When it comes to non-essential items like jewelry, the idea of an industry that chooses to be “planet conscious” seems quite fictional. Yet there has been a lot of talk lately on the topic and the words ”sustainable jewelry” have become a sort of a trend. There are a lot of sides to this phrase, but to explain it better we can choose these meanings of the word “sustainable”: “able to continue at the same level for a period of time”, and “causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time” The jewelry industry like the most, leaves a massive carbon foot print on the planet. Right from mining the metals to manufacturing and packaging, a small piece of jewelry you buy doesn’t come alone.
There are many jewelry brands now that define themselves as eco-friendly. Even though there are a number of things this industry can do to be more eco friendly, it is extremely difficult to achieve all of them. This article will discuss some of the convenient ways by which jewelry designers and brands, and consumers can make the industry more eco friendly and be more planet conscious.
For the jewelry makers, the process is quite difficult. From mine to market, the journey is a long and complicated one. Starting with where we get our raw materials is important. Are we buying our stones from the regions in conflict where the money could be used for war? Are we supporting child labor? Are we using material that is natural? How is our packaging? Even the idea of sustainable mining, where mining for precious metals can be done with less environmental damage is a complicated one. The 21st century is called the century of sustainability, and like all industries, many people in the jewelry industry are accepting their responsibility towards the planet. While there are many steps that are needed to be taken, the simple ones are easy to implement.
We can start by making jewelry of considerable quality. We can choose natural raw materials that will last. We can choose less packaging, use recycled materials for our packaging, and recycle within the organization or company as well. Further, we can pay our craftsmen proper wages and ensure their work environment is not hazardous.
We can also make less!
Vivienne Westwood once said “Buy, less, choose well, make it last!”
The statement is quite a paradox coming in today’s time of consumerism, that too coming from a fashion designer! Yet, I feel the statement needs to be put in practice if we are to accept any responsibility towards our planet. Can we designers and business owners, who rely on the sale of our product, encourage our clients to buy less?
The consumer of any product has the power to change the entire industry. To expect a complete overhaul of the practices being followed, might not be realistic but there is a lot a consumer can do to make the jewelry industry more eco friendly. As much as I respect the choice of the consumers, I honestly feel it is time to buy less and buy quality. In the same way, it’s time to make less and make quality! Our landfills are filled with costume jewelry, machine made plastic and glass components, and metals that cannot be re-used. They are the very same pieces that look all bright and shiny on most magazine covers, and eventually, and often quickly make their way to the trashcan. Everywhere we turn we are faced with advertisements telling us to buy more. For the very fashion
conscious, the choices presented are endless with color of the week and what the celebrities are wearing. All aimed at encouraging the consumer to buy more, buy cheap, and buy often.
I don’t think we can afford to have such indulgence anymore. As jewelry makers and as consumers we need to make a choice.
We can choose to buy 10 and not 20. Choose quality, not quantity. Choose handmade, not machine made. Choose real, not costume. Choose sustainability and not waste. Sustainable jewelry has many other benefits as well. Not only does it weigh less on your conscience, it eventually weighs less on your wallet as well. Not only that you will find that buying a piece of jewelry from such designers usually means you will own something unique and be part of the process from inception of the design to the final outcome, you will be presented with choices which commercial machine made costume jewelry cannot offer.
Choices in design, gemstones and jewelry techniques. I can guarantee that a piece of jewelry bought under these circumstances will mean a lot more to you, and will make you feel special every
time you wear it.
Like many jewelry designers, I chose to work with metals, gemstones and materials that last, and can be redesigned. My jewelry is hand crafted, each piece designed in its own unique way. I love using gemstones in all their form, facets, tumbled and rough. Nothing needs to be discarded. These pieces can be passed on or re-designed for a new look after a few years. Nothing needs to go to the landfills! As a small business owner, I recycle what I can, including my packaging. I offer redesigning services of existing pieces so that clients can continue to enjoy an older piece.
We can choose to buy 10 and not 20. Choose quality, not quantity. Choose handmade, not machine made. Choose real, not costume. Choose sustainability and not waste.
As a designer what I love most about jewelry is that throughout the ages it has been a storyteller of generations! From the cave man years to the early civilizations, through jewelry we have heard the voices and sounds of the people before us.
Working with metals forged from the earth’s own belly, be it gold, silver, platinum or copper….gives us designers a unique opportunity to be a part of something that will survive long after us. As a jewelry designer, I truly understand the power of jewelry and accessorizing. The right piece of jewelry can help express many moods; it can help convey many emotions. It is a keeper of memories, and a token of celebration.
As a planet conscious person, I also understand that we cannot be careless anymore being consumers and designers of such products. We need to take into account what the manufacturing and raw materials of our product mean for the planet. We need to go beyond just the aesthetics in our making and in our packaging. Sustainable jewelry, made with sustainable metals and gems has the power to tell your stories. It has the power to change, adapt and help express individuality. So let’s tell our stories through our jewelry that will stand the test of time, and carry our voices forward into the future.
Shikha S. Lamba
Jewelry Designer and Gemologist (G.I.A)
Handcrafted fine sterling silver and gold jewelry