This post is sponsored by ethical fine jewelry company Thesis Gems and Jewelry and I was compensated for my work on the piece. All opinions and thoughts, as always, are my own.
I've posted about ethically made everyday jewelry before, but fine jewelry isn't a topic I often delve into here on Life+Style+Justice. I haven't done all that much research on the ethical issues behind precious metals and gem sourcing, and don't feel particularly educated to speak with authority on what to look for, what to invest in, and what's "fair" regarding pricing for the consumer.
I'm happy to bring you this inaugural post on ethically made heirloom jewelry in collaboration with Thesis Gems and Jewelry- a woman-owned company that operates from a belief that "people and the environment are more valuable than any gem". Owner Cate has loved gems and minerals since she was a rock-collecting child, which I love since I, too, had a expansive rock collection containing lots of fools' gold and even a few prized fossils that I collected on a fossil dig during a summer family camp.
Over the past few weeks, I've really enjoyed "talking" (over email) to Cate and gleaning a bit more information about the fine jewelry industry from her perspective.
According to Cate, she became interested in pursuing an ethical business company because it's time to bring the same level of accountability to the gem industry that we are beginning to see in other areas. She explains; "Gems and jewelry are one of the last consumer goods that lack transparency. The gems are beautiful and brilliant but this may distract from the very arduous process of unearthing them, which can often can involve exploitation of workers, and the environment. There are certainly efforts to go about this differently- providing safe working conditions, health insurance, refilling and rehabilitating lands following mining. These are the operations I want to work with- so that I can feel good about the jewelry I am creating."
Cate wasn't phased at all by the questions I asked her about the sourcing of the materials used in Thesis Gems' designs. She was very transparent with me about the fact that it's difficult to be entirely certain of the transparency of certain gemstones, which I really appreciate! Cate is taking every step possible, and asking all the right questions, to ensure that she knows as much as possible about the origins of the stones she uses. Cate's approach to making certain that she uses suppliers that are doing business ethically include investigating and reading, asking questions, talking and listening to people, which allows her to get a good sense of how a gem was mined. Cate says, "With some gems it is more clear than others- In Lightening Ridge, Australia, there are very strict regulations for miners, and the environment (re-planting etc.), and the same goes for Canadian diamonds. For the pearl sources I use- such as Sea of Cortez, there is good scientific evidence for the rehabilitation of the bay where the pearls are cultivated."
In addition to doing her homework and sourcing new materials carefully, Cate uses recycled materials as well! Many of the diamonds you'll see in her designs are actually pre-WW2 diamonds, that have been re-cut and reused in a new way. Cate began looking at these diamonds as an option, since she loved the strict mining and labor laws behind Candian diamonds, but didn't love their large carbon foot print. Cate also uses only recycled high karat gold that is SCS certified.
As far as labor is concerned, Cate hires local goldsmiths and gem setters in California, who are paid great wages for their work creating the designs. An individual piece can take weeks or even MONTHS to be painstakingly hand crafted. Cate keeps pricing fair, even with expensive materials and high wages to the makers, by only marking her pieces up to a tiny (and extremely fair and reasonable) fraction of the 100-300% that is the standard in the industry.
Cate's pieces are very much "heirloom" pieces, meant to be passed down for generations. Tell me about the customization that you offer, and why creating long-lasting pieces is important to you.
Cate told me, "I want my jewelry to be an investment- substantial high karat gold material, very fine quality gems and pearls. Not only is it a pleasure to wear, but it is also a way to protect wealth. Much jewelry has little value on the secondary market if you were to need to sell it, but I like to use more gold than you expect, which you can feel when you hold one of my pieces."
You can even customize your Thesis Gems and Jewelry pieces, making them even more unique.
My favorite pieces from Cate's collection are the gold pebble pieces (here and here). I think that they are so unique and creative, as I haven't seen much fine jewelry that incorporates non-precious rocks.
I hope you've enjoyed this little look into the behind-the-scenes of an ethical fine jewelry company! To learn more about Thesis Gems and Jewelry, browse the great articles on the company website, or follow along on social media (Instagram or Facebook)!