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What You Must Know About Conscious Jewelry

There are many considerations to take into account when purchasing fine and conscious jewelry. Some of the questions to ask yourself are: Is the piece for a special occasion? Is it a gift for someone special? How will it make me feel when I wear it? Is it a color that will match what I’m wearing? So many questions, and so many answers.

The main characteristics to choose from are outlined below.

TYPE OF METAL

Gold

Gold is the most popular of the metals used in fine jewelry, and was used as early as 3,500 BC in Egypt. The jewelry found in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun is of superb quality and refinement rarely surpassed in the history of jewelry-making. Gold carat weight in the US varies from 10k to 24k, but 14 to 18 carat are the most popular.

For variations in carat weight and color, silver, copper and other base metals are added. More gold equals richer more yellow tones and also a softer final product. It is important to take into account that when buying gold that 24k gold is soft. Regular wear will results in bending and scratches and molding to the shape of your finger. If you like a more polished look go for 18k gold will yield a beautiful yellow hue and more polished look while having enough strength to resist wear and tear.

Purities of Gold

  • Pure Gold or 24K
  • 22K Gold is nearly pure but less expensive.
  • 18K Gold has less pure gold therefore less expensive.
  • 14K Gold has even less pure gold, so it is less expensive than the previous two
  • Yellow Gold Alloys which are a mix of pure gold, silver, and zinc.
  • Colored Gold Alloys. – A mix of pure gold with other metals rather than silver and zinc.
  • White Gold is made of pure gold and a white metal such as nickel, palladium, platinum or manganese, copper, zinc, or silver.
  • Rose Gold is made of pure gold and copper, zinc, or silver
  • Green Gold is less common and is made of pure gold and copper, silver, or zinc.
  • Gold-filled is made from jewelers’ brass, a blend of copper and zinc, covered in two or three layers of a gold alloy.
  • Rolled Gold is made of thin sheets of gold alloy fixed to a brass core.
  • Gold Plating or gold-dipped has less gold than gold-filled or rolled gold jewelry
  • Electroplated Gold is a modern gold-layering technique using electrical currents to charge the base metal.
  • Vermeil Gold is a gold alloy applied over a sterling silver base

Silver

The history of silver dates back over 7,000 years with large-scale mining beginning over 5,000 years ago.

For variations in carat weight and color, silver, copper and other base metals are added. More gold equals richer more yellow tones and also a softer final product.

Purities of Silver

  • Fine .999 Silver
  • Sterling .925 Silver
  • Argenteum Silver and Non-Tarnish Alloys
  • Coin Silver
  • Silver
  • Filler Silver
  • Silver Plated
  • Nickel Silver
  • Tibetan Tribal Silver
  • Bali, Thai, or Mexican Silver

Platinum

The platinum group elements (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium) generally occur as alloys with iron or with transition group metals such as arsenic, tellurium, antimony and vanadium; or as mixed platinum-palladium sulphide minerals (cooperite and braggite).

Natural platinum consists of a mixture of six isotopes: platinum-190 (0.012 percent), platinum-192 (0.782 percent), platinum-194 (32.86 percent), platinum-195 (33.78 percent), platinum-196 (25.21 percent), and platinum-198 (7.36 percent). Platinum can occur in many forms in nature.

Besides all the metal options, many times jewelry has one or more gemstones inserted. The most common stones used in jewelry are as follows:

POPULAR GEMSTONES

Precious Gemstones

Diamond is the most popular, desirable, and costly gem. (Mohs rate 10.0)

Blue Sapphire is the non-red shade of corundum and very durable. The most valuable specimens are those having a rich color with very few inclusions and other flaws, and of course a spectacular cut. (Mohs rate 9.0)

Green Emerald is a cousin of aquamarine and famous for its green color. (Mohs rate 7.5 to 8.0)

Red Ruby is red, durable and a top pick. It is made of the same mineral as a sapphire corundum. (Mohs rate 9.0)

Semi-Precious Gemstones

Amethyst is known for its purple color and durability.  (Mohs rate 7.0)

Aquamarine is blue color and a beautiful choice for engagement rings. (Mohs rate 7.5 to 8.0)

Citrine is a cousin of amethyst and its color ranges from yellow to deep amber hues. (Mohs rate 7.0)

Fire Opal comes in stunning shades of orange and yellow color, but is very fragile. (Mohs rate 5.5 to 6.0)

Garnet is reddish-purple but it could also be orange, brown, green, or pink. (Mohs rate 6.5 to 7.5)

Iolite is made of cordierite and is a blue or violet-toned gem depending on how you look at it. (Mohs rate 7.0 to 7.5)

