The true cost of your jewelry: Cartels launder drug money selling BLOOD GOLD to Cartier and others in the luxury industry as well as to discount gold shops. The Yanomami and other Indigenous people pay the price!

photo montage: series “Pas de Cartier” – Barbara Crane Navarro – with ad for Cartier, photo João Laet and Cartier LOVE™ ring

Illegal gold is the most lucrative way for drug cartels, terrorist groups, arms traffickers, the mafia, unscrupulous bankers as well as international gold traders and brokers to launder money because, contrary to cocaine, gold that’s “legal” looks exactly like illegal gold.  Consumers participate at the top of the money laundering chain when they purchase gold watches and jewelry from shops, unknowingly contributing to deforestation, pollution and violence; ecocide and ethnocide in Indigenous territories.

Since 2007, illegal Gold has taken the place of drugs as the principal income source for organized crime and the growing demand for gold has generated a violent illicit commerce more difficult to track than drugs. These brutal actors have infiltrated every aspect of the supply chain from extorting the gold miners prospecting in muddy ponds up through bribing gold traders, mining officials, customs officers, smelters and refineries. Banks and the luxury goods industry often look the other way and claim not to know the criminal source of the gold. 

Criminal groups and drug cartels oversee gold mining operations, buy blood gold with the illicit cash proceeds from their activities, falsifying documents to sell it through a shell company that contacts a refinery in the US or Europe which buys the gold and then wires “legal” money to a bank account.  Finally the now untraceable gold is bought by Cartier and others. Blood gold is fashioned into jewelry and sold in boutiques in the world’s major cities while Indigenous peoples in the world’s rainforests face ecological devastation and disease from gold mining in their territories. 

Tens of thousands of gold miners are invading Indigenous Territories in Brazil, Venezuela and all of the nine countries of the Amazon region, destroying the forest and contaminating the soil and the rivers with mercury.

Indigenous leaders are voicing their fears of genocide and pointing to the gold industry as the cause.

Historically, armies and police have tried to stop gold miners from going into Indigenous lands, but the miners return after the soldiers leave.

This is why consumers must mobilize and stop purchasing gold in order to stop this abominable abuse by the gold industry!

The primary use for gold – approximately 75% of the gold dug out of the earth yearly, is jewelry, watches and other useless status symbols sold by the luxury goods industry and others. The frenzy for owning and wearing gold adornments is the incentive for environmental destruction and the degradation of Indigenous lives by gold miners as well as organized crime, not just in the Amazon, but around the globe.

Detail: Claudia Andujar, La Lutte Yanomami, 2020, Fondation Cartier, Paris. LUC BOEGLY 2020

It’s easy to be deluded by the museum-like façade of the Cartier Foundation. Once you’ve clicked on

and scrolled past the gold jewelry, gold watches and accessories, you can click on “Fondation Cartier” at the end of the list to read about their current greenwashing projects.

You wonder whether the Yanomami spokesmen, the anthropologist and consultant for Cartier, Bruce Albert, the NGO Survival and others involved in Cartier Foundation « Yanomami – themed » art projects made an alliance with the devil when you read this this timeline of events and comments made by the ultimate, absolute « People of Merchandise », to use Davi Kopenawa’s term:

Here is the evolution of the existence of the Cartier Foundation to better understand the situation:

Alain Dominique Perrin was President of the Cartier gold jewelry, watch and accessories company from 1975 to 1998. The Cartier Foundation was created in 1984 on the initiative of Alain-Dominique Perrin who said in 1986: “Sponsorship is not just a great communication tool, but much more than that; it is a tool for seducing opinion.” 

In 1999, Perrin became vice-president of the Richemont group, a Swiss holding company specializing in the luxury industry (including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget). In 2016, in an interview with ALUMNI SUP DE LUXE, Alain-Dominique Perrin stated that “Luxury is a real profession!” The interview continues with: “It is on the eighth floor of the Fondation Cartier, which he chairs and created, that the founder of Sup de Luxe and president of EDC Paris Business School, Alain Dominique Perrin, receives us. Because before buying the EDC, from which he graduated, with other alumni in 1995, Alain-Dominique Perrin chaired Cartier and then was vice-president of the second largest luxury group in the world, Richemont. A passion for luxury and beauty that he now more than ever intends to pass on to young people. The Higher Institute of Luxury Marketing was created by Cartier in 1990 to meet the new needs of the sector in terms of commercial development and global presence. ‘Imagine new markets: today Australians are coming to luxury and we see magnificent shopping centers springing up with all the big brands.'”

In 2018, Alain-Dominique Perrin, co-chairman of the Richemont Group’s strategic committee, said in an interview with Entreprendre: “We (Cartier) have opened the door to financing art through luxury. … All the big companies in the world luxury sector have embarked on patronage of contemporary art, be it Louis Vuitton, Pinault, Prada, Hermès or recently the Galeries Lafayette. We have paved the way by being the pioneers. Patronage is comparable to sponsorship … by In return, the Foundation receives praise from the press, media and social networks, which necessarily benefits the company. The company spends and injects money but benefits from it through additional notoriety and positioning – prestige of its brand tinged with a social dimension.” 

In 2019, Cartier company CEO Cyrille Vigneron was interviewed in Fashion Network. The article states that “Cartier is part of the Swiss luxury group Richemont, which c also controls Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, IWC, Piaget, Alfred Dunhill, Chloé, James Purdey, Azzedine Alaïa, Shanghai Tang or even Yoox Net-A-Porter. Richemont, which is owned by the wealthy South African Rupert family, does not detail the revenues of each of its brands, but Cartier‘s turnover is estimated at more than 7 billion euros.” ‘Net-A- Porter is a very powerful platform, with a solid customer base. And in terms of visibility and attraction for Cartier, it’s been very good. We see that the penetration of the e-commerce channel goes beyond questions of price and that expensive items are more and more accepted on the Internet”, rejoices Cyrille Vigneron, who points out that the most expensive item sold within the framework of this collaboration was a panther watch paved with diamonds sold for 140,000 euros at a UK customer.”

