FTJCo was founded as the Fair Trade Jewellery Co by Robin Gambhir and Ryan Taylor in 2006. They launched the company as a wholesale business, with the intention of providing retail jewellers with original designs made with responsibly sourced ‘Oro Verde’ gold from Colombia. The Oro Verde program was the precursor to Fairtrade certified gold. Ahead of their time, Robin and Ryan found little interest in responsible sourcing from the established jewellery industry, so they decided to take their business directly to consumers.
‘Oro Verde’ gold from Colombia
After a short stint running FTJCo as a ‘hot desk’ in Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation, it became apparent that Toronto consumers prefer to buy jewellery at physical stores, from companies they know and trust. Ryan was living in Cabbagetown and noticed a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window at 523 Parliament. So in the autumn of 2008, just as the economy was imploding, Ryan and Robin signed a nine-year lease on the first physical home of FTJCo. They set about renovating the space with borrowed money from Robin’s web development company which, at the time, also ran the largest network of retail jewellery websites in Canada, as the site for Canadian Jeweller Magazine. The renovation of our first store was a community endeavour, drawing on friends, family, and even strangers, who were motivated by the prospect of helping to build a new kind of ethical jewellery company. FTJCo is probably the only jewellery store in the world that was built with volunteer labour, which also helped us to kick off an awesome opening party.
523 Parliament Street during renovation 2010
The early years were difficult. We spent too much time on renovations, and we opened with only one ring style. To build the business, we tried all kinds of stunts to get people in the door: We hosted supper clubs and dance troupes, as well as pop-up shops. Slowly but surely, we built traction and the company began to blossom. In early 2022 the company picked up shop and, having outgrown the original location a few times over, moved a block and a half up the street to a heritage building that had been custom-renovated (by professionals this time) just for us.
New store @ 576 Parliament Street before renovation 2018
At its core, FTJCo is a company predicated on changing the jewellery industry for the better by seeking out and bringing to market the best and most ethical gold and precious gems. When our friends at the Oro Verde mine in Colombia were undergoing an audit by Fairtrade in 2008 which would make them the first to offer Fairtrade licensed gold, we felt it was important to tell their story. We travelled to Colombia to film a documentary called The Last Goldrush to help consumers better understand where their gold comes from, and what it takes to source it responsibly.
In 2011, FTJCo was the first company to launch dual certified Fairtrade/Fairmined gold in North America. That very first Fairtrade gold shipment was sent directly from Colombia to Canada, and was donated by FTJCo to the Canadian Human Rights Museum, where it remains today. Several years later, the two entities Fairtrade and Fairmined split, and Fairmined came to launch under its own name in 2014. Once again, FTJCo became the first in North America and second in the world (after Chopard), to offer Fairmined certified gold.
In 2017 the company partnered with Canadian NGO, IMPACT, to bring to market gold from the Congo that offered competitive chain-of-custody, documentation, and data when compared with Fairtrade and Fairmined gold. FTJCo made the first legal import of Congolese gold to North America and set about creating a repeatable process for the Just Gold project, working in conjunction with IMPACT and FTJCo’s sister company, Consensas. The following year we introduced our ‘50/50 FTJCo Blend’ of half Congolese Just Gold and half certified recycled gold. This unique gold blend captures the benefits of both a smaller environmental footprint, and fully-traceable, conflict-free artisanal gold that supports small-scale miners. This special gold alloy would later come to be branded under FTJCo’s AKARA brand. Today our AKARA gold blends certified recycled gold with Fairmined certified gold from Colombia.
The first Just Gold rings
We specialize in engagement rings and wedding bands made within our ‘best practices’ framework of using both environmentally and socially responsible sourced materials. In addition to bridal and engagement, we take on custom jewellery projects, jewellery repairs, and source diamonds and gemstones. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service, and know that word-of-mouth referrals from happy clients make up a large portion of our business.
We are a certified B Corp, Responsible Jewellery Council Certified, and are tracked by the Competition Bureau, so you’ll find their stamp accompaning our trademarks. In addition to offering certified Fairtrade and Fairmined golds, we offer Scientific Certification Systems 007 Standard for diamonds and precious metals, Swarovski laboratory grown diamonds, and a full suite of traceable AKARA sapphires. For fine jewellery with integrity that makes you feel as good as it looks.