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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 is where the stakeholders in the jewelry supply chain gather to participate in the skillful navigation of challenging problems.

We are in the process of finalizing all speakers and topics for the 2022 conference, which will take place on November 4-5 in downtown Chicago. Among our presentations will be new ideas, information, and progress reports on:

We are in the process of finalizing all speakers and topics for the 2022 conference. Among our presentations will be new ideas, information and progress reports on:

  • Resettlement of indigenous populations related to gold and gemstone mining
  • Balancing sustainable development and equity to small scale miners
  • New sanctions put on gold supplies that can no longer be ignored
  • The 2022 Fairmined Jewelry Designer Challenge
  • Impact of gold, gemstone and diamond mining activities on the Congo River Basin
  • The convergence of wildlife trafficking and the jewelry industry supply chain

We are in the process of finalizing all speakers, topics and times.

November 4th

  • 8:45 - 9:00am

    Continental Breakfast & Networking

  • 9:00 - 9:15am

    Conference Opening

    Welcome to Conference with Andrea Hill and Susan Wheeler.

  • 9:15 - 10:00am


    A session with Brad Brooks-Rubin, a Sr. Advisor, Office of Sanctions, U.S. Dept. of State.

  • 10:00 - 11:00am

    Internally Displaced Indigenous People of the Amazon

    Gold mining in the Amazon increased during the pandemic driving many tribes from their villages and territories. The jewelry industry consumes roughly 50% of the world's gold supply and without extreme diligence all of us will have contributed to the dislocation of people from their homes and the inability to live in their traditional lifestyles. What happens to a young woman who doesn’t speak Portuguese, and hasn’t gone through high school and ends up in Sao Paulo? How will she survive in an urban environment? Groups like Amazon Watch and APIB have called for a boycott of gold. How can we move forward?

  • 12:00 - 1:30pm

    Brown Bag Lunch & Break Out Sessions

    Break Out 1: Marange Women's Alliance Billboard on Sex Trafficking

    Break Out 2: Mercury Free Mining with Toby Pomeroy and Caelen Burand

  • 1:30 - 2:30pm

    New Sources in Gold

    Moderated by Andrea Hill. Panelists: Cristina Villegas | PACT; Jen Marraccino | Pure Earth; Andrea Jose | Casa Collab; and Morgane Nzelemona | Fairmined.

    PACT is working with miners in Sierra Leone for a new mine to market. 

  • 2:30 - 3:05pm

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

    Join us in viewing this film by Roy Maconachie followed with commentary and Q & A with the filmmaker.

  • 3:05 - 4:00pm

    Diamond Mining Panel

    Moderated by Brandee Dallow, Consultant. Panelists: Roy Maconachie, Professor of Natural Resources and Development in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences | University of Bath; and TBA.

  • 4:00 - 5:00pm

    The Carbon Zero, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Poverty Alleviation

    With Pauline Mundia | Zambian Feder; Monica Gichuhi | Virtu Gem; and Mark Hanna | Richline Group.

    The artisanal and small scale miners who supply our gemstones often work in poverty, the biggest need that they ask for is machinery and fuel to mine. The economic gap between these miners and the large scale miners is already massive. How do we balance bringing sustainable development to ASM, and equity to small miners in the shift to prohibitively expensive clean energy mining? How do we ensure that those who bear the brunt of climate change, benefit from the no carbon future and not suffer further as a result?

  • 5:00 - 6:00pm

    Onsite Cocktails

November 5th

  • 8:45 - 9:00am

    Continental Breakfast & Networking

  • 9:00 - 9:15am

    Ethical Metalsmiths

    Highlights from Ethical Metalsmiths Town Hall by Monica Stephenson

  • 9:15 - 10:00am

    The Fairmined Jewelry Designer Challenge

    The Fairmined Jewelry Designer Challenge 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.

  • 11:00 - 12:00am

    Root Diamond

    A session with Fas Lebbie and Martin Dewitte

  • 12:00 - 1:30pm

    Brown Bag Lunch & Break Out Session

    Break Out 1: Virtu Gem National Gem Cut Designer Competition

    Break Out 2: TBA

  • 1:30 - 2:15pm

    Wildlife Trafficking

    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.

  • 2:30 - 3:30pm

    Mining in the Congo DRC

    The DRC, encompases the great Congo River Basin, second most important lungs of the earth, endangered species “African Unicorn”, African Forest Elephant, Okapi, Grauer's Gorilla, Bonobo and Congo Peacock and it is home to many in Indigenous peoples including the Efe and Mbuti peoples. Yet gold and diamond mining are threatening this vital ecosystem and traditional communities. Rapid deforestation and mercury poisoning and tailings pond toxic seepage in the rivers has received little attention. The jewelry industry is implicated in the future of the DRC this panel will explore our impact.

  • 4:00 - 4:45pm

    Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: Reading by Author, Matthew Gavin Frank

    Join the Author James Gavin Frank as he reads excerpts from his non fiction novel based on the life of a young boy mining diamonds in a DeBeers concession 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 at DeBeers, environmental loss and poverty in the backdrop of diamond mining are all beautifully illustrated in the novel.

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.

Thank You to Our Generous 2022 Sponsors

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