Ethical Jewellery Designer

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Robyn Chamberlain Logo - Handmade Jewellery
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

« Sustainable Jewellery Practice »

In the last few years, my focus has been transforming my jewellery practice into one that provides high quality, hand-crafted jewellery that has been sustainably and ethically produced.

This journey has been challenging at times. I have spent hours doing research, contacting organisations, attending conventions and webinars, finding reliable supply chains and developing solutions to obstacles I have come up against in adapting my jewellery practice to become more sustainable. I am constantly discovering new information and opportunities to minimise the effect that my work has on the environment.

This constant learning and re-learning has been frustrating, however it is vital part in ensuring that more and more consumers and jewellers become aware of the impact that their every-day decisions have on a larger scale. Many are unaware of the effect that the simple purchase of a piece of jewellery can have on people and ecosystems in other parts of the world.

« Contents »

« Ethical Store and Studio »

Here are some of the current studio practices that I use to improve my sustainability:

  • Using FairTrade gold, recycled silver, and responsibly sourced gemstones

  • Collecting all scraps of metal for future refining

  • Hand-fabricating all my pieces instead of casting (conventional casting requires incredible amounts of energy and waste).

  • My store/studio is powered by 100% renewable energy through Naturstrom.

  • Using power saving technology whenever possible (ex. LED lighting)

  • Constantly reflecting on my studio practice in order to develop new ways to reduce waste.

This all being said, I am not perfect. No one is. My commitment is to do my best in the moment and always striving to improve.

« What the Badges Mean »

It is important that my customers understand the level of care and consideration I invest in order to minimise the environmental and ethical impact of my business. I took some time to designs some ‘badges’ to help my customers quickly identify the ethical features of each piece.

 » 100% Hand-Crafted - All jewellery pieces are designed and fabricated by me in my Leipzig store. This means that none of my pieces are cast, instead they are meticulously formed from raw pieces of precious metal. Fabrication is a process that requires patience and a diversity of skills to shape wire, sheet, and rod into a unique finished piece. What makes a fabricated jewellery piece particularly special is that it is unique and has a distinct character, cast pieces can be duplicated over-and-over and all turn out exactly the same.

100% hand-crafted badge

» Ethically-Mined GoldSince the beginning of 2020 all of the gold that I use in my jewellery work is certified FairTrade. I source my gold from an amazing Leipzig-based company called Fairever. They produce and supply only high-quality ethically produced precious metals. Their gold comes from the FairTrade-certified MACDESA mine in Peru. « Click here » to find out more about FairTrade gold.

Ethically mined gold badge

» Responsibly-Sourced Gemstones - All new stones that I purchase are ethically sourced. I unfortunately have many stones still in stock that have not been responsibly mined. I will continue to use up the old stones but will only purchase new stones from ethically certified suppliers. « Click here » to discover more about my responsibly sourced gemstones.

Responsibly sourced gemstones badge

» Recycled Silver All of the silver material that I source is 100% recycled silver. This has been quite challenging, and I have spent many hours finding suppliers to ensure that my work is crafted using the best quality recycled silver. Currently it is almost impossible to find ethically mined silver, making recycled silver the most sustainable alternative. « Click here » to get more information on recycled silver.

Recycled silver badge

» Created with Enamel - I have a love for colour and enamel helps me to express that through my craft. All the enamel I use is lead free. Enamel is a powdered glass which fuses to metal when fired at temperatures around 815°C. When heated, the powder flows and hardens, becoming a smooth and vitreous surface. I require an extremely hot kiln to fire the enamel, using up a fair amount of energy. Therefore, I have ensured that the electricity for my store and studio comes from 100% renewable sources, all located in Germany.

Created with enamel badge

» 100% Recycled/Recyclable Packaging - Packaging has become a huge environmental problem. In the jewellery industry much of the packaging is made up of a mixture of non-recyclable plastics. To avoid the waste, my jewellery boxes are made with 100% recycled paper, making them completely recyclable. The boxes are still elegant and beautiful, they simple has less of a negative impact once they have finished serving their important purpose of making sure your jewellery arrives home safe-and-sound.

100% recycled packaging badge

« FAQ »

Transparency is extremely important when it comes to claims of sustainability. Below I have attempted to answer common questions that I get asked about my ethical jewellery practices.

Q: Do ethically sourced metals and gemstones cost more than those conventionally mined?

A: The simple answer is yes. Sourcing materials such as silver, gold and gemstones from more sustainable sources does cost more money to purchase. However, the price difference is not as substantial as many believe. The following examples should give you an idea of the difference in price between un-ethical and ethical raw materials:

As you can see by the table, the difference in price of the raw materials is quite minimal compared to the overall cost of the piece. What many people overlook is that when a piece of jewellery is hand-crafted by a professional independent jeweller, much of the cost goes into the labour. Some people tend to focus solely on the price of materials (the price of gold or a diamond) and undervalue the time, skill and dedication that goes into making a truly unique piece of jewellery.

Q: Is FairTrade gold the same quality as conventionally mined gold?

A: Absolutely! The only difference is that the gold comes from artisanal and small-scale mining organisation that meet the FairTrade standards.

Q: Where do the ethical materials you work with come from?

A: My materials come from a few different sources:

  • FairTrade Gold: I source my gold from an amazing Leipzig-based company called Fairever. They produce and supply only high quality ethically produced metals. Their FairTrade gold comes from the MACDESA mine in Peru (for more info on the mine « Click Here »)

  • Ethically sourced Gemstones and Diamonds: Gemstones are mined all over the world. Although the origins of each stone can be vastly different, I source my stones through a couple of companies who specialize in suppling high quality ethically sourced gemstones. I have found these companies to be extremely passionate and reliable at delivering stunning stones from mines with high ethical standards.

  • Recycled Silver: Although silver is also considered a precious metal, its value is much lower than that of gold. Silver is rarely found in large deposits and is therefore usually produced as a by-product of other mining operations (for example gold, copper, or quartz mines). Because there are very few dedicated silver mines it is extremely difficult to certify fairtrade silver. Due to this I have found the best alternative to be using 100% recycled sterling silver. The original silver may not be ethically mined, however the act of reusing and repurposing a material is also a sustainable choice.

Image © FairTrade Deutschland

  • 90% of gold is mined by artisanal and small-scale miners. This means that the mines are incredibly difficult to regulate. Many of the miners are forced to work in horrible conditions to support their families. While large scale mines are easier to keep in check and control, small-scale mines often fly under the radar – allowing dangerous and harmful practices to continue.

  • Many small-scale mines have child labourers. Many of the communities that participate in gold mining suffer from high levels of poverty, this results in many children having to work to help provide for their families.

  • Mining gold is incredibly dangerous. The chemicals used in conventional gold mining are extremely dangerous to the health of the miners and their environment. Mercury and cyanide are the most common chemicals used to extract gold. In small-scale mines, workers have little or no safety equipment to protect them from the harmful effects of these chemicals. Mercury can cause birth defects; can have devastating effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys; and can be fatal.

  • Astonishingly 60% of the gold used every year is newly mined. That is an incredibly large amount of gold being mined in dangerous working conditions.

       For more information « Click Here »

Q: Why is it so important to buy FairTrade Gold, is conventionally mined gold really that bad?

A: I never want to sound too negative and make anyone feel bad about their choices. I find this to be the wrong way to communicate with people about the effects that their consumption has on the planet.

However, it is impossible to deny that conventionally mined gold is incredibly damaging to the environment and the people who mine it. Here are some quick facts that will change the way you think about gold mining:

Q: What makes FairTrade Gold so much better than conventionally mined gold?

A: In the previous question, I laid out some of the practices that make conventional gold mining so hazardous and detrimental to our environment. Here is a look at some of the measures that organisations like FairTrade put in place to ensure that the gold certified by them has a positive impact on the miners and the health of their environment:

  • FairTrade has extremely strict regulations regarding  health and safety, the handling of chemicals, women’s rights, child labour, as well as the requirements for environmental protection.

  • To help combat the poverty experienced by many mining communities, mines that are certified by FairTrade receive a guaranteed minimum price for the gold they mine as well as extra funding to help improve their businesses and community.

  • FairTrade mines are routinely audited to ensure that they are following the rules and regulations put in place. For more information « Click Here »

For more information on FairTrade Gold check out the links below:

« A Personal Note »

Although it may not seem important to some, I believe it is essential to know a little bit more about the person behind a business. This is especially true if that business has claims about their sustainability. Being ‘Green’ is very trendy right now and many companies are using flashy campaigns to tug at consumer heartstrings to make more sales. Unfortunately, some of these claims are less than sincere and are sometimes misleading.

This kind of marketing upsets me and other businesses that are genuinely trying to provide products that are more sustainable. As I stated above, I am a fan of transparency. So, I thought I would share some facts about myself to help demonstrate that I am not touting ethical and responsible claims just to make a profit. I deeply believe in making a positive change in the world.

Below are some of the things that I do in my personal life that I believe are important to making a positive change:

  • I have been a vegetarian for 12 years and since January 2020 adopted a completely plant-based diet.

  • The food products I buy are organic. I am a devote supporter of my local organic supermarket.

  • When buying food, I try to buy regional and in-season produce. This is not to say that I never buy out-of-season produce. I love fruits and veggies and do treat myself to organic tomatoes in the dead of winter. I am only human – a human that loves tomatoes.

  • Whenever possible I avoid packaging. Recently a bulk store opened in my area. It has drastically reduced the amount of packaging I recycle.

  • I do not own a car. I am lucky to live in a city where I can get around by foot, bicycle or public transit.

  • I buy very little clothing and the clothes that I do buy are organic or second-hand. I am a firm believer that clothes should be purchased with longevity in mind. This goes for the jewellery and woven scarves that I make and sell as well.

Some may think that I am not doing enough, but just like my business I am always finding new ways to improve and lessen my impact.

So that is bit about me. If you would like to learn more about my journey to becoming a jeweller check out

« My Story » page. 

Thank you for taking the time to find out more about my dedication to crafting ethical jewellery!
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Recycled packaging badge
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