Just over a year ago, Stacy Dooley released her BBC documentary: Fashion's Dirty Secrets. Whilst I was already aware of fast fashion being problematic for the environment, this documentary really opened my eyes to the full extent of the environmental damage fast fashion causes. Following this, I reevaluated my fashion purchases, buying second hand where possible and buying long-lasting, high quality items which would not need replacing for long period of time. Today's blog post is written by the lovely Angela from Ange B Designs, who provides an insight into the emerging world of sustainable jewellery.
Ethical Jewellery - Ange B Designs
I was brought up to believe that waste was bad: whether that meant eating all the food put on my plate or not throwing away paper that I hadn’t drawn on both sides of - it was instilled in me that it was not good to waste things.
Growing up, the idea of conservation and in particular valuing things that had been made by someone else’s hand, has always stuck with me. I’ve always been an enthusiastic recycler and in the recent years I have taken the decision to shun fast fashion, and as a result I now wear only secondhand, vintage or handmade clothes and footwear.
The stats surrounding fast fashion and its effects on the environment are truly disturbing to me and as a maker of handmade silver jewellery, I felt it was only natural to plant my flag in the ethical jewellery camp. Like fast fashion, the provenance of many of the raw materials used in the making of fine and semi-fine jewellery is in the least, questionable and in some cases borderline criminal. Whether it is the way in which base metals like gold are mined, endangering the lives of the workforce, or the involvement of corrupt governments in the diamond mining industry, as end-of-chain consumers we all end up being complicit in these transgressions. Stacked up alongside the depletion of resources from continual mining, like fast fashion, the jewellery industry needs an overhaul if we are to preserve the planet for future generations.
Any jewellery maker will tell you that there is a certain amount of waste involved in the production of handmade jewellery. The great thing is that base metals like silver and gold are 100% recyclable. I routinely collect my scrap or off-cuts of silver (pictured above), along with any old silver I’ve collected or been gifted, and smelt it to make a fresh ingot of silver metal. This is then rolled out into silver sheet or wire, depending on the project I’m working on. If I am unable to gain access to smelting equipment, the next best way of recycling my silver is to take it to Hatton Garden in London’s jewellery quarter and trade it in for ready-made recycled Ecosilver.
I also try to only buy ethically-sourced gemstones or better still I re-purpose gemstones from old pieces. I always welcome customers that want to give their old jewellery a new lease of life or retain old stones for sentimental reasons. Creating a new piece of jewellery from old gemstones is a great way to reduce waste and make something special.
Making jewellery by hand takes time and effort - I like to say that I’m part of the ‘slow jewellery movement’. Add to that equation the use of only the best possible materials and I think I have the opportunity to give my customers beautiful contemporary jewellery that they will hopefully want to cherish forever. I also hope they appreciate that their considered ethical purchase is a small step towards improving our environment and preserving the planet.