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Original Conference Dates: Nov. 4-5, 2022

Creating and sustaining responsible jewelry supply chains is extraordinarily complex. The jewelry industry, governments, NGOs, communities, individual employers, and consumers each have a stake, often with conflicting interests.

To reconcile these divergent viewpoints requires transparent communication, deep listening, and collaborative problem-solving.

The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, took place November 4-5 in downtown Chicago, is where the stakeholders in the jewelry supply chain gathered to participate in the skillful navigation of challenging problems and we livestreamed and recorded the whole thing! For a limited time the complete replay is available for purchase so you can immerse yourself at your convenience.

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2022 Conference Schedule

Below was the conference schedule for 2022.

November 4th


  • 8:45 - 9:00am

    Continental Breakfast & Networking

  • 9:00 - 9:15am

    Conference Opening

    Welcome to the Conference with Andrea Hill, CEO | Hill Management Group | Werx Brands; and Susan Wheeler, Founder | Responsible Jewelry Transformative | Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference | Susan Wheeler Design

  • 9:15 - 10:00AM

    Keynote: Sanctions and the Jewelry Industry

    Introduction by Oksana Markarova | Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States

    Co-Keynote: Brad Brooks-Rubin, Sr. Advisor | Office of Sanctions, U.S. Department of State.

    Join Brad Brooks-Rubin as he shares the important role that gold, diamonds and gemstones play in world peace and human rights. Followed with Q & A with Susan Wheeler.

  • 10:00 - 10:15am

    Insight into the Congolese Mining Sector

    A video presentation by CEGEMI with Bossissi Nkuba, Professor | CEGEMI; and Sara Geenen, Professor | Institute of Development Policy University of Antwerp.

    How to improve livelihoods, the environment and provincial development from the impact from mining.

  • 10:15am - 11:15am

    Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Moderated by Professor Christie Klimas | DePaul University-Chicago. Panelists: Patricia Nsimire Ndagano, Consultant | World Bank; Ken Matthysen, Researcher | IPIS; and Mike Loch, President & Founder | Responsible Trade, LLC.

    The ramifications of mining gold, diamond and gemstones for the people and wildlife in one of the most important ecosystems in the world.

  • 11:15am - 12:00pm

    Marange Women's Alliance

    Moderated by Monica Stephenson, Founder |ANZA Gems and President | Ethical Metalsmiths. A conversation with Susan Wheeler and Abigail Sibanda, Gender Focal Person | Marange Women's Alliance, and a video produced by the Marange Woman's Alliance.

    How will a billboard campaign targeting sex trafficking change the script.

  • 12:00 - 1:30pm

    Lunch & Break Out Sessions

    Break Out: Mercury Free Mining with Toby Pomeroy, Founder/Executive Director | Mercury Free Mining.

    This organization is on a mission to eradicate mercury from gold mining. Hear the strides they are making and join the cause.

  • 1:30 - 2:30pm

    The Newest Traceable Small Scale Gold Mining Sources

    Moderated by Andrea Hill. Panelists: Cristina Villegas, Director of Sustainable Markets | PACT; Jen Marraccino, Sr. Director of Development | Pure Earth; Andrea Jose Castro, Founder | Andrea Jose and Casa Collab; and Morgane Nzelemona, Head of Sustainable Markets | Alliance for Responsible Mining.

    This panel will share the newest gold mining sources available and how you can work with these exciting new sourcing options.

  • 2:30 - 3:15pm

    "Complicity in Destruction"

    Christian Poirier, Program Director | Amazon Watch

    Amazon Watch's campaign around gold mining in the indigenous territories of Brazil. Large scale gold mines and the refineries that supply to the jewelry industry are listed in the Blood Gold report. Here's what you need to know.

  • 3:30 - 4:15pm

    Virtu Gem CRAFT Code in Gemstone Mining, Virtuous Partnerships, and National Gem Cut Design Competition

    Moderated by Andrea Hill. Panelists: Dr. Adriano Mol | Professor & Specialist in Gem and Jewelry Design; Jessica Hudson, Owner and Designer | VIPĀKA Jewelry and Founder | The Nomad Jeweler; Pauline Mundia, Vice President | Federation of Small Scale Mining Associations of Zambia and the African Women in Mining Association-Southern African Chapter; Percy Maleta, Founder | Maleta Gems & Jewels; and Monica Gichuhi, Extractives Industry Consultant | Virtu Gem and AGEC.

