Jewellery is so precious, often a symbol of love and friendship. But this symbol can also be an agent of change, given much more meaning when we can actually connect with the people who made the piece and know that it has been created in a conflict-free, ethical environment.
What to look for:
- Recycled or reclaimed materials
- Transparent supply chain – i.e. you should be able to find out exactly who made the piece and where it came from.
- Vintage or Antique – Keep in mind though that any vintage or Antique jewellery should be checked by a jeweller and may need work if it’s to last day to day wear for 60+ years.
- Certification that meets Fairtrade and Fairmined standards ( A lot of issues in the jewellery industry stem from where it is mined from and dangerous conflict zones)
- Locally made – less travel miles means less pollution
When searching for wedding jewellery we usually go for gold and diamonds. Many people have heard of ‘blood diamonds’ but the effects that gold mining has on the planet and people are not as commonly known.
According to No Dirty Gold, the production of just one gold ring generates 20 tons of waste. Gold mining operations damage ecosystems and have contributed to the displacement of people from their homelands in places like Indonesia, Peru and the United States. In fact, more than half of all gold is mined from indigenous peoples’ lands.
Find out more and take the pledge at nodirtygold.org – an international campaign working to ensure that gold mining operations around the world respect human rights and the environment.
Expert Q & A with Benjamin Manning
Director, Utopian Creations, Adelaide
What inspired you to start Utopian Creations?
When backpacking around the world I read a book about living an ethical life which interested me as I had always had a love for the environment. It got me thinking about the chemicals I was using, and the impact mining for my gems and metals could be having. Everywhere I looked it seemed my work was the cause of environmental and social destruction, so I started looking for solutions. I found a jeweller in London who was starting down the path of ethical jewellery and after a lot of research I started Utopian Creations when we returned from the UK, 2005.
What makes Utopian Creations different to other jewellers?
Our creations are 100% recycled or ethically mined metals, gems and diamonds. There are no animal products in our jewellery or in the manufacturing of our jewellery and sustainability is a part of everything we do, from our packaging to using wind power in our studio.
When searching for wedding jewellery, what should we look out for in terms of ethical and eco-friendly materials and ethical practices?
Try to find jewellers who are members of ethical organizations like Jeweltree Foundation and Ethical Metalsmiths. The other thing to look for are Australian made goods and materials or vintage and Antique.
My Fave Ethical Choices:
The Semat Collection – hand crafted contemporary pieces by Maasai Artisan, Sammy Semat. Sammy lives in Nairobi, Kenya and has made jewellery from a very young age to help supplement the family income. Available at Faded Empire, QLD, Crest Gallery, QLD and through OneColour.com.au
PEACEBOMB, the first collection from New York based Article 22, is jewellery made from Vietnam War era bombs by Laotian artisans. Each bracelet sold demines 3 metres squared of bomb littered land. Peacebomb was launched with a Kickstarter funded film, Buy Back the Bombs, set against the backdrop of the Secret War in Laos which left it the most heavily bombed country in history and with a legacy of millions of unexploded bombs.
Toby E Jewellery – Hand crafted and custom designed in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Australia, Toby Eagle creates one-of-a-kind jewellery using 100% reclaimed and recycled gold and sterling silver. Pictured below on me in Eco Brides Magazine wearing Frances Baker.
Ananda Soul Creations – Made in Bali with the intention to empower the wearer and fill them with abundant energy and love, Ananda Soul Creations donate a portion of every item sold to the Safe Childhood Foundation to support their work against Child Trafficking. http://anandasoulcreations.com/
Earth Jewel Creations – Designed and Handmade on the Sunshine Coast, Australia using vegan and eco-friendly materials such as faux suede and waxed cotton cord. Each piece is also designed to support your bio-field and promote harmony, balance and wellbeing. Pictured below left on me.
Sanctus Stones – Handmade to order in Brisbane, Australia, Sanctus Stones is designed to empower you to take control of your life and be a gentle reminder, trigger and anchor for your goals and the life you dream of. Each piece is lovingly packaged in a sustainable bamboo box and comes with a personalised letter. Pictured below right on Jess Ainscough.
I sat down to have a chat with the beautiful Designer of Sanctus Stones, Wendy Dugan in her studio last year. She’s such a beautiful soul…
This article was originally written for Nature & Health magazine and a version of it appeared in the April/May 2014 issue. Get the current issue from most Australian and New Zealand newsagents to see my latest Eco Style column on ethical sleepwear.
Have you got any favourite ethical jewellery brands?