JEM, an ethical jewelry

May 30, 2017

In the JEM pop-up shop. In the JEM pop-up store. Photo: ©MarieChabrol

A few days ago, I made an appointment to discover a company whose news I have been following for a few months now and whose initiative I find commendable and very encouraging in the jewellery industry. So I went to meet Dorothée Contour, Director of the French house JEM Jewellery Ethically Minded, in the first ephemeral boutique of the brand, at 10 rue d’Alger in the 1st arrondissement of Paris and a few steps away from the Tuileries Gardens. A fascinating meeting about gold extraction and the traceability of the metal. Proof also that a desire for transparency in the jewellery sector is gradually emerging. And that is excellent news!

Gold shot. Gold shot. Photo: JEM

Founded in 2008 by the designer Erwan Le Louër, the company has been offering collections in “Fair Mined” gold since its inceptionFair mined“. The success is there but the founder of the house wants to engage in new adventures and the project falls asleep. Dorothée Contour joined the adventure in 2013. Trained at HEC, with a strong experience in strategy consulting for luxury brands, she takes up the torch and buys the company to relaunch it. Long aware of sustainable development, ecology and ethical production, she has been rethinking the collections for the past two years, but also perpetuating the models that made the brand a success in the beginning. She is developing collaborations with designers to bring new products and initiate new ranges: India Mahdavi (Voids Collection, 2011), Adeligne Darmagnac (Sillons Collection, 2014) or Ha Yeon Lee for the Octogone Collection launched in 2016. While the pieces are designed in Paris, the manufacturing – entirely French – is carried out in the Vosges by an RJC (Responsible Jewellery Council) certified jewellery company. This label, which is now a must in the jewellery industry, certifies that companies are committed to a sustainable development approach that is both social and ecological.

Bracelet from the Voids collection, in ethical 750 yellow gold, India Mahdavi for JEM (2011). Photo: ©MarieChabrol

This gold fair mined gold has raised a lot of questions on my part. The origin of this label is the ARM – Alliance for a Responsible Mining – created in 2004 by experts working mainly in Ecuador as part of the Rainforest Rescue International (FURARE) programme. Today, 140 companies (including 12 mines in Peru, Bolivia, Mongolia and Colombia) in 21 countries hold this label, which has enabled the responsible extraction of more than 400 kilos of gold since 2014 for more than 1.5 million dollars, thus providing development opportunities for the communities that live off the extraction of this metal.

Ethical 750 yellow gold cuff from the Octagon collection by Ha Yeon Lee for JEM (2016). Photo: ©MarieChabrol

Technically, how does it work? The mines that obtain the label commit to limiting child labour and using as few chemicals as possible, such as mercury, under strict conditions to avoid pollution. The fair distribution of wealth, the legality of operations and the rehabilitation of sites are among the obligations to be respected. This gold is sold to a labelled cooperative and the batches are stamped fair mined and numbered. The traceability of the batches is guaranteed at all levels of production (refining, smelting, jewellery manufacturing workshop, etc.) and can be traced back to the cooperative. At no time is this gold mixed with other unstamped gold. At JEM, the jewels are engraved and this number makes it possible to trace the entire production chain of the piece, thus attesting to the origin of the gold. Yes, but gold is not used pure… The copper and silver used in the design of the alloys come from recycled batches. The Fair Mined label is currently being developed for silver mining. Only palladium is not yet labelled and I appreciated Dorothée’s sincerity and transparency on this subject. This label is a great stepping stone towards greater transparency in the jewellery industry but there is always room for improvement. And I have no doubt that the years to come will strengthen this wonderful adventure.

Ethical 750 yellow gold ring from the Sillons collection by Adeline Darmagnac for JEM (2014). Photo: ©MarieChabrol

At JEM, there are no stones in the collections. This is a desire of the company because it is not possible today to certify that the farms are totally ethical and ecologically committed in their operations. The Kimberley Process does exist for diamonds, but all the experts will tell you that this label can be improved upon. Moreover, the large diamond mines are not at all committed to ecological management. You only have to look at images from Canada and Russia, for example, to understand the impact of diamond mining on the landscape and the soil… Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop you from bringing your own stone to have it mounted by the company. At the same time, the company is committed to finding suppliers who can attest that their stones are extracted by mines that meet the requirements of the Fair Mined label. It is also considering the use of synthetic diamonds in future collections. Consumers are changing and so are their aspirations. YWAM is a magnificent initiative that I invite you to discover!

Ethical 750 rose gold ring from the Octagon collection by Ha Yeon Lee for JEM (2016). Photo: ©MarieChabrol

The ephemeral boutique is open until June 14 in the 1st arrondissement of Paris at 10 rue d’Alger. The creations will also be available at the ephemeral boutique of the 1.618 platform (about which I already spoke to you on the website) from June 1st to 11th, rue de la Corderie in the Marais (Paris 3), a stone’s throw from the Carreau du Temple. Two nice places to visit and I can only encourage you to do so!

The house also welcomes you by appointment in its showroom. Just call them on 01 85 34 70 22 or send a note by email to: contact(at) Don’t hesitate!

See you soon


marie chabrol

Hello my name Is Marie. Speaker, consultant & teacher, I write with passion about the world of jewelry.

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