From Recycled Silver To Cultural Appreciation: Why Our Jewellery Is Better Jewellery

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image: the Dalmatian Elliptical Orbit Earrings


When it comes to cost per wear, jewellery is an area in which we have little trouble — mostly because it is generally one of the more versatile members of the fashion family. You can wear a pair of earrings every day without laundry visits in between, for example, and can even pass those pieces onto your grandchildren one day. That said though, jewellery can also be pretty devastating for the environment. This is because the rising popularity of gems means we are continually mining the planet’s finite resources for the purpose of a little glitter. Meanwhile, metals like silver and gold aren’t a whole lot better. Not least of all because a ‘rich’ mine contains just a few tenths of an ounce of gold per ton and a ‘poor’ one just a few hundredths of an ounce per ton. Leading the mining watchdog group Earthworks to estimate that a standard 18-karat wedding band leaves behind a whopping 20 tons of ore and waste rock.

Aside from draining our natural resources, though, jewellery is also fraught with concerns like those surrounding conflict stones — which present a serious humanitarian issue, about which the film Blood Diamond only really skims the surface. And sadly, this is an issue that has largely faded from the spotlight of late, despite still being very much a problem across the African continent in particular. “[The] conflict diamond problem has not gone away,” explains Alice Harle, an expert on minerals from the nonprofit organisation Global Witness. “Companies sourcing diamonds originating in countries like Central African Republic and Zimbabwe may risk indirectly supporting violence” — as well as playing into environmental, health and human rights abuses, she says.

Image: the Ball Keeper Neckpiece in Black Onyx


With all of this in mind then, jewellery can be pretty tricky territory. But supporting local, independent designers can be an excellent way to push back against some of these injustices, while also introducing good cost per wear principles into your wardrobe. This is why we believe that our jewellery is better jewellery at Well Made Clothes. Selected with the site’s strict values framework in mind, brands like Momoko Hatano, By Nye and Marama all prove that jewellery can and should be produced responsibly. Not only can it be made this way, but the pieces feel all the more special when they are.  

By Nye, for example, uses all recycled silver to make her sculptural earrings and chokers that resemble wearable works of art. And, as the label’s designer Nye De Marchi, explains “the great thing about metal is that it can be reused easily. I always collect my old metals or samples that don't make the cut and melt them back down again.” Obviously this is beneficial in terms of waste minimisation, but what makes recycling metals even more critical is the reduction in toxic chemicals. Cyanide, for instance, is a chemical used to separate gold from ore — and the average large-scale gold mine reportedly uses 1,900 tons of cyanide each year. Which then goes on to contaminate major bodies of water, soil and the air around the mines and beyond.

Image: the Hold Tight Sleeper Hoop Earrings in Sterling Silver

In other words then, recycling metals wherever possible is a crucial way that jewellery designers can minimise their environmental impact. And, ultimately, reduce yours as a consumer as well. Momoko Hatano is another designer that’s committed to this approach, explaining that sourcing Australian recycled silver is very important to her. “By using materials that I know are made under Australian standards and or recycled in Australia, I know I am minimising harmful or unethical processes,” she explains. “I know and have met the people who work in the factories I source my metals from, I can access the site at anytime therefore ensuring transparency, quality and purity of the metal.”

Minimising waste isn’t the only concern when it comes to producing more responsible jewellery, though. As Marama designer Courtney Jamieson points out, many jewellery styles, stones and techniques have actually originated from ancient cultures. So it is therefore very important that designers are respectful in honouring where these traditions came from. One way that Marama explores this cultural appreciation is through the stone Pounamu, which plays an important role in Māori culture and is protected under the Treaty of Waitangi. “Pounamu is such a sacred material in New Zealand [that] I believe it needs to be taken care of and not over used,” Jamieson says of her approach to using this particular stone. “It’s a natural resource so it will one day run out. I am lucky to be able to use the smaller off-cuts and scraps from other Pounamu carvers, where they wouldn't use them and it would be a waste of resource.”

Image: the Tooth Pendant in Pounamu

Jamieson also makes her jewellery to last — just like all our designers at Well Made Clothes. Which means they are built to stand the test of time, rather than disposed like much of the cheaply made pieces you can find in fast fashion stores. Perhaps one of the most special aspects about so much of our jewellery, though, is that it has been handcrafted by our skilled designers. Momoko Hatano, for example, makes each piece by hand in her studio and says “it definitely makes a piece more special than a mass produced [one]. I love jewellery for how personal and intimate it is. Often you forget you are wearing it, so it becomes a part of you”. If we can all treat jewellery in this way and also be more mindful about where it has come from, then designers like these show that it really can be amongst the most conscious and special pieces in your entire wardrobe.

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