For things to be called ‘sustainable’, specific criteria need to be met and it’s no different when it comes the jewelry we wear. Sustainable jewelry can be labeled as such based on how responsibly raw materials are sourced, the use of recycled metals or other up-cycled materials, production that is deemed ‘clean’, whether the brand uses carbon offsets, or if the company ensures fair and ethical working conditions for its supply partners.
With more and more consumers looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I rounded up three fine jewelry brands that should definitely be on your radar.
Aurate New York
Founded in 2015 by Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn, Aurate New York set out on a mission to democratize fine jewelry and cut out the middleman through its online driven business model, accessible price points, and social impact strategy.
“Our jewelry is designed to be worthy of the women who wear it whether that’s her classic, everyday pieces or something she might reserve for a special occasion,” Ezzahraoui tells me when I ask her how she would describe the brand to those unfamiliar. “We love versatility so you can wear our pieces as a dainty standalone or layer and stack them for a bolder statement. All of our designs are made using ethically sourced materials and the highest standards to ensure our pieces stand the test of time through everyday wear and tear. They not only look beautiful, but you can really feel that high quality when you put them on.”
When I ask the pair where they get their inspiration for their collections Kahn tells me, “We constantly draw inspiration from our surroundings whether that’s the Brooklyn Bridge, an ornate doorknob, or a family heirloom. Especially being founded and based in New York, we find there’s no shortage of inspiration in the everyday life of this city.”
Sustainability is a cornerstone for Aurate. “There are a lot of ugly practices in jewelry so from the beginning we set out to change that by embedding sustainability at the core of Aurate,” explains Ezzahraoui. “We only use 100% recycled gold and ethically source our diamonds, gemstones and pearls to ensure the wellbeing of our suppliers and the environment.”
The duo feels fortunate that unlike many other businesses Aurate has been profitable during the pandemic so far. “Even though it’s kind of crazy, the pandemic has done more good than bad for Aurate,” shares Kahn. “COVID essentially propelled forward the forces we always believed in: the power of ecommerce/online, the power of being sustainable, and the power of being direct-to-consumer and keeping a close line of communication with your community. The result for 2020 is that we’ve been able to grow tremendously and are hitting profitability too.”
Ezzahraoui adds, “In the New Year, we’ll definitely be pushing hard on the digital front but we’re also excited at the thought of getting our retail locations back into the regular swing of things. We have some big plans for 2021, but knowing how this year went, we’re ready to change direction with any missteps that may happen along the way.”
Indira New York
Launched this past fall, Indira offers consumers a sustainable and affordable option to traditionally mined diamonds with the brand’s lab-grown diamonds. Founded by Mohit Mehta, who comes from several generations of family involved in the diamond trade (including designer, Carolina Cordón-Bouzáng who founded Montserrat NYC), Indira is an homage to Mehta’s grandmother, Indira Rameshchandra Mehta
“Having grown up in Mumbai, India in a Gujarati family with years of diamond experience around me, family, friends, and community conversations over the last five years have ebbed and flowed around lab-grown diamonds.” Mehta tells me when I ask him what inspired the jump to lab-grown diamonds. “Researching the direct-to-consumer jewelry and diamond industry, and doing user research, we found a niche for a brand in high-quality affordable diamond jewelry. The time is now for a brand that can cater to the modern, diverse, and socially conscious consumer that is left out of the traditional diamond jewelry equation.”
Mehta believes that lab-grown diamonds are the future due to their affordability, their chemical purity, and that they don’t come at the expense of a mine. Mehta explains, “They’re not exclusively the future, as natural diamonds will always have a place in the market, where this final resting place ends up will be determined by a number of different factors, including the future consumer. Natural diamonds will always have a place in the luxury market. The lab-grown diamond industry is nascent and still has a long way to go in terms of sustainability, but is the baseline of the future consumer.” In addition to using lab-grown diamonds the brand is currently putting together carbon offsets for their entire supply chain.
Currently, Indira offers a range of earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets with plans to expand their offerings this year. “We are going to continue to build out our collection over the next year, launching floating studs among other minimalist designs,” shares Mehta. “In addition to that, our main focus is going to be finding our sweet spot as an indo-western brand bringing Indian inspired designs to our New York-based brand for the everyday hustle. All fine jewelry has one thing in common, the nostalgia of being passed on from generation to generation. Indira wants to strive to create jewelry that my grandmother would be proud to pass on to her future generations.”
Sisters Christina, a mechanical engineer, and Gina Senia, a finance major, partnered up to launch SENIA, a brand focused on designing modern, modular heirloom jewelry with sustainability at its core. Launched this past fall, the brand offers customizable stackable rings with a variety of conflict-free gemstones, hoop earrings that can be worn in over 50 combinations, a chain ring that can be worn three ways, and custom design options for one of kind pieces—all made from 100% recycled gold and silver.
The idea for the brand came about as Christina was searching for a graduation ring in 2016, during her senior year at Vanderbilt. “I researched the history and found that the tradition was created in the 1800s by men and for men—before women could even attend university,” Christina tells me. “Times have definitely changed, so why hadn’t our rings? This inspired me to start designing our debut Halo Collection of customizable Roman numeral rings to commemorate special dates and numbers.”
Christina used the same design software she utilized in her mechanical engineering courses to build car parts and medical devices to design the brand’s first few pieces. “When I founded SENIA, I began to approach jewelry design from an engineer’s perspective and created one of the most versatile sets of modular earrings on the market, our Infinity Earrings, which are patent-pending and can be worn over 50 ways.”
After years of design, the pair soft-launched their brand in Spring 2020 at the peak of the pandemic—a move they say was prompted by family and friends looking for ways to celebrate missed events. Christina continues, “In Fall 2020, we launched to the public and sold out of our Infinity Earrings in 24 hours. In the first month, we launched a charitable fund for diverse founders, Student Innovation Fund, and took on over 20 interns who had lost opportunities due to the pandemic.”
When I ask what modular jewelry is Christina explains, “Modular jewelry design allows for transcendence of time, age, and gender which affords the wearer the ability to create multiple, personalized looks without the cost and environmental impacts. Transformability is the remedy to address society’s inherent need for newness without the environmental and financial repercussions of fast fashion. Modular fashion allows for versatility with respect to style, size inclusivity with fewer SKUs, environmental sustainability, and most importantly empowers the consumer to become the designer.”
Gina adds, “Our pieces are more transformable than just modular in a sense. We just launched a line of modular chains with bracelets and anklets that can be combined to form necklaces. Our Chain Rings can be worn three ways across the hand, and used to create a lariat, or expand on the Infinity Earring set. This year we are launching a ton of new products, which will be our most multi-functional yet. One piece in particular can be worn on the ear, the neck, and the hand. We also are in the process of designing our first take on modular clothing, which will intersect with jewelry.” Currently, SENIA is direct-to-consumer but the founders have plans to partner with select retailer in the future.