Sustainable jewellery is made by using ethical materials such as recycled metals and making business decisions which reduce their negative impact on the environment or the people that work in the industry. In a nutshell, this means understanding where your materials come from and the impact of producing them, making sure all suppliers in the chain offer workers fair wages and working conditions, not using child labour or using methods that pollute or impact the environment in a harmful way.
As a jewellery business, we have a deep understanding of the importance of sustainability in our industry. From our conception, we proactively researched working practices and learnt how poor practices can have a significant negative impact on the environment and the lives of the people who work in it. From the get-go, we decided it was crucial that we take steps to make Duxford Studios as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. From the materials we use in our jewellery to the suppliers that we forge relationships with, everything is considered with sustainability at the forefront.
Traditional jewellery businesses vs Sustainable jewellery businesses
The difference between traditional jewellery businesses and sustainable businesses is simple - a sustainable jewellery business makes a conscious decisions with the environment in mind, be it use of materials, packaging and shipping whereas a traditional jewellery businesses which doesn't market itself as sustainable will make business decisions based on price and ease alone.
All our ethical handmade jewellery is created in our studio in Wales.
What are the most sustainable materials for jewellery?
Some of the most sustainable materials for jewellery are recycled and Fairtrade metals and recycled or lab grown gemstones. This is because recycled materials reduce the need for new mining which has a detrimental impact on the environment and workers who are often exploited, while Fairtrade products are guaranteed to be produced in a fair and ethical manner. Lab grown stones can be more socially responsible and can have a smaller environmental impact than natural stones. Read on for more info on all these materials.
Recycled Sterling Silver
Newly mined silver can have a huge negative impact on the environment, causing deforestation, destruction of habitats, and pollution of water sources, so being able to reuse and recycle this metal helps lower the danger to our eco-system. Recycled silver is made by melting down and purifying old and unused silver from different items such as old jewellery as industrial and medical equipment. Using this type of metal reduces the need for new mining and the associated environmental impacts.
There are many ways of reusing and repurposing silver. It can be done on an industrial scale, sourcing large quantities from many different industries. This silver is then packaged and sold as certified recycled metal. Another smaller scale process is used by individual jewellers and small businesses. Scrap metals and offcuts that are created when making a piece of jewellery can be melted down many times, meaning that there is no waste in the making process. This is what we do here at Duxford Studios, and we also often use the metal from client’s heirloom jewellery, reworking it into new bespoke pieces.
For more info, read our blog post Benefits of Sterling Silver
Recycled and Fairtrade Gold
Similar to silver, gold can be melted down many times and can be recycled into a fresh piece of jewellery. It can easily be recycled without losing its value, meaning new pieces of recycled gold jewellery don’t require new mining. The more recycled gold that is put to use means a there will be reduction in traditional and harmful mining practices without it affecting the value of the gold to consumers.
Fairtrade gold is different as it is newly mined, but unlike traditionally mined gold, it’s done in a way that respects the rights of local communities and the environment. Buying Fairtrade gold jewellery means that your hard earned cash supports small-scale miners who provide fair pay and working conditions and protects the environment in which they work.
A clients beautiful bespoke wedding band, made from recycled gold. Handmade Bespoke Jewellery Services
Gemstones like diamonds, can easily be recycled, reset, or recut. In fact, many jewellers enjoy working with older, recycled gemstones as the cutting process was historically done by hand and can create interesting shaped and faceted stones.
The only issue with recycled and reused stones is that they are often glued onto other components that are harmful to the environment so jewellers have to be careful when separating these parts when trying to extract stones.
Lab Grown Gemstones
Lab grown gemstones are manmade stones created in a laboratory. The labs have cutting-edge technology which replicates the natural process that happens deep under the earth’s crust to make natural gemstones. Most gemstones are created when carbon is subjected to high temperatures and high pressure, be it buried under the surface of the earth or inside a controlled lab environment.
Both types of stones (natural and lab grown) share the same chemical, optical, and physical properties, so selecting mined or lab-grown stones often comes down to preference. There are benefits and draw backs to both. Natural stones are often seen as more authentic, having an inherent relationship with our earth and its history but customers should be careful when sourcing natural stones as there’s an increased risk of buying stones which have been unethically mined. Lab grown stones can be more socially responsible and can have a smaller environmental impact, but they don’t have the romanticism of natural stones as they’re man-made.
Whichever types of stones you prefer, it’s always important to research and source responsibly. Reputable and trustworthy jewellers will promote their practices and will be transparent about how they source their materials.
Materials to be aware of
- Unethically mined metals – this can lead to air pollution, water pollution, damage to land, loss of biodiversity and human exploitation. We would advise on opting for recycled or Fairtrade metals every time!
- Fimo, perspex and other plastics – these types of materials contribute to a large amount of costume jewellery in the market. Costume jewellery is OK to buy, but can be brittle. This can mean that the jewellery has a short lifespan and these materials aren’t easy to recycle. It’s important to think about how you would reuse or dispose of this type of jewellery if and when it breaks.
- Mass produced jewellery – this type of jewellery is often poorly constructed which means it’s flimsy and feels cheap. Mass produced jewellery isn’t designed to last for generations and is often designed in line with trends in the industry which can be fleeting. For this reason, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks before buying this type of jewellery, and to think about how you would reuse or dispose of it if and when it breaks or the trend passes.
What makes a jewellery brand sustainable?
There are many factors which can make a brand ethical and sustainable. Using recycled and sustainable materials, selecting reusable or low-waste packaging, producing small batch orders and having a transparent making process can all contribute to a business being more sustainable.
