Fine jewellery brands and watchmakers are raising the bar when it comes to ethical standards and philanthropic enterprises. Here are the eco-conscious initiatives paving the way to a greener future.
We’ve long been told that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But now they could also be the planet’s, thanks to the latest developments in the quest for sustainable jewellery. From man-made gems to recycled precious metals and fairtrade designs, the world of watches and jewellery is shining a (green) light onto its newly-acquired ecological credentials to prove that socially-conscious luxury isn’t simply possible, it’s preferable – and a look at these shows just how well ethics and aesthetics align. Meet the brands who think the planet is as precious as their pieces.
In only six years, the house of Chopard became known for ethical luxury, thanks in part to a programme instigated by co-president Caroline Scheufele. Pledging to “know where every piece of our gold comes from”, Scheufele has taken the brand on a journey to sustainability, creating collections of exquisite high jewellery favoured by the A-list. Each of these pieces is made from reliably-sourced precious stone and fair-mined gold. But the brand’s ethics aren’t limited to pieces sent into the spotlight. Chopard continues to challenge itself, and since last summer has been using 100 percent responsibly-sourced gold in all its jewellery and watches, as well as working to ensure its supply chain operates sustainable, responsible practises so that no person working for the brand is overlooked. Green pieces, then, from the get-go.
15C Clifford Street, Mayfair, W1
Known for her bohemian, gem-laden designs, Pippa Small is the go-to name for ethical jewellery. An anthropologist by training, she cut her teeth not in the well-heeled workshops of Bond Street or Hatton Garden, but in the backwaters of southeast Asia, where she worked with grassroots human rights organisations. “I saw the impact of rural-to-urban migration, deforestation and the impact of large-scale mining and loss of traditional knowledge and skills,” she explains. Small’s experience, further enriched by work with indigenous communities in central and south America and slums in Nairobi, infuses her exquisite handmade pieces, which have earned her a devoted following. Today she works with charity Turquoise Mountain – an initiative founded by HRH Prince Charles and Hamid Karzai, which trains and employs local craftsmen and women in Afghanistan – earning Small an MBE for her services to ethical jewellery. No wonder the Duchess of Sussex is a fan.
201 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, W11
You know the iconic blue box, but what about the philanthropic foundation? Founded nearly 20 years ago, the organisation has funded over $70 million in grants, mainly for environmental projects such as preserving coral reefs and supporting responsible mining – the latter of which Tiffany & Co is currently hammering home. In January it announced that every sourced Tiffany diamond will be laser etched – invisible to the naked eye – with the stone’s provenance. Not only does this ensure conflict-free diamonds, but full transparency. “There should be nothing opaque about Tiffany diamonds,” says CEO Alessandro Bogliolo. “Our clients want and deserve to know where their most valuable, most cherished diamond jewellery is from, and how it came to be.”
25 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, W1
Lab-grown diamonds are the current jewellery buzzwords, and thank goodness: man-made diamonds finally lend a long overdue, transparent, eco-friendly answer to diamond mining. Crystal virtuosos Swarovski are leading the way in the pioneering movement, with Swarovski Created Diamonds – 100 percent carbon, expert cutting and polishing and GIA certificates, save for the fact that they were made in a laboratory (versus extraction from the earth’s core using high carbon footprint-causing equipment). Little wonder the names aligning themselves with these gems are high profile. Penélope Cruz is fronting the initiative, designing an eponymous Atelier Swarovski fine jewellery collection featuring lab-grown diamonds, rubies and sapphires, alongside fair trade gold from artisanal miners in Peru. Meanwhile, the “created” stones latest outing comes in the form of Swarovski’s Double Diamond Collection, a collaboration between the brand and British jeweller Stephen Webster, which uses 14ct recycled gold and Swarovski-created diamonds. Gold standard indeed.
321- 323 Oxford Street, Mayfair, W1
Never one to shout about its accomplishments, Rolex has been running its biennial Awards for Enterprise in just the same way: quietly with big impact. Over four decades the initiative has awarded 140 inspiring pioneers in three categories: the environment, applied science and technology or exploration, with each winner receiving CHF100,000 in addition to a watch.
A long-standing charitable outlook has seen Frederique Constant donate $50 for every ladies watch sold since 2004. When Gwyneth Paltrow came on board as global charity ambassador in 2016, the Swiss house partnered with DonorsChoose.org – a US-based children’s educational charity. As part of the launch of its Lady Horological Smartwatch, Frederique Constant donated $50,000 towards the charity’s sports programmes after students, alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, completed a 1000 Step Challenge, undertaking 1000 steps in under 10 minutes. A real step towards change.
Ocean conservation is by far the cause du jour, with Breguet doing its part by partnering with water preservation foundation Race for Water and its Odyssey boat (whose crew is equipped with special Breguet Marine Date 5517s). The sci fi-like vessel is powered by solar, hydrogen and kite – and making some 30 stops around the world gathering environmental intel on water preservation. An educational booklet is being distributed to schoolchildren at each pit stop.
You can always count on Italian watchmaker Panerai to inject some zhuzh into Swiss watchmaking. For 2019, that’s about elevating the humble watch strap to take sustainable centrestage. Its new Submersible Mike Horn Edition is a recycled wonder of a pro-diving watch, where each strap is made from three recycled plastic bottles. It doesn’t stop there: the watch’s robust case is recycled EcoTitanium, while the packaging it’s sold in also hails from recycled materials. Upcycling at its finest.
Big horological news this year was Omega’s new Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Edition, which celebrated the watch that Buzz Aldrin wore when he stepped onto the moon in 1969. But Omega’s flight cred reaches philanthropic heights, too. Since 2011, the watchmaker has partnered with Orbis International and its aeroplane-based Flying Eye Hospital, which circumnavigates the globe treating and preventing blindness. Treatments today exceed 23 million in 92 countries – a figure you can add to by choosing specific pieces where Omega donates a portion of the sale to supporting the project.