Even 10,000 years ago humans adorned themselves with shells, stones and amber. Not only axes and hatchets were produced with the discovery of new methods of copper and bronze processing, but also rings and jewellery. Jewellery has long been a nonverbal symbolic system whose identity-defining character allowed social, territorial and religious groups to visually differentiate themselves. This is still valid today, to some extent, with jewellery expressing something about the wearer. A fine diamond ring still stands for pure elegance and quality, extravagant earrings speak of a strong demeanor and angular jewellery expresses masculinity and directness.
Everyone loves jewellery, everyone wears it; but how often do we think about the impacts of its production? We know today that this 300-billion-dollar industry is tied closely to gravely negative effects on society and the environment. Jewellery is traditionally produced with the use of precious metals: diamonds, silver, gold, gemstones and many others that are often derived from conflict-ridden areas around the world. The process of extracting these metals have serious effects on the environment. Disturbances in the ecosystem, the loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, water scarcity and social decline are typical consequences and are undoubtedly the dark side of these shining creations.
That’s why it especially brings us joy to see how young designers and renowned traditional jewellery houses are approaching new solutions in terms of production. The genuinely novel has been achieved successfully thanks to a confluence of advanced technology and traditional craftsmanship, without any deficit in its quality in terms of known processes and materials. Quite the opposite. Due to recycled raw materials, lab-grown diamonds and promises made by major brands such as Cartier to actively tackle conflict-diamonds, our options are not only changing, but also our aspirations.
We chose eight designers who not only create unique pieces, but also merge their work with quality, craftsmanship and good ethics. A list that’s also quite perfect for all those special-occasion-gift-seekers who want to give with a clear conscience.
The Collier by Quite Quiet is reminiscent of the confident looks of Studio 54. Made of certified, traceable Fairtrade gold, the necklace softly embraces the wearer’s neck. On each end is an Aqua Spinel grown in the laboratory by Chatham with a carat weight of approximately 2.3 ct. The stone, rarely found in nature, grows in the lab under perfect conditions, so that the sea-blue crystals become large and clean. Clarity and brilliance come from the fine cut. The Berlin label knows its craft and with whom it works. Their pieces are bold in their expression and can be worn with a clear conscience. Founded by the goldsmith Johanna Schoemaker and the product designer Jonas Buck, the company’s philosophy is to combine traditional craftsmanship with modern manufacturing techniques and a holistic design approach. True beauty and real luxury only manifest when all aspects of a product have been planned thoroughly and with the greatest care – from the clear design principles to fair trade materials to sustainable production. A noble move.
A classic of design history and protagonist of stories revolving around romance and class: Cartier is one of those brands that doesn’t require an introduction. With timeless elegance and fashionable style sensibility, the brand inspires royalty, Hollywood divas and lovers of classic elegance. The Panthère de Cartier ring, made of 18-carat rose gold and set with two tsavorites, is a heavyweight in its class. The legendary panther has been part of the Cartier collections since 1914. Louis Cartier was the first to tame the legendary wildcat, from which his colleague Jeanne Toussaint was repeatedly inspired.
Since then, the panther has repeatedly revealed new facets of its being in the course of the collections: once it is a hunter, then it appears playful or is affectionate. A ring such as this should be present on any list; it’s the stuff of dreams. With its promise to be more involved in the fight against conflict diamonds, thus fulfilling its Corporate Responsibility, Cartier is setting a good example and is a pioneer for many. Because jewellery is not only beautiful, but also valuable – just like the people on this planet who wear it.
Raised in her father’s goldsmith workshop, the trained architect Marie Boltenstern decides to pursue her love for new technologies and recyclable materials. She becomes the world’s first designer to use programming-language and computer design with direct 3D printing to design and manufacture fine jewellery made of various recycled metals, such as 18-carat gold powder. Her pieces combine technology with mathematics and architectural design, thus reshaping the future of jewellery. They are playful, with versatile structures, unable to be created by hand.
The Affinity bracelet made of 18-carat rose gold, for example, consists of seven rows of elegant scales that flow around the wrist and, almost like the scales of a fish, gently reflect light in all directions. Elegant, graceful and individually made. The future is golden.
