“If your jewelry isn’t made in New Zealand, there’s no way to know where your gold was mined,” said Ash Hilton of Good Gold and Ash Hilton Jewellery.
The US, UK, Canada and Japan are considering banning Russian gold imports in a bid to thwart the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, but New Zealand has not reported that she would follow his example.
A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand was aware of the plan and was considering all options to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and cut off its financial system from international markets.
But for buyers who want to avoid inadvertently buying Russian gold jewelry, things are tricky because many jewelers don’t disclose the ultimate sources of the gold in their bling.
* Would you pay $17,499 for a lab-created diamond?
* Queenstown man sells Central Otago gold mine claim for $80,000
* Old rings become treasure as gold rally boosts scrap metal recycling
Before the war in Ukraine, “ethical” gold was based less on conflict gold and more on the environmental impact of mining.
“Here’s the deal with gold, no matter where it comes from because the mining process varies greatly in terms of the destruction of the environment and human rights around the world,” Hilton said.
“Hard rock gold mining” is an incredible waste, with up to 20 tonnes of mining waste created to obtain enough gold for an alliance, he said.
The government announced a new round of support for Ukraine. including $4.5 million for non-lethal military aid and six other intelligence analysts.
Despite this, the global jewelery industry, with the exception of some local jewelers and bullion manufacturers trading ethical New Zealand gold, has given low priority to establishing a traceability system. gold similar to the Kimberley system designed to identify conflict diamonds, he said.
“It’s been nearly impossible to track the gold supply chain,” Hilton said.
But with Russia sitting on large gold reserves, there are fears that more Russian gold will end up in already opaque jewelry-making hubs, including countries like India and China, which abstained during a United Nations condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
International media, including Reuters, have speculated that Russian gold will end up in jewelry via manufacturers from countries not opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The World Gold Council ranks Russia as the world’s second largest gold producer.
Besides boasting of locally made jewelry, chain stores selling mainstream jewelry like Michael Hill don’t know where their jewelry comes from and the materials of that jewelry.
A spokesperson for Michael Hill said the retailer certifies its diamonds are all conflict-free and does not buy gold “directly” from Russia, but imports a lot of jewelry made overseas.
“About 25% of our products are made in Australia and New Zealand, with the rest sourced from a global network of trusted suppliers spanning Italy, Turkey, India, Thailand, China, Canada and Mexico,” the spokesperson said.
“Michael Hill does not buy gold directly from Russian mines or suppliers,” they said.
“Michael Hill is committed to making jewelry using responsibly sourced and conflict-free metals. Currently, the majority of our metal suppliers are certified by the Responsible Jewelery Council, meaning they already meet the comprehensive due diligence systems set out by the London Bullion Metals Association’s Good Delivery List.
Some international media have called the Russian gold ban a token gesture, and Baz Howie, founder of the ethical Waihihi Bullion Company, was scathing about the sanctions, which he said were hurting Western economies, while high energy prices supported Russia.
“Creating a gold supply crisis, which you will do, will drive the price up,” Howie said.
That would be good for people who already own gold, but Russian sanctions have already made inflation worse in the West, he said.
And, if the West didn’t take Russia’s gold, others, like China, would, he said.
Although the Waihihi Bullion Company sources its gold and silver from the Martha Mine in Waihi, Howie did not believe bullion investors cared where their gold came from.
“My clients hate governments and banks,” he said.
Simon Harding, managing director of the NZ Mint, a private New Zealand company making and selling bullion and commemorative coins, was unaware of the existence of a global gold tracking system.
“Gold is an anonymous commodity,” he said.
“There is nothing in gold that says ‘made in Russia’.”
But many gold coins and bullion on sale were not, which meant bullion buyers wanting to avoid the Russian conflict could do so, Harding said.
Canadian maple was made from Canadian gold, Perth Mint bullion was made from gold from Australia, North America and Africa, and South African Krugerrand was made from gold. South African gold, he said.
The New Zealand Mint kiwi was made from gold from the ABC Refinery in Australia, which is a buyer of gold mined in New Zealand, which it refines and blends with gold from other sources.
“We tried to get a purely New Zealand source of gold because we thought that would be good for marketing, but we couldn’t do it,” Harding said.
ABC said it sources gold in a way that does not cause, support or benefit an unlawful conflict.
New Zealand is a net exporter of gold, according to data from Stats NZ.