There are many considerations when purchasing fine and conscious jewelry; therefore, some 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.
Outlined below are the main characteristics to select.
TYPE OF METAL
Gold is the most prevalent metal used in fine jewelry and was used in Egypt as early as 3,500 BC. The jewelry found in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun is of superb quality and refinement rarely surpassed in the history of jewelry-making. As a result, gold is one of the most coveted and sought-after precious metals in the world.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, newly discovered metals and gemstones helped shape the evolution of jewelry manufacturing techniques in the United States. As a result, gold was and still remains the king of precious metals. The gold carat weight in the US varies from 10k to 24k, however 14 to 18 carat is the most popular for jewelry-making.
Jewelers add silver, copper, and other base metals to affect carat weight and color variations. Keep in mind, more gold equals richer, more yellow tones and a softer final product; therefore, it is essential to consider when buying gold. Furthermore, regular wear will result in bending, scratches, and molding to the shape of your finger. If you like a more polished look, then18k gold will yield a beautiful yellow hue and a more lustrous look while having enough strength to resist wear and tear.
Purities of Gold
- 24K is pure gold.
- 22K Gold is nearly pure but less expensive.
- 18K Gold has less pure gold; therefore less costly.
- 14K Gold is the most popular and has even less pure gold
- Yellow Gold Alloy combines pure gold, silver, and zinc.
- Colored Gold Alloy is a mixture of pure gold with other metals other than silver and zinc.
- White Gold is a mixture of pure gold and a white metal such as nickel, palladium, platinum, manganese, copper, zinc, or silver.
- Rose Gold pure gold and copper, zinc, or silver.
- Green Gold is less common and is pure gold and copper, silver, or zinc.
- Gold-filled is jewelers’ brass, a blend of copper and zinc, covered in two or three layers of a gold alloy.
- Rolled gold is 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.
The history of silver dates back over 7,000 years, with large-scale mining beginning over 5,000 years ago. Moreover, ancient Egyptians initially used silver due to its higher value, reactivity, and lack of supply. However, that changed in the 15th century BC when separating silver from gold was created.
Both the Greek and Roman empires used silver coins, with most of the silver coming from mines in what is now called Spain. Additionally, the Romans mined so much silver that by 150 AD, approximately 10,000 tons of silver were circulating throughout their empire. As a result, silver has been considered one of the world’s most popular precious metals.
Like gold, silver also has purity variations. Consequently, sterling silver is the most popular in jewelry manufacturing, and fine silver is usually only utilized in coins and bullion.
Purities of Silver
- Fine .999 Silver
- Sterling .925 Silver
- Argentum Silver and Non-Tarnish Alloys
- Coin Silver
- Filler Silver
- Silver Plated
- Nickel Silver
- Tibetan Tribal Silver
- Bali, Thai, or Mexican Silver
The platinum group elements (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium) generally occur as alloys with iron and transition group metals such as arsenic, tellurium, antimony, and vanadium; or as mixed platinum-palladium sulfide 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), as well as platinum-198 (7.36 percent). Platinum occurs in many forms in nature.
Besides all the metal options, jewelry often has one or more gemstones inserted. The most common stones used in jewelry are as follows:
Diamond is the most popular, desirable, and costly gem. Consequently, it is used in about every form of jewelry you can imagine. (Mohs rate 10.0)
Blue Sapphire is the non-red shade of corundum and is very durable. Moreover, the most valuable specimens have a rich color with very few inclusions or other flaws. (Mohs rate 9.0)
Green Emerald is a cousin of aquamarine and is famous for its green color. (Mohs rate 7.5 to 8.0)
Red Ruby is red, durable, and a top pick. The same mineral comprises Sapphire corundum. (Mohs rate 9.0)
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 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; however, it is a significant gem in jewelry. Pearls can be white, pink, black, yellow, gray, and brown. (Mohs 2.5 to 3.0)
Peridot is affordable and a charming gem. Moreover, 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 various colors: blue, orange, pink, brown, green, or yellow. (Mohs rate 8.0)
Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 and is a bluish-purple color. It has become trendy since also it is original and exclusive of Tanzania. (Mohs rate 6.5)
Consider birthstones if you want to give a precious or semi-precious gemstone as part of a unique piece of jewelry. The most popular gemstones are matched below with their birth month. In addition to that, they have become trendy gifts over the years.
|June||Pearl / Moonstone|
|October||Opal / Tourmaline|
|November||Topaz / Citrine|
TYPES OF PIECES
In addition to the metal or type of stone we choose, we also need to decide what piece we want. Some of your choices include a ring, bracelet, necklace, earrings, or brooch. Keep in mind that sustainability, the ethical sourcing of each piece, is a very relevant characteristic to consider.
