From recycled gold and ethically sourced stones to repurposing old pieces, NATASHA SHERLING helps us navigate the realm of sustainable jewellery …
When it comes to fine jewellery, sustainability is a tricky word. By its very nature, jewellery production requires taking finite resources out of the ground – without being able to put anything back. However, there are lots of designers and brands keeping a keen eye on this – whether they use recycled gold as per Anna Sheffield in the US, or closer to home, Helena Malone, who uses recycled materials and ethically sourced stones. Although slightly removed from the jewellery process itself, there are others who donate to other conservation endeavours, such as Tiffany & Co.‘s efforts with their Save the Wild Collection, from which 100% of the profits go to the Wildlife Conservation Network.
Short of making the move to lab grown stones and abandoning precious metal in favour of something man-made (which is a whole different story for another day), how can we do the best we can with what is available to us right now? Buying mindfully, as outlined above, is one way to do it. Another is to look at what we already have in our own jewellery boxes.
Retro refers (roughly) to the 1950s, 60s and 70s; vintage comes before that and antique is generally earlier than 1930 – and all of these eras yielded incredible jewellery. So if that’s your taste, get down to an antique shop, or better yet, an auction house. This is the most straightforward way to find jewellery that is pre-owned – pieces that are not only totally unique, but with their own wonderful story, and of course haven’t used newly-mined materials in its composition. O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms hold auctions monthly, while Adam’s are gearing up for their September sale. Or make like Rachel Zoe and Tom Ford, and fall down the rabbit hole of the 1st Dibs jewellery department – fine jewellery really does stand the test of time, and something made over 100 years ago will still be as beautiful today as when it was first designed.
Repurposing what you already own is another super option, and a good goldsmith will be able to discuss ideas and exactly how it can be done – it’s probably not as expensive as you think! And if it means giving a jewel a new lease of life so it will be worn – as opposed to sitting in a jewellery box – then it is definitely worth it. As a starting point, how about considering changing a brooch into a fabulous cocktail ring or (depending on shape) a necklace clasp? Small tweaks can really make the biggest difference.
Starting from scratch is a bit more involved – this refers to taking stones out of their mounts and melting down gold or platinum settings. Again there is a cost involved and good workmanship is not cheap – but in a bid to recycle gold into a piece you want to wear, it is a completely reasonable thing to do. It could be something as basic as melting gold (here’s betting you have loose single earrings, broken bracelets or too-tight rings in the back of a drawer) into a single bangle, or resetting diamonds from a ring – three stones can make amazing pendants!
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