All That Glitters – why buying handmade British jewellery is good for you and the planet

Did you watch the fab BBC jewellery talent show All That Glitters? I was completely glued to it and just loved seeing all the beautiful creations. Mind you, they weren’t always given much time, were they? I thought Hugo was such a deserving winner, his designs were so cutting edge – loved them!

Anyway, gorgeous jewellery aside, I thought this show did more than just entertained us. For me it also did a great job of showing us how we can all buy jewellery better, which isn’t just good for us, but also good for the planet. Here’s why.

We’ve been hearing about ‘fast fashion’ for years, but little, if anything, has been said about ‘fast jewellery’. We’ve seen negative press about the impact of buying too many cheap clothes – wearing them once, and then throwing away, well the same problems can be linked with cheap and ‘fast jewellery’.

As with clothes, the production of a lot of the jewellery we like to buy, particularly some well-known high street brands, has moved to the far east, where pieces can be made in huge volume and at a much lower cost, mostly due to the way they’re made and low labour costs. This is great news for global jewellery brands as they can sell all over the world and make massive profits. But what does it mean for us, the shopper, the environment, and indeed our shopping habits and ethics?

I completely understand the attraction of fashionable jewellery produced by global brands – it’s nice to feel part of something that has mass appeal, to buy something new on a regular basis and to keep up with trends. But there’s a downside. We’ve heard a lot about the poor working conditions of the workers of many large fashion brands operating in the far east. Do you remember the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2016, whose poor working conditions came to light? We’ve become more aware of what we’re buying – how it’s made, by whom and where. Some conditions for jewellery companies are not so different, with the big concern being the very low wages being paid. Yes, the jewellery looks lovely, but how do you feel knowing it was made by someone working for peanuts?

We can buy new jewellery so cheaply and regularly now, which, like clothes, is just thrown away once we’ve worn it a few times. And the more we buy, the more gets made, it’s a continuous cycle of binge production and buying. Unless recycled, like clothes, this jewellery just ends up in landfill.

Jewellery made in this way is not only potentially ethically questionable and unsustainable, it’s also a waste of our money. It’s often poorly made and just doesn’t last. But don’t worry, there’s a much better option for us, and that’s buying limited edition, high quality, handcrafted pieces from smaller companies, even individuals, closer to home.

All that Glitters put the spotlight firmly on quality, handmade British jewellery that’s both uniquely designed and completely handmade. It’s shown us what’s out there and what great artists the UK has in terms of jewellery design and craftsmanship. And we, the consumer, and the planet, are far better off buying jewellery like this.

Handmade jewellery can often be of much better quality than a lot of mass-produced pieces. Metal weights are heavier, components are set individually by hand, which make them much more durable. Handmade jewellery from smaller companies is often made in very limited quantities, which gives us something much more unique – after all there’s nothing worse than seeing other people wearing exactly the same thing as you, is there?

Jewellery made in this way is also much more traceable and has a lower carbon footprint. Artisan jewellers often know exactly where their metals and gemstones have come from. The way we make the pieces can also be a lot more environmentally friendly, due to the much smaller scale production. And with the jewellery made much closer to home, getting the jewellery delivered to you has a much lower impact on the environment. 

Handmade jewellery in the UK is often made by those who own and run their business, so you’re supporting someone’s passion and dreams. Good customer service is another reason to buy handmade. I know many jewellers, myself included, who get to know you personally. As a result, we can often tailor our services to your requirements, for example, if you’d like a specially commissioned piece, if you’d like to adapt a piece from our collections, or if you need a piece quickly in time for a special occasion. Smaller jewellers can be much closer to you, the customer, more flexible and more willing to meet your individual needs. 

I’m fully aware this type of jewellery doesn’t come as cheaply as some mass-produced pieces, but you get what you pay for. Yes, it costs more, but you get so much more value for your money, and much greater peace of mind. This type of jewellery is much more of an investment and don’t you value it more because you paid more for it? Paying more for each piece also slows down the rate at which we buy new pieces, reducing jewellery consumption levels. I always tell people to buy less jewellery, which seems odd coming from someone who designs and makes it for a living, but it’s something I’m really passionate about – buy less and buy better. 

I want you to start thinking about the jewellery you buy in the same way as the clothes you buy ,and ask – where was it made, by whom, and how? The planet, our pockets and our style will thank us for it in the end.

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