A sustainable jewellery brand should consider the entire lifecycle of their products. From the sourcing of materials, the making process itself, posting practices to the disposal of excess and waste materials. Each element should be scrutinised to ensure a lower impact on the environment and the workers within the industry.
Offering repair and recycling services can be a fantastic way of reducing waste or unwanted and broken products by extending the life of a product. Through repairing and recycling, we can reduce the demand for new products and the associated environmental impacts. Read our FAQs page for more info on where we source our materials, heirloom commissions and repairs, resizing and reconditioning.
As well as making their pieces from sustainable materials, a sustainable jewellery brand might use low-waste packaging or packaging that can be kept and used for many years. Each piece of Duxford Studios jewellery comes in its own beautiful and durable jewellery box. Made of luxury matt black soft-touch material, it has a black velour interior which ensures your jewellery will be protected in the post and can be kept safe while it's not being worn.
Click here to read our blog post, Ethical Metals - All You Need to Know
Transparent Supply Chain and Practices
Sustainable jewellery brands are usually proud of their supply chain and process design and will promote how they source materials and produce their jewellery. They're usually open to customer questions and are willing and happy to share information about their practices with customers. They're aware that by being transparent and open, they can build trust with the market and customers can make informed decisions about the jewellery they buy. Businesses who prioritise ethical practices may also support and donate to charities that support ethical values.
At Duxford Studios, our primary making process is lost wax casting. Lost wax Casting is the process in which a metal object is cast from a mould made from an original wax model. We picked this process because it's steeped in human history, is very versatile and has a low impact on the environment. Many of the materials involved are reusable (such as rubber and metal moulds and wax) and we use exclusively recycled precious metals to make our jewellery. Read our blog What is Wax Casting? for more info on this process. For more information about the materials we use, our quality assurance and our repairs process, visit our FAQs page.
Quality Over Quantity
Finally, a good indication of a sustainable jewellery brand will be how they market themselves. A business' messaging is very important. Look out for businesses that focus on quality over quantity. If you get the impression a brand is more focused on the churn than creating beautifully finished, handmade products, it should be a red flag!
High quality, sustainable brands will always promote and focus on their making processes, the quality of their materials and craftsmanship, packaging and other similar features. It's not cheap running a sustainable jewellery business as the vast majority of materials come at a higher price, so proud sustainable jewellers will always celebrate these considered decisions.
How to buy jewellery sustainably
Do Your Research
When buying jewellery, it's important to consider the sustainability of each brand you browse through, and understand the provenance of the materials they use. Look for brands that use sustainable materials and that have transparent and ethical working practices.
Ask your jeweller questions - a good jewellery business will love giving more information about how they run their brand, the sourcing of materials and the labor practices used in production. By asking questions and doing research, you can make sure that the jewellery you invest in is made in a way that is good for the environment and for the people who make it. If you'd like to know more about how we make our jewellery, why not contact us?
For more info, read our blog post What to Look for When Buying Jewellery.
Bespoke, Vintage or Secondhand
Consider the longevity and durability of the piece of jewellery you're thinking of buying. Investing in high-quality, timeless pieces that can be worn for years to come is a more sustainable option than buying disposable, 'trending' jewellery. This means that instead of buying cheap, trendy jewellery that you'll only wear a few times, you invest in a piece that you'll wear for many years. This not only saves you money in the long run, but also reduces the environmental impact of constantly buying new jewellery pieces.
If you're looking for a very special piece of jewellery that's personal to you and will last a lifetime, check out our Handmade Bespoke Jewellery Services.
Another option is to ask your family if there are any heirloom pieces that you can borrow from time to time. Heirloom jewellery is especially beautiful as it's emotionally connected to your family, which makes it inherently special. Or have a browse through vintage markets and shops for a special pre-loved piece!
When Not to Buy
This one is pretty simple! Once you've done your research, and understand the ethics and working practices of a jewellery brand, you'll know enough to make a considered purchase. Here at Duxford Studios, we would always advise investing in ethically produced, handmade jewellery that's timeless and built to last! Steer clear of mass produced, cheap and poorly made jewellery at all costs, especially if you're not sure where or by who it's made!
In conclusion, sustainability is a crucial aspect of the jewellery industry and something that should factor into your buying decision. By choosing recycled and ethically sourced materials, supporting sustainable jewellery brands and being mindful of your consumption habits, it'll become easy to play a vital role in creating a more sustainable future for everyone. It is not just about the environment but also about ensuring fair and ethical practices for the people who work within the jewellery industry too. As a customer, it is important to do your research and make informed decisions when buying jewellery.
As a jewellery business, we feel passionately that it's our responsibility to educate our customers about the importance of sustainability in our industry. We make sure that all of the jewellery we make is made from sustainable materials and is ethically made in our studio in Wales. We also do all we can to make sure that our customers know about the importance of sustainability and how they can make more sustainable choices. Together, we can create a more sustainable and responsible jewellery industry.
To be more sustainable when buying jewellery, you can:
- Learn the basics about sustainable materials
- Do your research on each brand to determine their ethics
- Consider different types of jewellery like ethically handmade, bespoke, vintage, heirloom and secondhand
- Steer clear of mass produced, cheap and poorly made jewellery at all costs, especially if you're not sure where or by who it's made
- Repair broken jewellery
- Use heirloom jewellery to rework and make it's a fresh new piece that's personal to you
Duxford Studios creates ethical handmade jewellery inspired by the human form, modern culture, and the sensation of touch. All of our pieces are cast from hand carved wax in recycled sustainable sterling silver, gold vermeil, and other precious metals. Shop our full collection on our website or get in contact about a custom jewellery design commission. Need help choosing a piece? Read our full guide on what to look for when buying jewellery on our blog page.