Date of lunch:
Monday, March 15, 2010
Ryan Taylor is the founder of the Fair Trade Jewellery Co. He is a goldsmith and custom jewellery designer and maker. Ryan also ensures that his gold is fair trade and prides himself on ethical and environmentally sensitive jewellery. Ryan is very active in social media and we have many mutual friends so I decided to ask him for lunch on Twitter to hear more about the work he does.
We met at Fionn MacCool’s at Bloor and Jarvis. In what I believe to be a tribute to St. Patrick’s Day, Ryan had a liquid lunch of Guinness. I had a Diet Coke and the grilled chicken sandwich with house salad. Although the food was fresh and tasty, it was pretty messy and impossible to eat gracefully. Not a great meal to have when trying to have a conversation. Total bill was $24 with tax.
The lunch lesson:
When I asked Ryan why he became a goldsmith and jeweler, he had a really interesting answer. He said he knew he wanted to work with his hands and quickly figured out that being a jeweler allowed him to create pieces of art that mean more to the people who receive them than they do to him. It’s true that bridal jewellery has so much emotion and meaning attached to it, that it would be pretty cool to know the work you do every day will be a huge part of someone’s life forever. You can’t say that with many jobs.
I, like most people I think, know very little about mining and making jewellery so I was really starting from scratch on this one. Ryan has recently taken on a friend of mine as an apprentice so he began by explaining to me the art of goldsmithing as a trade. In other countries and back in the day here I am sure; a trade such as goldsmithing began at a young age. Kids as young as ten are in the shop, cleaning, helping out and learning. In Canada, there is no formal apprenticeship in that way, and prospective jewelers usually don’t get started until university or college.
Ryan studied Jewellery at George Brown and as soon as he finished sought out a mentor in the business to help him get started. He met Karl Vigelius, someone he still looks up to today and considers a great friend. He now hopes to give back to his new apprentice in that same way and keep the cycle going of passing the knowledge down.
But beyond keeping the tradition of apprenticeship, Ryan also puts great importance on where he sources his gold. So much so that he produced a documentary on ethical mining in Colombia titled The Last Gold Rush. He traveled to the Chocó Rainforest in Colombia to learn about the Oro Verde, a fair trade and ethical gold and platinum mining program. It’s run by the community for the community. And the program goes beyond the mines by having educational programs and helping train the community in skills outside of mining, all by using the profits from the mine. The mine is family-owned and passed down from generation to generation. And the townspeople oversee the mine. Ryan gets his gold exclusively from this mine and then sources his diamonds from Canadian diamond mines.
I think most people have some idea that there are some very bad mining practices in the world, whether we know this from watching Blood Diamond or simply stories we have seen in the news, but it should come as no surprise that the diamond and other mining industries have an ugly side. But as Ryan and I discussed, the desire for beautiful jewellery, diamond engagement rings and more is really not going anywhere. So since there is a demand, I am glad there are people like Ryan ensuring that people and the environment are being treated fairly through every step in the process.
It was a really interesting lunch, hearing about a world that I really know nothing about and it reminded me why I started this blog in the first place.