With an increasing number of clothing brands and designers moving towards an ethical future, by ditching fur and leather for the adoption of more sustainable production methods, it is only fair that we examine how jewelry brands are leading their market in a similar way.
The long-standing concern within the jewelry industry, when it comes to ethics and sustainability, has been the fair sourcing and production of the materials, especially precious metals and gemstones.
Increased public consciousness on such issues, with more than 80 percent of the population reporting that ethical standards of a brand matter to them, has encouraged such matters to be at the forefront of business models and policy.
Here's an overview of some leading jewelry brands that are embracing sustainability by presenting fully transparent supply chains, support production communities and contemplating the environmental impacts within their production lines.
Made is a jewelry brand based in Birmingham that works with skilled artisans in Nairobi, Kenya. One main aim of this company is to maintain a sustainable supply chain by supporting and investing in its employees, reflecting the company's philosophy is to make positive change through trade instead of aid.
In doing so, it provides all its artisans with long-term job security, appropriate training, and safe working environments. Made's designs are all inspired by - and honor - the traditional materials, techniques and history of jewelry-making in Nairobi.
The materials are always sourced locally and recycled wherever possible. The brand also often collaborates with different influencers, designers and charities (i.e. Ella Grace, Imogen Belfield, Crisis, Save the Children).
*Made does occasionally incorporate some by-products of the meat industry, such as bone or horn in its designs.
San Francisco-based jewelry brand Soko also works alongside its artisans in Kenya, however, its approach is a bit different to Made UK. Soko innovates the supply chain by connecting independent artisan entrepreneurs using mobile phones to create a new platform of production in what its describes a 'virtual factory'.
The overall aim of the company is to provide a space where individual artisans can connect to consumers more directly. The brand's designs are strongly inspired by local architecture, and traditional designs, yet clearly communicate a minimal, contemporary design language and their online shop has definitely something for every taste.
*Soko does occasionally use cow-horn (which is also a by-product of the local food industry) in its designs.
3. Article 22
Article 22 creates designs that tell a story about overcoming the negative. Its first collection PEACEBOMB transformed materials from weapons from the Vietnam War such as shrapnel into jewelry with the help of talented artisans in Laos.
Proceeds from the refashioned bracelets, necklaces and earrings go towards supporting traditional Laotian artisan livelihoods, village development, and further de-mining efforts. For example, purchasing a $95 Sterling Silver 26" ball chain necklace helps to clear 6m2 of Laotian landscape.
4. Just Trade
Just Trade is another UK based jewelry store, but contrary to other similar companies, its production line expands over eight different groups of artisans from the developing world.
This fair-trade brand supports local artisans across four different countries to sustain and develop their skills within the local communities.
In providing the platforms through which these artisans can combine their knowledge about contemporary jewelry with the local traditional craft skills, Just Trade offers them a long-term route to market for their goods.
This Somerset-based jeweler is a fair-trade licensee that creates bespoke pieces and seasonal collections using fair-trade and recycled precious metals.
By using fair-trade gold, Oswin helps provide small-scale artisanal miners with fair wages and safer living and working conditions for them and their families. Using recycled metals further helps protect the environment as it reduces the need for mining overall.
All of the gemstones in Oswin's collections and bespoke pieces are also 100 percent blood-free and come from the Rubyfair mine in Tanzania, that promises to equally take care of both, the miners and the land.
Also, definitely worth checking out if you are looking to spend a bit more on fine jewelry made from recycled metals is Polly Wales, whose new approach to casting instead of setting stones into her jewelry is definitely something special. And for very bold, fashion-forward jewelry seekers, I would recommend taking a look at Mexico City/New York-based Tuza Jewellery.