while Earthwise Jewelry® uses 100% recycled gold and platinum in its fabrication, hard rock mining continues to exist and that efforts need to be made to reform this industry in a manner that both protects the environment and the rights of local communities in mine locales.

Finished Jewelry

Standards for Production of Earthwise Jewelry®

  • Manufacture all finished Earthwise Jewelry® pieces using U.S.-based labor that is paid a fair and living wage, recognizing that skilled American labor is an integral part of our local community’s health and well being.
  • Provide a safe and healthful work environment for employees in the production department, as well as in sales and office administration.
  • Recognize that fair trade principles should include not just communities in the developing world but also local communities, many of which are under-privileged or disenfranchised.

Business Operations

Although we strive to take big steps as an internationally recognized fine jewelry company, we are mindful that small steps are equally important. Following are some of the modest measures we’ve taken to protect our resources.

Our 1,700-square-foot store in Chicago’s River North neighborhood is located on the main floor of a former industrial building that is more than 130 years old. We designed the retail space to incorporate elements from the original architecture, including the original beam-and-brick construction, updating it with the aim of meeting the highest environmental standards.

Aware that our forests are a rapidly depleting resource, we use recycled materials with soy-based ink in all our paper products, from our company letterhead to our shopping bags. Our jewelry boxes are made with recycled paper and our shipping materials are recycled, reused or recyclable.

In addition, we use energy efficient lighting because we know that 95 percent of the water in our Lake Michigan watershed is drawn for coolant in electrical power plants.