Chopard Building Momentum for Sustainable Gold Mining

September 27, 2015 Updated: September 28, 2015

The world of high jewelry is not very big. Brands that covet worldwide recognition in the category of both luxury watches and jewelry are even fewer. Chopard is unique in a few aspects, one of them being that it is one of the top watch brands, and the No. 4 jewelry brand worldwide.

The brand, more than 150 years in existence, is also a family business—”which is very rare,” according to Maxime Labey, Chopard managing director of international retail, and very tight-knit.

Labey spoke to Epoch Times correspondent Pamela Tsai at the company’s headquarters in Meyrin, Switzerland.

“It’s really a brand or company with a soul because you have five family members every day in the office. So it’s really very unique,” said Labey who has been with the company for eight years.

Caroline Scheufele is co-president and artistic director alongside her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. The family collaboration is really the company’s “secret card” according to Labey, because many of the top end clients are themselves family business owners. It must be said that the concept of family closeness is inextricably linked with legacy, social conscience, as well as sustainability—issues that are at the forefront of the Chopard way of doing business.

According to Labey, being free from the pressures of the stock market and from shareholders is both liberating and inspiring because it allows the family to personally define the brand. The company culture and “charisma,” as he calls it, creates a strong impact that permeates its global network of sales points, eventually reaching its clients who resonate with these qualities.

“Mr. [Karl] and Mrs. [Karin] Scheufele bought Chopard 52 years ago. They are still running the show and there’s no temptation to go public because it is their life,” said Labey.

Understandably, the time and steps taken between designing a sales strategy and implementing it, as well as making investment decisions would be much shorter, albeit possibly more volatile in such a tight-knit team. We may never know of the latter, but this malleability and relatively quick decision making has enabled the Scheufele family to initiate a campaign of sustainable and ethical sourcing when it comes to gold.

Traditionally, jewelry companies buy gold ingots from banks. The ingots are made up of gold sourced from many mines and thus largely untraceable sources.

While the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established 12 years ago to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market, the gold market has not had an equivalent initiative. For the Chopard family, sustainable luxury has become a passion. The brand has spearheaded the movement for using gold that is completely sustainable and ethically sourced.

Turning the Red Carpet Green

In 2013, the company started the Green Carpet Challenge (as opposed to the Red Carpet) creating the first high jewelry in gold that is completely sustainable and ethically sourced. The initiative was a collaboration with the Alliance for Responsible Mining and Livia Firth, sustainable luxury advocate and wife of acclaimed British actor Colin Firth. The initiative also serves as a calling card for celebrities to voice their support by wearing “fairmined” gold jewelry creations by Chopard at events such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, and the Emmy Awards.

Actress Anna Chlumsky wears Chopard earrings to the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
Actress Anna Chlumsky wears Chopard earrings to the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Chopard also introduced at Baselworld 2014 the very first fairmined gold watch, the L.U. Chopard Qualite Fleurier Chronometer made from gold sourced from a family-owned mine in Colombia, which produces approximately 80 kilograms of gold per year. Chopard has committed to buying its annual production in its entirety.

The much coveted Palme d’Or prize bestowed at the annual Cannes Film Festival also got a makeover out of fairmined gold in 2014—a special event since Caroline Scheufele had redesigned the award 18 years ago.

If Chopard had it its way, watch and jewelry customers would only buy green gold—that is, sustainably sourced gold, and not just from them but from other brands as well, in order to create a worldwide momentum for sustainable luxury.

Labey characterizes Chopard clients as having contemporary tastes, not overly conservative, and people who like to reward themselves.

“They might have been ostentatious before, but now they come for something that is more reassuring,” he said.

And there is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the watch or piece of jewelry you are wearing is not only exquisite to look at, but also created out of ethically sourced materials rather than the product of human rights abuses.