SUSTAINABILITY or the Conscious Jewelry
You may be asking yourself, “What Is sustainable and ethical jewelry?” Sustainable and ethical jewelry means transparent as well as responsible sourcing practices. In addition to sustainable materials, traceability is so important when determining which jeweler to do business with. Moreover, responsible sourcing comes in the form of an ethical mining operation.
There are three critical criteria that an ethical mine should comply with, and they are listed below.
Good Safety Standards of Conscious Jewelry
The miners must be protected. Unfortunately, even though each country determines its specific mining safety rules, little or no information is available about individual mines. Furthermore, enforcement of the laws can vary greatly depending on the local government’s level of corruption.
Fair wages are another example of little or no information about the individual mines. Mining jobs can offer a higher wage than other options available to uneducated and unskilled labor pools; however, that is not always the case. You can most likely determine whether fair and equitable wages are being paid to the workers if you study the economic and political landscape of the country.
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, the mine generates less money. All mines have a negative environmental impact, but the critical question is, “How negative is the impact?”
We need to know the mine’s location, size, and purpose to see the answer. You can most likely determine the impact on the environment if you study the answers to those questions. Finally, the mining operation can be considered ethical if all three of the above criteria are met.
Currently, many organizations are 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 2021 consumer 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. This report concluded that almost 50% of respondents between the ages 25 – 35 would choose ASM Certified Responsible Gold. Ages 36-50 followed close behind at 42%. The numbers are strikingly high when considering the amount of jewelry purchased by these age groups.
Other characteristics to consider are transparency, traceability, and the use of sustainable materials.
The willingness of the jeweler to share the sourcing documentation of the pieces they sell is called transparency. Further, proving the origin and sourcing of the raw materials used in jewelry-making is critical for sustainability.
Traceability refers to the ability of anyone to verify the information provided by the jeweler regarding the source.
Unfortunately, many jewelers do not adhere to sustainable standards even though they claim it. Therefore, when shopping for a jewelry piece, always verify that the jeweler has certifications or any other document confirming their ethical, sustainable, traceable, or transparency claim.
A GREAT EXAMPLE OF SUSTAINABILITY or Conscious Jewelry
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.
Furthermore, for Irene, understanding jewels are very different from what exists in the current market. In addition, the firm’s pillars are traceability, ethical materials, respect for the environment and people, and transparency with the client.
This brand is unprecedented in Europe by producing collections without seasons and unique one-of-a-kind pieces that only one person can wear into the world. Likewise, Irene’s pieces are a breath of fresh air because of the misunderstood exclusivity in this saturated industry.
Irene answered some questions about her craft, sustainability, ethical sourcing, and the extraordinary pieces she creates.
Q & A WITH IRENE BOZZA
Jewelry’s Meaning 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 is there a hidden story behind each piece?
A: If an artist cannot be transparent and explain the origin of each piece, it means that they do not 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 always to wear it.
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 we can be free to choose with knowledge.
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. In addition, gold can be recycled infinite times, and it does not lose its properties. Consequently, we avoid generating a need for new mining.
Regarding diamonds, they are from conflict-free zones, and the process assures this from Kimberley. In addition, for colored stones, we work only with suppliers who meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, that means children do not work; there is no discrimination, decent wages, and a safe and healthy workplace. So many other issues seem normal in our society, but they are not in developing or third-world countries.
Q: What is the concept of sustainability in general?
A: It is still thought that sustainability 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 sleep peacefully every night because I do that. In addition, I can assure my clients that the jewel they acquire is free of conflict if I know the source of the materials.
Q: What do you think of the boom that has emerged after the pandemic for sustainability in general terms?
A: A boom contaminates the sustainable firms and severely dilutes the message. When you stop to find what makes certain firms sustainable, anything goes. Contrastly, if a firm is willing to show a client where the gold and jewels originated and provide the documentation proving so, that makes them worthy of being called a sustainable brand.
Irene on Her Unique Pieces
Q: What can you tell me about the stone supply chain?
A: My suppliers work together in small mines with the local population. Furthermore, only responsibly-sourced stones come from that mine. My clients always receive this information. 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: 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 they no longer use and wants to give it a second life. Initially, we first have to outline what they want, rough designs, and materials. Second, that is where I start with the sketches by hand.
Once we have the approved design, the client sees it in 3D and finalizes it. From there, I reproduce the piece in wax to try it on. After I make the necessary changes, it goes to the foundry. Finally, it goes 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 serve clients during the process so that they are pleased with their decision.
There are differences in the way jewelers operate regarding sustainability and ethical sourcing. However, Irene Bozza stands out in an overcrowded, under-documented industry that claims sustainability and ethical sourcing yet lacks the proof to support their claims. Ultimately, her commitment to transparency, supporting documentation, and the highest quality pieces set her apart from the crowd.
Check out her jewelry online at www.eVogued.com in the Sustainable section. You won’t be disappointed.