    Meet the Virtu Gem Team in from Zambia, Brazil, Malawi and Kenya as they introduce the National Gem Cut Design Competition.

  • 4:15 - 5:00PM

    Carbon Zero Impacts and Opportunities for Artisanal and Small Scale Mining

    Moderated by Susan Wheeler. Panelists: Mark Hanna, Chief Marketing Officer | Richline Group; Pauline Mundia, Vice President | Federation of Small Scale Mining Associations of Zambia and the African Women in Mining Association-Southern African Chapter; Eric Braunwart, Founder | Columbia Gem House; and Susan Wheeler | Susan Wheeler Design.

    As the world moves to carbon zero emissions, this panel will discuss what are the implications for the jewelry industry, and how will we bring equity to our supply chain.

  • 5:00 - 6:00pm

    Onsite Cocktails

    Join us! Grab a beer or a glass of wine, nibble on light hors d'oeuvres, mingle and relax.

November 5th


  • 8:45 - 9:00am

    Continental Breakfast & Networking

  • 9:00 - 9:15am

    Ethical Metalsmiths

    Monica Stephenson, Founder | ANZA Gems and President | Ethical Metalsmiths.

    Monica will present an overview of the current membership organization and highlights the importance of inclusion for individual jewelers to the responsible jewelry movement.

  • 9:15 - 10:15am

    The Fairmined Jewelry Designer Challenge

    Moderated by Melissa Quick, President | Steve Quick Jeweler. Panelists: Alisa Thorpe | Mercurius Jewelry; Will Nevins-Alderfer | WR Metal Arts; and Shabana Lakdawala | Lakdawala.

    The Fairmined Jewelry Designer Challenge brought over 50 jewelers from across the globe together to celebrate and create in Fairmined gold. Original designs, and a passion for gold to be proud of unites designers. Hear their reflections on what responsible jewelry means to them and why they support Fairmined gold.

  • 10:15 - 11:00AM

    Points of Convergence in Wildlife Trafficking and the Jewelry Supply Chain

    With Rowena P. Watson, PhD, Div. Chief, Wildlife Conservation and Combating Wildlife Trafficking | OES/ECW, U.S. Dept. of State, Washington DC.

    The convergence of wildlife trafficking and the jewelry industry supply chain goes deep. Gold, diamonds and colored gemstones are used to launder money from wildlife trafficking and facilitate the illicit business that threatens some of our world's most precious animals and puts us at risk for the spread of new animals to human diseases. Where does wildlife trafficking happen and how can we keep our sourcing clean from this devious black market. Our awareness can help prevent this illicit trade that is decimating many wildlife species worldwide.

  • 11:00AM - 12:00PM

    Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Reading and Q&A by Author, Matthew Gavin Frank

    Join the Author Matthew Gavin Frank as he reads excerpts from his nonfiction novel based on the life of a young boy mining diamonds and sometimes smuggling those diamonds away on literally the wings of his pigeon. The strip of beach along the Namibian coast, the treatment of workers, environmental loss and poverty in the backdrop of diamond mining are all beautifully illustrated in the novel.

  • 12:00 - 1:30pm

    Lunch & Break Out Sessions

    Break Out: Yes, You Can Join the UN Hosted Conscious Fashion and Lifestyles Network for SDGs with Rachel Black | Responsible Jewelry Transformative.

    Learn how the network propels your initiative into the circle of fashion brands working to achieve the SDGs and engage in a workshop to get signed up.

  • 1:30 - 2:05PM

    Movie: Voices From the Mine: Artisanal Diamonds and Resource Governance in Sierra Leone

    Filmmaker Roy Maconachie, Professor of Natural Resources and Development | Dept. of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath.

