Back in January, Otter investigated the ethical issues surrounding jewellery. From dirty gold mining to blood diamonds, it turns out shiny trinkets are as good at distracting from their questionable production processes as they are at diverting attention from a bad hair day.
One of the things we recommended was to look out for Fairtrade or recycled materials, to avoid the negative effects of dirty mining practices and ensure the beautiful ornaments you buy aren’t made by exploited workers. We’re always on the lookout for new places to buy sustainable jewellery, and here are three local Australian shops we’ve stumbled upon that don’t sacrifice quality or design when it comes to responsibly-sourced glittery goodies.
Qinnie Wang, founder of Oz Fair Trade, says:
During the Vietnam War, the United States dropped more than 270 million sub-munitions on Laos. It is estimated that more than 30% of these sub-munitions failed to explode, leaving Laos with 80 million undetonated bombs. Since 1973, there have been around 12,000 explosion-related accidents.
Cambodia’s notorious landmine problem is the product of a civil war that spanned three decades and claimed the lives of up to three million people, or one third of the entire population. Today, more than 40,000 people are amputees.
Despite the efforts of the relevant government bodies in both countries, millions of undetonated bombs remain. It is within this context that a new type of product was born: recycled bombshells.
Once detonated, the aluminium and brass in bombs can be melted and made into household objects. Local people started making spoons from bombshells after the war, and they now produce beautiful jewellery, too.
Recycled bombshell products are ethical in three main ways:
• recycle existing material
• provide extra income for land clearance
• provide job opportunities for local people
Spindrift is the creation of artist and jewellery designer Natasha Wakefield, who combs the Northern Beaches of Sydney for pieces of sea glass to use as gems in her collections. Sea glass is the result of tides and sand acting on shards of bottles, windows and parts from wrecked ships, transforming it from jagged and dangerous waste into smooth, frosted treasure.
The sea glass used in Spindrift jewellery is also known as mermaids’ tears, and this romantic provenance is echoed in the designs. The pieces are elegant, understated and slightly melancholy, with the pale, translucent blues of the sea glass complementing lustrous silver metal components. Other pieces use reclaimed wood and small shell fragements.
Spindrift uses recycled silver wherever possible, and is committed to sourcing Fairtrade and sustainable materials.
Adelaide-based designer Katrina Freene makes limited edition earrings, brooches and necklaces from recycled tin trays. A little bit retro and a little bit Australiana, Freene says her design is heavily influenced by her passion for sustainable jewellery as well as memories of her childhood.
The tin trays she uses are an op shop staple, often passed over for being unbearably kitschy. On a large, tea-tray-sized scale this is often true, but the colourful motifs really shine as smaller bits of wearable art. Some pieces incorporate multiple textures, and some are single patterns, like a pair of studs with the detail of a pheasant’s plumage. Part of the charm of this jewellery is the invitation to imagine what the rest of the tray looked like, which makes her pieces both whimsical and engaging.
Posts and earring threads are made of sustainable materials, and Freene tries to avoid manufactured parts as much as possible, preferring to design them herself.