Slow fashion’s ‘moment’ has evolved into a full blown movement. But while many of us are increasingly conscious of the environmental and ethical impact of garment manufacturing, it is all too easy to overlook the provenance of our accessories.
Much like clothing, it can be difficult to guarantee ethical manufacturing processes when it comes to jewellery; it’s pretty much impossible to source newly mined metals and gems that could be considered ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’. There are, however, a growing number of ethical jewellery brands emerging, focused on selling sustainable products sourced and manufactured to highly ethical standards, committed to treating the environment, workers and local communities with the utmost respect.
ANUKA is one such brand. Founded by Francesca Kippax in the quaint village of Tarporley, a stone’s throw away from where she grew up in the countryside of Cheshire, her love for jewellery started at a young age. “I was forever playing dress up with my Granny’s jewellery collection,” she says. “I think that creating friendship bracelets with my sister and my mother’s creative input as an artist was enough to ignite a lifelong passion for jewellery. I’ve always been fascinated by how such a small object can hold so many memories and sentiments.”
I wanted to develop ANUKA into a place where my customers had all the information they needed to make a considered purchase that was right for them
This love for materials and objects led her to study Jewellery and Silversmithing at the prestigious School of Jewellery in Birmingham, but wasn’t until 2014 after living in South Vietnam for three years that she founded ANUKA. Living along the beautiful Southern Vietnam coastline, she became acutely aware of the devastating impact mankind was having on our environment. The ocean and the beaches were often littered with plastic pollution, and witnessing this made her question the kind of impact she, as a business owner, was having on the environment.
Once she began researching, there was no going back. “I wanted to develop ANUKA into a place where my customers had all the information they needed to make a considered purchase that was right for them,” she says. The first thing consumers should consider when buying jewellery is where the raw materials have been sourced from. There are many ethical issues when it comes to the creation of jewellery, and most of them start at the primary stage of the industry: mining.
In order to ensure jewellery comes from a good place, there is a strong need for transparency and traceability. ANUKA are proud to have been the first jewellery brand to work with ethical tech company Provenance, incorporating their blockchain technology into their website and brand. “Doing this allows no room for greenwashing,” she explains. “We only work with 100% recycled silver and Fairmined gold, it’s incredibly important that we can trace all our metal and stones to the source and only work alongside suppliers that are responsible and wanting to change the way the industry works.”
As Francesca notes, it is important to have that fine balance between limiting environmental impact through the use of 100% recycled silver, and also supporting the livelihoods of those who are reliant on the mining sector by making with Fairmined gold. Fairmined gold is gold which is fully traceable to source. “Mining will continue to happen,” she says, “so as a brand we want to support mining for good.” Fairmined supports small scale artisanal miners and their communities; providing fair pay, gender equality, no child labour, safe working conditions and clean water supplies. Above all, it provides people with an income to support their families and live a better life. Mines within the scheme adhere to a strict set of rules to ensure minimum impact to the environment.
Francesca also works with recycled metals, which have been refined back to its pure form and re-alloyed to be used again. These materials come from a range of sources that include the jewellery industry, industrial residues, used electronic scrap, automotive materials and fuel cells.
So what exactly should a consumer be looking out for when it comes to shopping for ethical jewellery? “Firstly, I would encourage you to go independent,” Francesca says. “Jewellers love working on special commissions, and the attention to detail and relationship you build with that designer-maker will become part of the story of your piece.”
“Secondly, whether you are buying on the high street or from a designer, please ask questions! Where are they sourcing their precious metal and gemstones? Where is the piece made? What are the working conditions? You will very quickly learn what they are about.”
“Lastly, look to jewellers that work with Fairmined, Fairtrade or 100% recycled precious metal. You can find a list of jewellers on both Fairmined and Fairtrade, or ask your jeweller and they should be able to provide the right credentials. For those that work with 100% recycled, there is currently no certified proof, for this I would ask them to provide a statement of assurance from their supplier.”
Francesca offers her customers bespoke services that bring old pieces of jewellery back-to-life. These are commissions she loves working on, hearing the stories behind the pieces, and working with clients to create a new piece whilst respecting the original. “Last Christmas, I worked with a client who had been given her mother’s opal ring. She really wanted to wear this piece everyday but felt the style wasn’t quite her own. I set about working on a design that would really show off the beautiful stones and also make a great everyday piece, with a nod to the old. We kept the opals in the same arrangement but offset them slightly for more of a contemporary feel, re-using the gold and adding some new 100% recycled gold to create the bands that held the stones in place. I love this piece, it was a pleasure to work on – I was definitely a little sad to see it leave the workshop!”
Francesca doesn’t think you can run an ethical business without those same principles running through your everyday lifestyle. “I am very conscious of what I am buying, definitely looking to support locally and look to independent brands. One of the great things about being a maker is that I have met a lot of incredible brands over the years and it’s so lovely to invest in their pieces.”
Her dream is to open a stand alone showroom, with a busy workshop visible to customers. “It would be incredible to offer apprentice positions, and give back to an industry that has supported me.”
All photography and video © ANUKA, used with permission.