    We will show the documentary, "Voices from the Mine," by Roy Maconachie, on artisanal diamonds and resource governance in Sierra Leone, which shows us the path of a diamond from the diggers hand to the diamond trader in Antwerp. (33 minutes)

  • 2:05 - 3:00PM

    Post-Film Discussion: Current State of Artisanal and Small Scale Diamond Mining

    Moderated by Brandee Dallow, Founder/President | Fine Girl Impact Communications and President | Women's Jewelry Association (WJA). Panelists: Hany Besada, Senior Research Fellow | United Nations University, Institute for Natural Resources in Africa, UN; Roy Maconachie, Professor of Natural Resources and Development | Dept. of Social and Policy Sciences | University of Bath; and Fas Lebbie, Ph. D Candidate, MS, BA | Root Diamonds.

    Artisanal and small scale diamond mining plays an important role in the livelihoods for many miners. This panel will discuss how we are one step closer to supporting them with our purchases. 

  • 3:15 - 3:45PM

    Tying it all together: Supply Chain Manifesto

    Presented by Andrea Hill, CEO | Hill Management Group.

  • 3:45 - 4:00pm

    Closing Comments

    Presented by Susan Wheeler, Founder | Responsible Jewelry Transformative | Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference | Susan Wheeler Design.

  • 7:00pm

    Steve Quick Jeweler Sponsored Reception

    It's time to relax and enjoy conversation after a heavy two days of content. Join us for dinner & cocktails generously provided by Steve Quick Jeweler.

Thank You to Our Generous 2022 Sponsors

The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference would not be possible without the financial and operational support of our sponsors.

Rio Grande

Rio Grande

Hill Management Group

Hoover & Strong

Anza Gems

Columbia Gem House

What We're All About

Working to Make Jewelry Beautiful from Beginning to End

Susan Wheeler (left), Founder of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference

A Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Conference

The growing attention was exciting, and Susan Wheeler attended several different events, and volunteered to serve on several committees. But she also wanted to do more. She wanted to create an experience that was more immediately actionable. She wanted to bring together voices from across the globe - voices that would directly represent the communities most affected by jewelry industry demands.

So, with no outside funding (and a very supportive husband), Susan decided to host a conference. In the most grass-roots of organizing behavior, she contacted Columbia College Chicago, arranged for a venue and a student population to work with, and started calling friends and acquaintances in the jewelry industry to ask them to jump on board.

The beginning

The jewelry industry doesn't have a stellar record of getting out in front of social criticism. So in 2016, when several industry organizations started putting together meetings, industry discussions, and panels to discuss responsibility in jewelry sourcing and production, it was exciting.

Gem dealers and jewelry designers led the forefront of change in how the jewelry industry connected with people and environments where gems, gold and diamonds are mined. It began one person at a time, sharing information and may changes in their own businesses. But the jewelry industry needed to bring even more players from all places in the supply chain to the table, if it was going to actually change things.

Designer Panel at 2017 Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference
Discussing Mercury-Free Mining Options
Responsibly Mined Gems, Represented by the Mining Communities

Our Mission

To engage everyone in the jewelry industry; miners, makers, professionals, educators, and students. To address all the ways that individuals and companies can be involved in the responsible jewelry movement. To make a difference by making things happen.

Susan Wheeler, Founder

To Our Surprise and Delight


It Came Together!

Trustchain graphic

Corporate Support


Early seed support from companies like Richline and Hoover & Strong helped get the conference off the ground.

Ethical Metalsmiths


Ethical Metalsmiths, the non-profit association for jewelry makers interested in responsible behaviors, embraced the conference from the beginning, assisting with lining up speakers and promoting the event.

State Department and NGOs


The US State Department, organizations like PACT, IMPACT, Fairmined, and Amazon Aid, and educators like University of Delaware and GIA have participated generously.

Reaching Out to the Public

Each year, the Chicago Conference has also reached out to the public, through screenings of important documentaries that address issues related to the jewelry industry and responsible supply chains.

In 2017, the conference presented Sharing the Rough, a documentary that explored acquiring rough gemstone materials from Kenya and Tanzania. In 2018, we hosted the first  US screening of River of Gold, which explores the impact of illegal gold mining on the Amazon rain forest.

The local community was invited to both screenings. Why? Because it's not enough for us to prepare ourselves for social criticism. We must also play a role in being critics and being publicly accountable for our industry.

© 2022. Responsible Jewelry Transformative

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