A while back, I made myself a set of prayer beads. At the time, I happily brought gemstone beads without really thinking about it beyond ‘can I afford them?’ Unfortunately, since then I’ve found out that gemstone beads probably aren’t the best choice from an ethical standpoint.
Sorry if this pisses on your chips a bit. I know gemstone prayer beads are super popular. I mean, I love them too. But it turns out that it’s not just diamonds and rubies that put you on moral quicksand; apparently much mining for semi-precious gemstones like amethyst involves slave labor, child slave labor and strip mining. It’s possible to get ethically sourced gemstones, but not necessarily all that easy. Trying to research this, I found an online bead company prepared to be surprisingly honest about the ethics behind their products http://www.beadaddict.co.uk/uk/tip22-fairtrade-ethical-beading.htm who say that, with a few exceptions, gemstone beads are out if you wanna be ethical.
I also found it quite difficult to find beads that seemed okay. The same website has an ethical section http://www.beadaddict.co.uk/uk/tip22-fairtrade-ethical-beading-2.htm, including Jabulani beads from South Africa which are COFTA approved. Kazuri, a Kenyan Fair Trade company making ceramic bead jewelry, also sell a small selection of loose beads http://www.kazuribeads.co.uk/catalogue/browse/kazuri/kazuri-loose-beads.
In the end, I decided that my best option was probably to collect jewelry from charity shops and take it apart for the beads. I’m still going to use the gemstone beads I have, but sadly I don’t think I can buy any more. I’ve already found some really nice beads in charity shops though, and it does have the advantage of being considerably cheaper.
I would definitely love to hear if anyone has further information on this, or other ideas to share 🙂