Lapis Lazuli is one of the most stunning blue gems. It is an aggregate of different materials according to the GIA.  (Mohs rate 5.0 to 6.0)

Onyx is a banded agate that can be black or white, and is very affordable. (Mohs rate 6.5 to 7.0)

Opal comes in a wide variety of colors with the most popular being white Opal with rainbow flashes. (Mohs rate 4.5 to 6.5)

Pearl is not technically a stone but a main gem in jewelry. Pearls can be white, pink, black, yellow, gray, and brown. (Mohs 2.5 to 3.0)

Peridot is affordable and a very lovely gem. It comes in a yellow-green color. (Mohs rate 6.5 to 7.0)

Turquoise is a semi-precious gem that is soft and beautiful. It can be a green or blue color.  (Mohs rate 5.0 to 6.0)

Topaz is a durable and affordable gem that occurs in a variety of colors: blue, orange, pink, brown, green, or yellow.  (Mohs rate 8.0)

Tanzanite is a bluish-purple color and was discovered in 1967. It has become very popular since. It is original and exclusive of Tanzania. (Mohs rate 6.5)

Birthstones

Birthstones have become very popular gifts over the years, especially when someone wants to give a precious or semi-precious gemstone as part of a special piece of jewelry. Here are the most popular gemstones matched with their birth month.

JanuaryGarnet
FebruaryAmethyst
MarchAquamarine
AprilDiamond
MayEmerald
JunePearl / Moonstone
JulyRuby
AugustPeridot
SeptemberSapphire
OctoberOpal / Tourmaline
NovemberTopaz / Citrine
DecemberTanzanite

TYPES OF PIECES

In addition to the metal or type of stone we choose, we also need to decide what sort of piece we want: a ring, bracelet, necklace, earrings, or brooch. One new and very relevant characteristic to take into account is sustainability and the ethical sourcing of the piece.

SUSTAINABILITY

You may be asking yourself, “What Is sustainable and ethical jewelry?” Sustainable and ethical jewelry means transparent and responsible sourcing practices, traceability, and the use of sustainable materials.  Responsible sourcing comes in the form of an ethical mining operation.

An ethical mine should comply with three very important criteria:

Good Safety Standards

The miners must be protected.  Even though each country determines its specific mining safety rules, there is little or no information available about individual mines. Enforcement of the rules can vary a great deal depending on the local government’s level of corruption. 

Fair Wages

This is another case where very little, or no information is available about the individual mines.   Mining jobs can offer a higher wage than other options available to uneducated and unskilled labor pools, but that is not always the case.  If you study the economic and political landscape of the country where the mine is located, then you can most likely determine whether fair and equitable wages are being paid to the workers.

Low Environmental Impact

Most mine owners and mining lobbyists are not inclined to be conscious of the environment because it costs them production time and a lower yield.  Consequently, there is less money generated by the mine.  All mines have a negative environmental impact, but the important question is “How negative is the impact?”  To determine the answer, you need to know the location, size, and purpose of the mine.  If you study these factors, then you can most likely determine the impact on the environment.

If all three of the above criteria are met, then the mining operation can be considered ethical.

Currently there are many organizations conducting ethical audits within the mining sector. Some of these organizations are : IRMA Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance or ARM Alliance for Responsible Mining.

A new 2021 consumer market research study on awareness of responsibly sourced, artisanal-mined gold was carried out by MVI Marketing LLC (THE MVEye) and Christina T. Miller Sustainable Jewelry Consulting (CMC), with the sponsorship of the ARM (Alliance for Responsible Mining)  and Rio Grande. The Report concluded that almost 50% of respondents between the ages 25 – 35 would choose ASM Certified Responsible Gold, with ages 36-50 following close behind at 42%. The numbers are strikingly high when taking into account the amount of jewelry purchased by these age groups.

Other characteristics to consider are transparency, traceability, and the use of sustainable materials. 

Transparency

Transparency is the willingness of the jeweler to share the documentation proving the origin and sourcing of the raw materials used in the pieces they are creating.

Traceability

Traceability refers to the ability of anyone to verify the information provided by the jeweler regarding the source. 

Unfortunately, there are many jewelers who do not adhere to sustainable standards even though they claim it. When shopping for a jewelry piece, always verify that the jeweler has certifications, or any other sort of document that verify their ethical sustainable, traceable or transparency claim.

A GREAT EXAMPLE OF SUSTAINABILITY

Irene Bozza Conscious Fine Jewelry was born from the need to unite design and ethics in the jewelry industry.  Founded in Malaga, Spain, in 2019, this haute jewelry firm challenges the current concept of sustainability with its elegant and unique designs.

