The way I make jewellery reflects to a great extent the way I have always lived - striving to leave as light a footprint as is practical in the modern world and with an aversion to over-consumption or unecessary waste.
That’s why from the outset in 2005, when I set up Glasswing Jewellery, I knew I didn’t want my business to go against my principles. Acting responsibly with regards to how I sourced materials, and my working practice was key to what Glasswing was all about.
That’s why as soon as I realised 100% recycled silver was availalbe, almost all the silver I used in my jewellery was recycled, (apart from chains, which were impossible to buy in recycled). Once I started using more gold in my designs, that too was all recycled.
going further - fairtrade gold
The jewellery industry has always recycled precious metal, adding it in with new mined metal. Its ability to be refined over and over again and huge value, means it’s a no-brainer, and it has gone on for millenia. But recycling is only a very small part of the story, things really have to change further, for the benefit of people, and the planet.
the jewellery industry, and the supply chain that provides the materials for it, is strewn with the misery of some of the most underpaid, poorly protected and vulnerable people on the planet.
These are the artisanal mine workers, who make up 90% of all the gold miners in the world, but who only produce around 10% of the global gold supply, with large scale mining making up the rest.
Artisanal small scale miners account for up to 16 million people in countries like Africa, Asia and South America who have no choice but to go into mining. They are forced through poverty to work in dreadful conditions, using dangerous chemicals such as mercury and cyanide to extract tiny pieces of gold using only their bare hands. Many work with no shoes in muddy trenches or down in the earth, hanging for hours from rotting ladders in deep holes, with no protection from accidents (which happen, frequently). All this to scrape a living that barely covers the day’s food for their families.
Whilst recycled materials have been a way for jewellers and consumers to reduce the use of new mined gold, the appetite for extracting precious metals only continues to grow year on year as the luxury jewellery, electronics and car markets boom.
That the most beautiful, luxurious and valuable items in the world are made by exploiting the most vulnerable people, working in unthinkably hellish conditions, is an ugly reality that finally, thankfully, it is impossible for the jewellery industry to ignore.
Thanks to campaigners and activists working in mining communities, and efforts by a handful of companies deciding to do the right thing by helping artisanal miners set up safe working conditions in the mines, the industry is now slowly working waking up to its responsibilities. More and more jewellers and consumers are demanding to know where the materials they are buying come from, how environmentally friendly and ethical the processes to extract and bring them to market has actually been.
registered as a Fairtrade Goldsmith since 2014
In 2014 I registered as a Fairtrade Goldsmith, a scheme set up to enable small business designer-makers like myself to buy Fairtrade Gold.
I buy gemstones from a very small handful of truly ethical suppliers, those with the knowledge of what they source leading right back to the environmentally responsible and safety-conscious mine from which the stone was dug. Most come from the US, Australia and Canada and ethical, environmentally responsible mines in Africa.
I use recycled diamonds, in my opinion the most environmentally responsible, conflict-free option possible, as well as Canadian and Australian origin diamonds.
I also use genuine sea glass, which I collect on the beaches of the beautiful Devon and Cornwall coastlines, or sometimes buy from trusted collectors here in the and around the world.
my ethical processes
Along with ensuring the materials I use are fairly and ethically sourced or 100% recycled, I use a 100% renewable, green energy tariff for all the workshop and office’s energy needs.
None of the disposables I use in the business such as metal polishing compounds, contain animal products, and since Feb 20018, I’ve not bought any equipment (or food!) that contains any animal products at all (many traditional tools contain leather and many compounds contain animal fats). The office and workshop are also 100% vegan.
In my workshop, I use simple tools and traditional techniques, (using a lot of elbow grease!).
utilising UK SKILLS
For processes that I outsource, I pay UK contractors such as casters, finishers and casters a fair price for their highly skilled work.