Fabricating the Integrity of Gold in Refineries
Digital Visibility and Divisibility
Gold refineries are under pressure to revise their understanding of “integrity” beyond the physical cohesion of gold products, in order to integrate supply chain due diligence on human rights, labour conditions, and conflict financing as part of what can be coined the ethical integrity of gold. This article interrogates how processes of erasure, through material purification in the refining process, and disclosure, through certification against “responsible” standards, are reconciled within one expanded notion of integrity. By paying specific attention to processes of digitizing gold in this endeavour, it argues that, while limited in its role as a transparency device, digitization fosters new uses of gold, making it more liquid, more rapidly tradable, and potentially more speculative. These digital fetishes open new fields of value, not out of the gold itself but out of its traces, in which, paradoxically, artisanal ground producers selling physical gold remain poorly included so far.