For Irene, the way of understanding jewels is very different from what exists in the current market.  Traceability, ethical materials, respect for the environment and people, and transparency with the client, are the pillars of the firm.  

By producing collections without seasons and unique one-of-a-kind pieces that only one person can wear into the world, this brand is unprecedented in Europe.  It is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air within a saturated industry where exclusivity is obviously misunderstood.

 Irene took the time answer some questions about her craft, sustainability, ethical sourcing, and the extraordinary pieces she creates.

Q & A WITH IRENE BOZZA

What Jewelry Means to Irene

Q: What does jewelry mean to you?

A: The jewels represent an act of love towards yourself or another person.

Q: Okay, they mean love, so that there is a hidden story behind each piece?

A: Actually, if an artist cannot be transparent and explain the origin of each piece, it means that they do not really know what it is…and consequently can love none.

Q: How are jewelry and the eternal related?

A: Pure gold jewels do not spoil…they are perpetual.  They pass from one generation to another and another and are still intact.

For this reason, I create exclusive designs that you can enjoy for a lifetime and not get bored with them. It must be love at first sight to want to always wear it.

Conscious Jewelry

Q: Is that where your Conscious Fine Jewelry motto comes from?

A: Exactly. The term “conscious” is our identity. We provide the information behind each piece because we think that only with knowledge can we be free to choose.

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Q: Tell me more. What is behind each piece?

A: A lot of work respecting our planet and people. We achieve this with pieces made of recycled 18k Gold with a certificate.  Gold can be recycled an infinite number of times and it does not lose its properties; thus, we avoid generating a need for new mining.

Regarding diamonds, they are from conflict-free zones, and this is assured by the process from Kimberley. For colored stones, we work only with suppliers who meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that is, children do not work, there is no discrimination, they have decent wages, the workplace is safe and healthy, and many other issues that in our society seem normal but in developing or third world countries, they are not.

Sustainable Sourcing

Q: What can you tell me about the stone supply chain?

A: My suppliers are established in small mines that they work themselves together with the local population, so we always know that stone comes from the mine and how it has been treated.  This information is passed on to my clients, so they know where the gems come from.  Hence the power to indicate traceability.

Q: Are there benefits for the populations where the mines are?

A: Of course! In addition to teaching them a trade and having a decent salary, 25% of vendor profits help contribute to charitable projects and the community in the areas where they operate.

Q: What is the concept of sustainability in general?

A: It is still thought that sustainable is synonymous with hippie, finishes handmade, rustic, and inelegant.  I completely refute this belief!

Q: Why go against the tide of the jewelry industry?

A: I do that to be able to sleep peacefully every night.  If I don’t know where the materials come from and how they are treated, how can I assure my clients that the jewel they acquire is free of any conflict?

Q: What do you think of the boom that has emerged after the pandemic for sustainability in general terms?

A: Being a boom, it contaminates the firms that are sustainable, and the message is severely diluted. When you stop to find what makes certain firms sustainable, anything goes, and it is disturbing.  If a firm is willing to show a client where the gold and jewels originated, and provide the documentation proving that, that makes them worthy of being called a sustainable brand.

Irene on Her Unique Pieces

Q: How would you define the aesthetics of your pieces?

A: Elegant, distinguished, and comfortable to be worn 24/7.

Q: You also make custom pieces, what is the process?

A: Usually the client brings an idea or has a piece that they no longer use and want to give it a second life. We have a first date where we outline what they want, rough designs, materials.  That is where I start with the sketches by hand.

Once we have the approved design, the client sees it in 3D and makes a final decision.  From there I reproduce the piece in wax so they can try it on. Once the necessary changes have been made, it goes to the foundry and into the hands of a jeweler craftsman in the Cordoba workshop.  They give life to the piece.

Q: Can jewelry in current collections be customized?

A: Sure! We can change the gems, make an engraving, or make a new design

starting from a current one.  We have absolutely no limits!

Q: Where can your pieces be purchased?

A: Online at www.eVogued.com

Q: How is communication with the customer to purchase your jewelry online?

A: We personally serve clients during the process, so they can make a decision that they are pleased with.

CONCLUSION

It is evident that there are differences in the way jewelers operate regarding sustainability and ethical sourcing.  Irene Bozza stands out in an overcrowded, under-documented industry that claims sustainability and ethical sourcing, yet lacks the proof to support their claims.  Her commitment to transparency, supporting documentation, and the highest quality pieces, sets her apart from the crowd.

Check out her jewelry online at www.eVogued.com in the Sustainable brands section.  You won’t be disappointed.

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