In 2021, the Cartier Foundation presented the exhibition “The Yanomami Struggle” at the Triennale Milano. “The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art and the Triennale Milano have joined forces for a period of 8 years. This unprecedented collaboration represents a new model of cultural partnership in Europe between public and private institutions.” This time, not only the general manager of the Fondation Cartier, Hervé Chandès, spoke at the opening “…exhibition dedicated to the Yanomami and their cause…” but also Cyrille Vigneron, the CEO of the Cartier company. Minister Franceschini remarked that: “Europe is an important producer and consumer of cultural content.” 

Yes, culture is a commodity and art is a selling point. 

In 2004, one year after the exhibition “Yanomami, the spirit of the forest” Hervé Chandès, the director of the Cartier Foundation explained in an interview for parisart, without ambiguity, how closely the Fondation Cartier is supervised by the luxury gold and diamond jewelry, watches and accessories dealer Cartier

“To give us an idea, what are the operating costs required by an establishment like this?

The Foundation is private, entirely funded by Cartier for its communications. To give a broad estimate, the general budget – operating and programming – varies around five million euros.

What relationship does the Foundation have with the Cartier company?

It is a very close, simple and structured relationship. The Foundation has a mission to fulfill for which it has been entrusted and specifications to be respected. The Foundation reports regularly on its activities to the company with which it works hand in hand. We maintain close relations with Cartier and its foreign subsidiaries, particularly in the field of communication.”

As one of the speakers at the 2020 opening of “The Yanomami Struggle” put it: “This is the ultimate episode of the conquest of the Americas. The accumulation of gold permitted Europe to develop. We must mobilize to avoid the disappearance of Indigenous peoples.” 

Is the Cartier Foundation using the pretense of concern for the Yanomami as a sales strategy for the Cartier luxury gold company that created the foundation that they work with hand in hand that allows the Cartier company to associate art and philanthropy with their luxury brand in the minds of the public?

It certainly seems to me that the « art » exhibitions at the Cartier Foundation may be just a publicity gimmick to give the Cartier Foundation, and by association, the Cartier company and Cartier jewelry, watches and accessories an aura of philanthropy?

Is the Cartier Foundation using the pretense of concern for the Yanomami as a sales strategy for the Cartier luxury gold company that created the foundation that they work with hand in hand that allows the Cartier company to associate art and philanthropy with their luxury brand in the minds of the public? Is this greenwashing or brainwashing, or both? 

These « Yanomami themed » shows have been held for twenty years, the first in 2003. The centerpiece of these shows is always Claudia Andujar’s photography. 

The photographer, Claudia Andujar, and the anthropologist, Bruce Albert, have known the Yanomami for fifty years. Have they explained to Davi Kopenawa and the other Yanomami who participate in these events that the Cartier Foundation is so intimately a part of the Cartier gold and diamond jewelry company? 

Has Davi Kopenawa given « informed consent » to this participation?

Gold mining destruction in Indigenous lands in the Amazon.

But putting “Art” in the foreground and attempting to push “Gold” into the background won’t work unless you, too, are willing to make a pact with the devil.

Would you enjoy wearing gold if your garden or town was destroyed and your water supply contaminated in order to extract it, or if your children had developmental problems because of mercury poisoning?  Me neither.

How do you choose to express your love for someone – with hundreds of tons of uprooted rainforest trees and toxic waste in rivers? Yes, hundreds of tons of soil must be mined and mixed with dozens of tons of environmental pollutants that contaminate Indigenous lands for that one special gold ring…

It’s up to us to say NO to Gold!

For more information about the Yanomami, Cartier and art, read here:

About Barbara Crane Navarro - Rainforest Art Project

I'm a French artist living near Paris. From 1968 to 1973 I studied at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, then at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California, for my BFA. My work for many decades has been informed and inspired by time spent with indigenous communities. Various study trips devoted to the exploration of techniques and natural pigments took me originally to the Dogon of Mali, West Africa, and subsequently to Yanomami communities in Venezuela and Brazil. Over many years, during the winters, I studied the techniques of traditional Bogolan painting. Hand woven fabric is dyed with boiled bark from the Wolo tree or crushed leaves from other trees, then painted with mud from the Niger river which oxidizes in contact with the dye. Through the Dogon and the Yanomami, my interest in the multiplicity of techniques and supports for aesthetic expression influenced my artistic practice. The voyages to the Amazon Rainforest have informed several series of paintings created while living among the Yanomami. The support used is roughly woven canvas prepared with acrylic medium then textured with a mixture of sand from the river bank and lava. This supple canvas is then rolled and transported on expeditions into the forest. They are then painted using a mixture of acrylic colors and Achiote and Genipap, the vegetal pigments used by the Yanomami for their ritual body paintings and on practical and shamanic implements. My concern for the ongoing devastation of the Amazon Rainforest has inspired my films and installation projects. Since 2005, I've created a perfomance and film project - Fire Sculpture - to bring urgent attention to Rainforest issues. To protest against the continuing destruction, I've publicly set fire to my totemic sculptures. These burning sculptures symbolize the degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival.
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2 Responses to The true cost of your jewelry: Cartels launder drug money selling BLOOD GOLD to Cartier and others in the luxury industry as well as to discount gold shops. The Yanomami and other Indigenous people pay the price!

  1. Pingback: The Cost of Gold! | Barbara Crane Navarro

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