People across the world spend billions of dollars on jewelry, especially on occasions like Valentine's Day, which is just around the corner.
However, before you buy that lovely piece of jewelry, ask the shop owner where it came from and if they can guarantee the health and safety of those involved in its mining were protected.
The global jewelry market is worth $310 billion, according to a 2016 Bloomberg report. But the real cost behind the glitter is a lot more than money.
Over 1 million children are working in mines across the world, according to the International Labor Organization, mostly in life-threatening conditions.
Even worse is the fact that a lot of world's leading brands fail to ensure their minerals are mined ethically.
“Rahim,” a 13-year-old mine worker in Chuniya district in Tanzania, was digging when he entered into a short pit and it collapsed.
The accident, Rahim told Human Rights Watch (HRW), left him unconscious and caused internal injuries. He was admitted to a hospital where he had to remain for over a week.
Children work in pits as deep as 25 meters that could collapse at any moment, according to HRW, sometimes even forced to mine gold underwater with nothing but a flimsy oxygen tube.
In September 2014, a 17-year-old boy died of suffocation underground while mining for gold in the Philippines.
Sometimes gold is processed with mercury, a toxic metal, which can cause mercury poisoning, which can lead health damage even death.
"Some children mine alongside their families or other community members after school or during holidays," states ILO in a report. "Some drop out of school to work full time. In the worst cases, children are trafficked to mine sites where they are forced to work in absolutely horrendous slavery-like conditions."
For its latest 99-page report, entitled “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies,” HRW examined the following 13 major jewelry and watch brands:
Boodles (United Kingdom), Bulgari (Italy), Cartier (France), Chopard (Switzerland), Christ (Germany), Harry Winston (United States), Kalyan (India), Pandora (Denmark), Rolex (Switzerland), Signet (United States-based parent company of Kay Jewelers and Zales in the U.S., Ernest Jones and H. Samuel in the U.K. and other jewelers), Tanishq (India), Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri Ltd. (TBZ Ltd.) (India), and Tiffany and Co. (U.S.)
Only Tiffany and Co. managed to get a "strong" rating. India's Tanishq received "very weak." Meanwhile, Boodles, Chopard, Christ and Harry Winston were rated as “weak," for taking but a few steps in terms of responsible sourcing of gold and diamonds.
While brands should be able to guarantee ethical mining, customers are also supposed to ask shop owners if they can tell the piece of jewelry they are selling didn't cost someone their life.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters