Last week, I took a quick time-traveling trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which re-opened my eyes to the creative ways that we have loved to adorn ourselves. From lip plates to nose rings humans love to pluck beauty from nature (think opals, gold, and bronze), and carry it on our bodies and through our lives. Baubles, statement rings, bracelets, and bangles are primordial.
Unfortunately, the human need to accessorize now contributes to planetary destruction (gold and diamond mining being the biggest offenders), but there are, thankfully, thoughtful designers and artisans who make the extra effort to create sustainable jewelry.
Below are five brands that are dedicated to end the grossly inhumane and too-often polluting ways of producing what is, in the end, purely decorative.
LA-based jewelry designer Lizz Roberts brings us clean, architectural lines in her line of ethically sourced jewelry. Inspired by the rectangle, a continuation of the earlier collection RECK, LZZR’s latest collection, CASE, focuses on the structural way in which jewelry fits on the body, from fingers to ears. LZZR jewelry is something modern and sustainable that can be worn with other louder accessories.
An Austin, Texas native, the designer is inspired by parents who worked in the lumber business—a childhood surrounded by shapes influenced her jewelry collection. LZZR started out in Roberts’s apartment in Hollywood, and is now carried in boutiques across the country. My favorites include the BriefCASE bracelet, a chic bronze geometric bangle, and the 10K gold drop earrings.
Roberts uses metals that are either sourced locally in LA, or come from a fair trade mine—and she gives back too; part of her line’s profits go to the LA Food Bank.
Bario Neal is a newer brand, founded in Philadelphia by two friends 2007, Anna Bario and Page Neal. In their open workshop they create their signature colorful, modern, and trendsetting pieces.
Bario Neal also makes custom-made fairly mined commitment rings to help you ethically pop that most important question. (Recycled diamonds make for wonderful engagement rings.) The brand designs their jewelry with 100% recycled metals whenever possible. When it’s not possible to recycle they source ethically from the Canadian arctic, Namibia and work with the Tanzania Women Miner’s Association (TAWOMA). The Bario Neal site states:
TAWOMA’s mission is “to facilitate women miners to organise and access required financial, technical and marketing services so that they can carryout mining activities that are both economically and commercially viable and environmentally sustainable and thereby raise the standard of living for women miners and their families.”
There is no blood on these diamonds. Bario Neal works with classic shapes such as the hoop to reinvent them in strong, feminine silhouettes. Check out the Enamel Earrings in turqoise. They are a new statement about a silhouette as old as earrings themselves.
“Where East meets West” is an overwrought descriptive cliche but it’s a fitting way to describe Geoffrey Scott‘s collection of bright and bold jewelry. The brand uses reclaimed .925 sterling silver and/or fair trade and ethically sourced natural gemstones. The jewelry features filigrees of gold, bright blues, and strong black and grey colors as neutral accents. I am enamored with the Casablanca cuff.
Geoffrey Scott jewelry offers both fashion and fine jewelry. The fashion jewelry (less expensive) uses Swarovski crystals as its non-precious jewel and combines that with seed beads, brass with matte gold finish, and fishwife to hold everything together. The designs are all about old world classic colors like turquoise.
The crowning trait of the Geoffrey Scott collection are the statement rings. The Vince ring is the perfect example of something old, updated. The long hexagonal shape, the bright gold color, and the customizable jewel stone make this one of the coolest pieces on this list. I am totally biased for loving the opal jelly stone, but I can’t help but be mesmerized by how much color is trapped in the geometric stone.
Kirsten Muenster Jewelry
Borne of a line of metalsmiths and artist, Muenster‘s jewelry speaks of a generational yearning to create beauty out of the rawness of the earth. The other Philadelphian in this list, Muenster’s work is recognizable through its marriage of hard geometric shapes and soft corners.
Muenster states that all of her materials are ethically sourced to guarantee that no part of her creative process contributed to harming the planet. She uses 100% recycled stones as well as reclaimed metals to produce her sophisticated but raw pieces. A glance at her look book will prove that Muenster’s jewelry is all about making a bold and elegant statement.
I am partial to the long exotically gemmed petrified palm wood necklaces that remind me of speckled lizards, and textured fruits. There’s quite a bit of silver in Muenster’s collection, but I do love the bronzed chain necklace pieces for a touch of warm color.
You can catch a documentary of her work process that was aired on the BBC here.
Self taught and working a one-woman show, Andrea Bonelli is a metalsmith who designs the kind of clean and elegant jewelry that stands the test of time. The artist has worked with multiple mediums including PMC and resins. Rustic is the key adjective in describing Bonelli’s designs. She keeps it very simple with unfinished pounded gold leaf charms.
Bonelli also makes classic engagement rings using recycled and ethically sourced metals to create what can be later be referred to as family heirlooms. The designs will also speak to those looking to gift something nice for a birthday, mother’s day, or graduation.