Emma Aitchison’s philosophy is based on a fundamentally sustainable concept. The designer uses 100% recycled metals and precious stones as much as possible, all studio materials are reused, and the electricity comes from a green energy provider. She’s careful about bulk orders and works with local suppliers with fair wages. Even her packaging is made from recycled, reusable, FSC-certified materials and plastic-free production.
Environmental compatibility, sustainability and honesty are a matter of great importance to the British designer. And one can feel this in each of her pieces, such as the Polluted Bangle composed of three bangles connected through hand-shaped corrugated pearls. Each bangle is hand crafted to capture the ocean’s movements. The organic form and the playfulness of the materials adorn every wrist. And if that didn’t suffice, five percent of the proceeds go directly to the human rights organization Survival International, supporting the struggle to preserve the land, life and livelihoods of tribal people around the world. Any more is hardly possible.
Bar Jewellery was born out of the conviction that jewellery can be both desirable and sustainable. Every product begins its life at the East London atelier and is designed through sculpting wax or by hand forming the solid metal.
The pieces, as well as the packaging, are from 100% recycled materials, which are repeatedly reused in a circular system between supplier and designer. The brand sources its materials from the overproduction of local jewellers as well as from broken and unwanted jewellery, coins, and artifacts. Recyclable electronic waste and auto parts also gain new usage. Bar Jewellery often works with brass for larger pieces, as the material is known to be sustainable due to the brass industry’s economic dependence on recycling. The Alphabet Collection is particularly beautiful on the neckline. Preformed wax letters possess their own almost fluid aesthetic and appear soft and modest unlike most known letter-pendants.
The classic, smooth-surfaced signet ring, handmade from 925 sterling silver with a polished surface, delivers what it promises. It imbues its wearer with both strength and possesses a clear canvas where an emblem can subsequently find its permanent home. It’s exactly because of this pristine surface that the ring is so special. Because don’t we all have our own kingdoms, no matter the size or influence? A statement that rings true for Casey himself, an autodidact who is not a professional goldsmith. Having taught himself everything he knows, he creates every piece by hand with traditional methods such as wax models and forming through the sand-casting technique. His aspiration is not perfection but character. A strong ethos meets strong designs.
At Rubinia Gioielli, the name says it all. The designs by the founder and creative director Roberto Ricci are unmistakably classic Italian, modern and romantic. The creativity and uniqueness of Rubinia jewelry reflect their commitment not only to the women who will wear their creations, but to the entire community, by supporting initiatives to empower people, protect the environment and promote life.
With the Filodellavita Classic collection, a ring was born that speaks of life. Just like the ring, every life is extraordinary and unique. Seven to 22 fine gold, silver and rose gold threads wrap themselves into one another layer by layer and fuse into a sensational ring. Like two people who come together and merge their lives, this ring is the ultimate love story, crowned by a band of shining diamonds with a personal engraving on the inner side upon request. The seven-thread ring made of 925 sterling silver, enriched with palladium or platinum, impresses with its simplicity and a band of 16 brown and black 0.21ct diamonds. Understated, but certainly not underdressed.
WALD Berlin gained its notoriety as the pioneer of the never-abating seashell trend in jewellery design. Mirthful combinations and the eternal feeling of beach and sea surround the happy wearer. The two power-women Dana Roski and Joyce Binneböse do as they please, whilst simultaneously representing the Zeitgeist perfectly. They also happen to be way ahead in terms of production. One finds statements such as “Handmade in Germany by our Fairtrade women and grandmothers collective, because we care where and who is producing our collection.” Collections that were once handmade at night by the duo themselves now support women of all ages and occupations.
The Smilie Dude Earring Set not only makes its wearer smile but also its creators. The whole thing is made of 18k gold-plated silver rings, freshwater pearls and glass pearls. Warning, addictive potential.
Our selected jewellery pieces will look even more special on a beautiful hand or a smooth neckline. Read our compilation of the 6 best skin care products here. The skin needs more attention, especially in winter, because in the end it’s we who wear the jewellery, not the other way around.
Text: Esther Seibt