It was no ordinary weathervane installed by a team of steeplejacks this week on the top of Chichester Cathedral’s 277ft Spire. Newly gilded in Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold, this unique weathervane is the result of a pioneering collaboration between Chichester Cathedral, Chichester-based ethical jewellers Cred and the Fairtrade Foundation.
The gold covering the weathervane was responsibly sourced by Chichester’s Cred jewellers from the Sotrami Mine in Peru – one of the first mines in the world to be certified to Fairtrade standards. Both the Sotrami Mine and Cred are part of a new – and revolutionary – programme of Fairtrade and Fairmined Certified Gold launched on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.
Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The certification enables businesses, from designers and retailers to fabricators and distributors, to offer their customers the guarantee of a product which has been responsibly mined. Crucially, this means that small scale miners receive a fair price for gold, ensuring a more stable future for them and their communities.
The gilded Cathedral weathervane – a 3ft cockerel – was put in place on Wednesday 2 November. A team of steeplejacks climbed 131ft – 205 steps – to reach the base of the Spire and then ascended a narrow 146ft ladder directly up the side of the Spire, arriving finally at a tiny scaffold platform erected especially for this project around the Spire Cap.
The Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester, explains why the project is so important: "Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold provides a lifeline for thousands of impoverished and exploited miners in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. If every jeweller, and indeed every customer, were to insist on only gold sourced in this way then thousands of small scale miners, and their communities, would be guaranteed a better future. The cost of this project has been borne by a private donor to whom we are very grateful, but the wider ambitions of Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold are priceless."
Chichester’s Cred jewellers have been pivotal to the realisation of Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold and were one of the first ethical jewellers in the UK to produce collections sourced in this way.
Prior to the gilding of the weathervane, the gold was sent to Italy to be turned into gold leaf. The Italian company Manetti is one of Florence’s oldest companies and the only remaining organisation in Europe who are able to turn gold into gold leaf. The leaf needed to gild the weathervane is just 8 microns thick (1 micron is 1000th of a millimetre) and is made out of 23 ½ carat gold. The gold started life as a pure 24 carat but the leafing process introduces a small amount of copper.