Sustainability is at the heart of Artisanry Co.’s business structure, with responsible consumption and production being one of our focused sustainable development goals. Choosing to shine the light on ethical jewellery making, we’ve organised a sustainable jewellery campaign.
We decided to showcase some of the makers in our community who are passionate about sustainability. This passion is evident in the creation process. If you are a small, independent jewellery maker who prioritizes sustainability and would like to feature in our campaign, please contact us.
Here is part one of the two-part blog series.
What is ethical jewellery?
In the words of Naomi Brooks, a sustainable jewellery maker;
“To my mind, modern-day jewellery design and making should be underpinned by ethical practices, this belief influences my own work. For me being ethical in jewellery design means to be aware of and make choices about the wider impact of each piece of jewellery; from the materials that it’s made from to the final sale to the customer.
Jewellery making often relies on poorly paid workers – mining gold, silver or diamonds for example – in a way that is hugely damaging to the environment and those individuals and communities. Transparent working practices, fair wages and regulated working conditions is one way of achieving this. Choosing recycled materials to make new pieces, or elements of jewellery from is an even better step and much more sustainable! I’ll come back to this!
Ethical jewellery also means that the jewellery is usually made by a skilled artisan who is provided a fair wage for their work. To me this means smaller scale production, most often hand-crafted jewellery that the consumer buys to enjoy for a lifetime – not quick, cheap fashion jewellery that is bought to be worn once! The customer is also a part of this chain.
Ensuring that when buying a piece, knowing the origin of it, the story behind it and that the making process and even the packaging has had as little impact on the environment as possible means the final piece can be worn with pride for years, knowing that they have a beautiful, hand-crafted and ethical piece of jewellery.”
Linda Connelly is an Enamel Artist and Jeweller. All her pieces are handmade by her from her studio in Surrey. Linda is a part of the Artisanry Co. community and her stunning enamel jewellery can be purchased at our online shop.
“I am an Enamel artist and jeweller. I began over thirty years ago when my husband came home with a really old enamelling kiln out of a junk shop for me to try out. We had just got married and this was the beginning of a passion that started as a hobby and is now a full-time occupation.
The most important part of my enamels and jewellery is that it is designed to last and be handed down throughout the generations. In today’s world of throwaway and wear-once, I believe this is a critical part of my commitment to sustainability.
Many of my pieces are designed to be worn in several alternative ways and also to be adapted as tastes and fashions change. For instance, new ear fittings or new chains can be added and varied. When I buy silver I aim to use every part possible and the remainder is scrapped and recycled.
I buy the silver to fit the design layout of the pieces I have planned, thereby reducing waste. The tiny scraps that remain are used as test samples for my enamels, and also to try out engraving patterns and designs.
My kiln is a modern one that is well insulated with a thermostatic control so it maintains the right temperature and doesn’t overheat. I have many beads and stones that I have accumulated over many years, but where I need to buy new, I choose an ethical supplier. I have always avoided buying and using coral or any other endangered species.
Where possible I am looking to change to eco-silver but this isn’t always possible at the moment, I am committed to continuously reviewing my practice with a view to keeping up to date with current best practice.”
Naomi Brookes worked in nature conservation for approximately 20 years during which time she saw the negative human impact on species and habitats when sustainable and ethical decisions are not at the heart of what we do. She struggled in the past to find jewellery that matched her desire for affordable beautiful jewellery with a conscience and so she decided to make her own! You can shop Naomi’s work at our online shop.
“I celebrate nature through designing and crafting nature-inspired silver jewellery from my small workshop in Devon. Each piece uses a real leaf, flower, fossil or shell as its starting point – making each piece unique and special! Each piece tells a story about the natural world and the natural element that inspired it.
I use a material called Precious Metal Clay (PMC) to make the majority of my pieces. Essentially this is a combination of fine silver particles mixed with binders and water to create a clay or paste which you then form into a design and fire in a kiln to leave a 99% pure silver item!
Apart from this being completely addictive and like magic, it is also a fantastic choice for ethical jewellery as it uses recycled silver from photographic, computer hardware and other industries to form the clay. I like this fact a lot – no process is clearly 100% sustainable or impact-free, but this does mean material that would otherwise be thrown away is re-used.
Not only that but I source my gems and other materials from reputable dealers: I want to know that my products support good working practices and as little environmental impact as possible. My packaging is all recycled and recyclable and even my source material – the leaves and plants I use all – come from my garden or local environment in small quantities.
I don’t use any animal products in my design process either, which is very important to me. I also support charities with my jewellery – I currently sell a range based on old fossilized coral and donate 5% of the income to the Marine Conservation Society for their work. I plan to expand this side of my business as it grows.
I constantly review my practices and my designs to ensure I’m making the best choices I can!”
Serena Barnes – Chain Gang
Serena started to create jewellery as she couldn’t find what she was looking for in the shops, too big, too small, too mass-produced and tacky, or it followed the current fashion, so limited the amount of time you could enjoy wearing it. You can shop Serena’s unique, silver jewellery online.
“Jewellery design was something I always wanted to try, so I attended local evening classes and was hooked. I create regular silver jewellery like earrings and rings, but my favourite items to create are chains. All my chains are made to order, so you can choose your favourite chain in your favourite length. Any length of necklace, bracelet or even anklet if you prefer, the choice is entirely up to you.
All my sterling silver scraps are reused, either melted into a ball to become stud earrings or hammered flat to use as tags or beads, even the dust created when using a piercing saw can be fused onto the surface of silver sheet to give a sparkly effect.
I always ensure I buy my precious metals and stones from reputable companies, ensuring they have environmental and anti slavery policies.
Customers are starting to value, and are asking about sustainability more when thinking of making a purchase. I can use eco-silver in a majority of my designs, if a customer specifically requests it, but currently don’t use it as my standard offer.
Sally Davies is a Shropshire based artisan jeweller and silversmith specialising in handmade bespoke silver jewellery designed to complement your individual style. From wedding jewellery, to a special birthday gift, I can bring your ideas to life and create unique, beautiful jewellery for any occasion. You can shop Sally Davies beautiful work at our online shop.
“Much like many others, I’d always made ‘jewellery’ out of pebbles, paper, found objects, etc. as a child. I later started beading and selling my makes through a shop at my place of work, progressing to wire writing (making name necklaces from silver wire) which sold quite well.
I had always wanted to learn metalsmithing though, so after my beloved Mum passed away it dawned on me how short life can be. I enrolled in some courses and never looked back.
I now specialise in bespoke designs and have just started fusing glass with the eventual goal of incorporating it into my work.
I try to buy raw materials from local suppliers wherever possible and, of course, recycle metal. I have also made several items from customers’ own jewellery, totally redesigning to make lovely pieces that have deep meaning.”
Stay tuned for more…
We were both overwhelmed by the number of responses that we got and encouraged by the stories of sustainability in the niche of jewellery making. We’ll be posting part two of the blog next week – so make sure that you follow us on Facebook and Instagram to not miss out.
We’re also hosting sustainability-themed virtual coffee chats so make sure to sign up to our newsletter if you haven’t already.