Sustainability and Traceability.
Sustainability and Traceability are some of the "new" buzzwords in the jewellery industry. There are many who shout about these credentials and there are others, like me, that forget. Some use it purely as a marketing ploy, to others it's an essential way of doing business and part of their normal behaviour. What's it all about and why did I decide to write about it?
Firstly why did I decide to write about this? I subscribe to a few jewellers' mailing lists, some from a genuine interest and some to see what the competition is up to. One jeweller that I am genuinely interested in and admire is Stephen Einhorn .The company's recent email was titled "Do you know where your jewellery is coming from?" It links to an interesting blog post you can read here . It talks about where materials come from, recycling, fair trade and general work ethics. In all honesty, most of my clients don't ask these questions and the majority of customers that I have come in to contact with in my career haven't asked, apart from a few asking about conflict diamonds.
Please do read the above blog post as I think it's interesting reading. I've put my responses to the questions raised below as well as a final statement. Also have a look at Stephen's film and television work here, as it's pretty interesting and something I would love to do.
Where do your Diamonds come from?
I don't deal in Diamonds very much. Keeping stock is expensive and a very cutthroat market, I would rather concentrate on other things. When I do deal with Diamonds, they come from select dealers that I have assurances from that they comply with the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process is not perfect, but does help to screen out Diamonds from the less desirable sources where the money from traded Diamonds is more likely to be funding wars, genocide and other nasty things. It's not a perfect system as a few years ago Diamonds from Zimbabwe were allowed into the system and we all know about Mugabe's human rights track record.
Diamonds in vintage and antique pieces are much more tricky and I can't comment one way or the other there. I also use recycled stones in my pieces and again, it gets tricky.
Where does the Diamond in my ring come from?
In short, I've no idea. When a Diamond comes out of the ground it gets mixed in with others, sent to cutting centres and then around the world. General exceptions to this are some of the Russian and Canadian Diamonds where keeping the origin known is integral to their structure of operation. The other exception is are very large or rare Diamonds, but I'm not likely to be able to touch one of those.
Who made my ring?
Me. A simple answer really. The exceptions are Vintage and Antique pieces of course (I'm not that old).
Do you use recycled and reclaimed metals? I'll add gems also.
Yes, absolutely. I love to repair and re-use pieces, but if they can't be saved, they are refined by a local refiner (cuts down on the "food miles") and either used as fine gold, silver etc. or alloyed with other metals to make 9, 18 ct gold etc. All scrap material is reclaimed and refined also. I make a range of cuff bangles (image below) made from 100% recycled fine (99.9% pure) silver. I also save gemstones and Diamonds from pieces I've bought in and re-use the stones, after very thorough testing of course.
Do you use Fair trade gold?
No. I've looked at the possibility of offering this, but it gets very complicated when your workbench is dealing with new gold, recycled gold, repairs etc. If I had more room and a dedicated area to work with fair trade metals, of course I would. This is not all to be on trend, but a choice. I have been asked if I make vegan jewellery more than using fair trade. A quick reference to the vegan question, I use a leather bench skin, but otherwise no animal products, but I do enjoy a joint of meat, which I think is a more important question.
What is your repair service like?
I like this question. It's like asking a salesperson if they're any good, they'll always answer "exceptional". I will repair, or remake if needed, any piece that I've made. With older pieces there is a limit as to what can/should be done. So in short, I think my repair service is good (I'm a modest man).
What is your packing made of?
Cardboard and foam. It's a simple answer, but not the ideal one. I have searched for years for a more sustainable packaging, it's very tricky. I don't think anyone has perfected this yet, but if you are a packaging supplier who believes they have the answer, please get in touch. I would love to have 100% recyclable packaging.
What is it like to work here?
I'm self employed, so obviously the boss is a real slave driver! I must remember to update this when I take on staff though. This is why blog posts get typed out on a Sunday morning on the patio with a cup of coffee. The flip side is, what other boss would let you write a blog post on the patio in the sunshine? I enjoy what I do, love the fact that I know my children better than when I was commuting, being away from home 12 hours a day. So I think it's great, very hard work, terrifying when business is slow, but great.
Is your company committed to sustainable working practices?
A huge question to put to any business and it depends on whether they are truly committed. My intentions are good, but I'm not perfect. I recycle as much as possible. I dispose of as little waste as possible and when I do it's in the correct way (you would be amazed how many jewellers pour chemicals down the sink). Organic waste is composted, I buy local or from small businesses when I can, but it's not always possible. I buy from companies that share a similar ethos whenever I can, but again, it's not always possible.
I use the Royal Mail plastic special delivery envelopes due to a dispute with them many years ago, which is bad, but I don't travel much, which is good. I maintain and repair equipment rather than replace with the latest gizmo. One of my drills is a Victorian bow drill and my bench top is made from a very heavy door that another jeweller used for 40 years before me. When I eventually get a custom made studio,my intention is to use a lot of "found things" and recycled material.
School report time, must do better. There is always something else everyone can do. I do my best and there will always be peaks and troughs in these things as technologies, systems and expectations change. What is deemed as right today might not be tomorrow, just the same as keeping a pet tiger,eating fois gras and wearing an Ivory necklace was acceptable in the 1960's, whereas now, it's not.
When I was at school someone once said something to me which has steered my life, both personally and professionally ever since "Never aspire to have more, aspire to be more". This is what I want my business to follow also. A huge income would be nice, but I would rather leave this world thinking I had done it right.
Thank you for reading,