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Offering a choice

Trios Studio promotes Fair Trade Gems


by: REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Deborah Spencer, left, and Mary Wong take every opportunity to promote Fair Trade Gems at Trios Studios in Lake Oswego.Trios Studio wants to prove that ethics and the gem business can go together.

That is why this Lake Oswego jewelry store has joined the Fair Trades Gems Protocol, which strives for respect: respect for the earth and the people who live on it. Studio owners Mary Wong, Deborah Spencer and Kathe Mai have made this commitment ever since they started Trios six years ago, heavily promoting this idea during the month of December and also taking other opportunities to get the message out; such as giving this week’s program for the Lake Oswego Rotary Club.

“We always wanted a business with more ethical materials,” said Wong. “Ours has been an exploitative kind of industry, and we want to give our customers a choice, like in Fair Trade coffee.”

“The jewelry business has a harsh reputation to get over,” Spencer said.

Trios Studio has been a business success story even though it started at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2006. The store’s special craftsmanship was even able to overcome a bad economy. The three craftswomen bring an Old World technique to design gold and silver. They also do most of the repair in-house instead of sending it out. Because of this their rewards are more than just money.

“We bring ideas to life,” Wong said. “Our customers give us love, kisses and tears. We are just different in our design sensibilities.”

Still, achieving business success was not enough for the three women, and when they started their enterprise they took the chance to give something more.

“Kathe’s husband Eric Braunwart had a company in which they took up the Fair Trade cause,” Wong said. “Eric speaks about this all over the world, so it was important for us to be involved.”

“The impetus for me has been to have a retail store that offers a choice,” said Spencer.

Because they have taken this stand, Trios Studio is dedicated to following a set of protocols that allows its customers to support Fair Trade in the gem industry in many ways and always in a transparent process.

Of course, the price of a piece of jewelry is one key factor. Wong said the price of a piece of Fair Trade jewelry could sometimes be 10 percent higher than a regular piece of jewelry.

“But price is not the biggest factor,” Wong said. “Many people don’t want to promote child labor or exploiting the land. Simple things can help the environment a lot.”

Under Fair Trade, Trios Studio doesn’t make a lot of promises it cannot fulfill. Customers are offered the chance to examine the supply chain of producing items of precious metals “so they can see if it’s for real.” That way they can see how much of the Fair Trade standard can be reached with their purchase — 100 percent, a smaller percentage, or even if no Fair Trade protocols are attained. The three owners hope to reach as many standards as possible.

Wong said, “We can use recycled gold and silver. We’re not using cheap overseas labor. If our customers want something that will make the least impact on the land and people and still want something beautiful, we can do it.”

“Our customers can even watch us as we work,” Spencer said. “They love being part of the process.”

Trios has even more tangible evidence of the good work that can be done by purchasing Fair Trade jewelry. It’s the schoolhouse their contributions have built for children in Malawi.

For more about Fair Trade Gems, go to fairtradegems.com .

Trios Studio is located at 3 Monroe Parkway inside the Mountain Park Shopping Center. For information go to triosstudio.com.

Fair Trade gets solid support from LO jewelers

The jewelry stores of Lake Oswego are on the cutting edge when it comes to support of Fair Trade Gemstones.

Four Lake Oswego stores that deal with precious gemstones and metals answered “Yes” on the question of whether they supported Fair Trade.

The list includes Lake Oswego Jewelers, Dyke Vandenburgh Jewelers, Simply Precious Jewelry & Gemstones, as well as Trios’ Studio.

Mark Hoyt, shop manager of Lake Oswego Jewelers, voiced strong support for Fair Trade Gemstones.

“We use 100 percent precious metals from recycled sources,” Hoyt said. “Nothing from mines or dug out from the ground.”

When it comes to diamonds, Hoyt said Lake Oswego Jewelers participates in the Kimberley Process.

“The Kimberley Process eliminates blood diamonds (diamonds mined in war zones and used to finance military operations),” Hoyt said. “It’s similar to the operation of a diplomatic pouch. It follows the path from the pouch to the cutter to the wholesaler and finally to the retailer. The diamonds are 100 percent conflict free.”



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