Personalities

Q&A With Kyle Roderick About the Book, “Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry”

Find “Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry” by Kyle Roderick, Rizzoli New York 2019, on Amazon.com.

New York City. Jan. 7, 2020. Kyle Roderick, a fellow journalist and a familiar, fashionably spectacled face on the high-end jewelry trade-show circuit, has combined her passions for couture designers and ethical jewelry into a newly released coffee table book. In “Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry” (Rizzoli New York, 2019), the Forbes.com contributor, founder of BijouxReview.com, and personality behind @bijouxreview with nearly 84,000 fans offers a thoughtful look at 15 jewelry designers whose works celebrate ethical practices.

Subjects include Pippa Small, an early adopter of Fairmined gold and employer of jewelry artisans in far-flung places like Burma and Afghanistan, and Native American Hopi artist Dewey Nelson, who casts his own sterling ingots from scrap silver in fine Tufa rock from the high desert of northeastern Arizona. All artists featured in the book are vital to Roderick’s raison d’etre: casting a spotlight on an international cadre of jewelry designers who apply environmentally and humanely responsible practices to the business of making bling.

Earrings in ethical gold, enamel, and emeralds from Alice Cicolini

Earrings in ethical gold, enamel, and emeralds from Alice Cicolini

While many of us may have noticed how designers large and small are adopting more transparent and accountable business practices, Roderick chronicles some of the most significant moves taken in the independent jewelry design community. Her agent summarizes the tome in media outreach: “‘Bejeweled’ celebrates how jewelry, long associated with indulgence and wealth, is morphing into an environmentally responsible luxury business and sustainable applied art form powered by social enterprise business models and philanthropic values.”

A foreword is written by Hutton Wilkinson, the longtime business partner of designer Tony Duquette, whose estate and jewelry collection he manages and about whom he has authored books.

Below, Roderick talks to Jennifer Heebner about writing the book, subjects and sources, and how much work is still left to do in the arena of sustainability in jewelry.

Ring in ethically sourced gold with ancient Roman glass and gemstones by Coomi

Ring in ethically sourced gold with ancient Roman glass and gemstones by Coomi

Jennifer Heebner: Ethically sourced and sustainably mined jewelry has been a category growing in importance to both industry and consumers. Why did you decide it was time to tackle a book on the topic?

Kyle Roderick: I’ve spent the last six years writing about luxurious and sustainable jewelry brands and the people who design for them for Forbes.com, plus luxury publications like “DESTINATION HYATT,” “Waldorf Astoria” magazine, and my own website, bijoureview.com, as well as for my Instagram gallery @bijouxreview. In 2015, it dawned on me that I was covering so many ethical jewelry designers in such detail that I might as well write a book, as I found their beautiful designs historically and environmentally important. Thus, I conceived, wrote, and photo edited “Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry,” which was published by Rizzoli in the U.S. and U.K. in autumn 2019.

JH: How did you decide which artists to profile?

KR: I approached 24 jewelry designers to work with me on this project. English jewelers and activists such as Greg Valerio, formerly of CRED, and London-based Pippa Small and Stephen Webster have all been using Fairmined gold since around 2011. (Pippa Small’s jewels adorn the cover of “Bejeweled,” and her creations and pioneering adventures in sustainable jewelry comprise the first chapter.) While Webster and privately owned Chopard have been using Fairmined gold in some of their collections for several years, they both declined to participate in my book.

Necklace in ethically sourced gold and gemstones by Loren Nicole

Necklace in ethically sourced gold and gemstones by Loren Nicole

JH: Why did you decide to group the designers by the categories Traditional, Classic, Natural, and Conceptual? Tell me a little bit about each of those sections?

KR: Because ethical jewelry also has to do with preserving artisanal jewelry traditions in a world of mass produced, cheap metal jewelry, I wanted to organize the book into thematic groups that would highlight what tendencies and interests these various designers have in common.

For example, in the first section, which is the Traditional section, I wanted to include only designers who are rooted in artisanal jewelry traditions and who work with master artisans or are master artisans themselves, such as the Hopi fine artist Dewey Nelson. Likewise, jewelry has long been an applied art for artisans and jewelry lovers who are deeply exploring and representing the natural world through the designs they make or wear. So there’s a Natural section. The Classic section suits designers like Loren Nicole, Coomi, Ana Katarina, and Stella Flame, who variously make and design jewels that are rooted in ancient empires and their classical jewelry making techniques. 

The Conceptual section is for those designers like Sandy Leong, who makes the most sculpturally alluring jewels out of recycled gold and sustainably sourced diamonds. Her company is virtually carbon-neutral as well. I am indeed fortunate that pathfinding designers and makers like Pippa Small, Alice Cicolini, Dewey Nelson, Coomi, Anabela Chan, K. Brunini, Stella Flame, Sandy Leong, Loren Nicole, Ana Katarina, Joan Hornig, and Karma El Khalil, Samira 13, and stôn all agreed to get on board.

Cuff in ethical metals from Stella Flame

Cuff in ethical metals from Stella Flame

JH: Tell me about some of the companies that are sourcing ethical metals.

KR: Among the many certificates and standards claiming to certify responsibly mined gold, two labels are discussed in the book’s introduction, “Fairmined” gold (a label certified by a Colombian NGO) and the equally famous “Fairtrade,” a label launched by the Swiss foundation Max Havelaar. Both certification standards support artisanal mines aiming to preserve the environment in terms of extraction and the recycling of mining chemicals and water, along with decent working conditions and fair wages for the miners that are higher than the industry standard. Ethical gold production is limited to just a few hundred kilograms annually. Global gold output, as it happens, adds up to around 3,300 tons.
Environmentally conscious jewelry designers buy these types of gold in bulk so as to document the source of their supply to an ethical and sustainable production cycle. They also buy recycled gold from companies certified by the not-for-profit Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), which has developed norms for the entire supply chain. RJC members must adhere to rigorous standards governing ethical, human rights, social, and environmental practices across the precious metals industry.
The French luxury goods holding company Kering Group, which claims to have purchased more than 3.5 tons of “responsibly produced” gold since 2015 for its Gucci, Boucheron, Pomellato, and Dodo brands, has committed to 100 percent use of ethical gold by 2020.

Find “Bejeweled: The World of Ethical Jewelry” by Kyle Roderick, Rizzoli New York 2019, on Amazon.com.

Editor’s note: In the U.S., artists can contact Hoover & Strong for recycled metal and its Fairtrade and Fairmined metals.


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