The best ethical and sustainable British jewellery brands

Annabel Harrison

9 February 2021

Whether you prefer gold, silver or gemstones galore, the UK is home to a coterie of brands making our considered jewellery choices that bit easier

9 February 2021 | Annabel Harrison

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inding something – anything – that sparks immediate joy is worth its weight in gold these days (excuse the pun). If it’s small enough to carry around on your person, and therefore spark joy frequently, that’s an added bonus. When you’re next clicking through sparkling virtual treasure troves, in pursuit of something stylish and subtle or totally OTT, you might also want to apply the same mind-set to your jewellery choices as many of us already do to our clothes. Fast fashion, be gone - it's done, dusted, pre-Covid, good riddance - along with glittery trinkets that mean nothing to us. In with beautiful pieces designed to do no harm and outlast their wearer.

Alighieri jewellery, photography by Rosh Mahtani

According to Taylor & Hart’s 20/21 Trend Report, searches are on the up for jewellery which is sustainable, ethical and made from recycled gold, and it’s easier than ever before to find brilliant jewellery brands with sustainability and ethical thinking at their heart. It’s especially lovely to buy pieces you know you could pass down to daughters, nieces and goddaughters. These are some of our favourites; please let us know yours on Instagram @luxurylondonofficial.

The trailblazer: Pippa Small

The look: gorgeous mostly 18ct gold designs, often inlaid with bold and beautiful gemstones

Pippa Small

Not many jewellery designers have a Masters in Medical Anthropology but then Pippa Small is not like many jewellery designers. Her interests in human rights and the diversity of our world's cultures existed long before she opened her first shop in Notting Hill 14 years ago, back when (shamefully) many of us gave little thought to where or how the things we loved were made. By 2013 Small's ethical jewellery and charity work were recognised with an MBE. (And, if you were wondering what she's wearing on her wrist above, wonder no more: "I haven't taken off my seashell bracelet for 20 years. It's become part of my arm. It was made by a tribe called the Nagas in north-east India and I was given it by a Naga refugee who lived in Thailand, whom I was working with on a human rights project. He became my mentor. In Naga culture women wear them on each wrist after getting married. To me it's like a protective shell.”)

Small has always believed in "reinforcing a sense of cultural identity and tradition through jewellery... In so many parts of the world there are so few opportunities and... the impacts of climate change and conflict [are] forcing people from their homes. A job, and giving a sense of pride and accomplishment, provides vital alternatives." Thus Pippa Small has been working with arts foundation Turquoise Mountain (started by HRH Prince Charles and Hamid Karzi) in Kabul, Afghanistan to create and sustain jobs and revive crafts, and in 2016 joined the organisation's efforts in Myanmar to ensure the survival of traditional gold work.

Small's travels and passions are inextricably bound to her creative output; if you’re a March baby and love wearing jewellery featuring your birthstone, Small's aquamarine collection was inspired by an Afghan pebble she found in Jaipur. "The perfect piece of jewellery is imbued with memory, association, pleasure, with a place perhaps, bringing emotive connections for future generations to come."

pippasmall.com

Rising star: Natalie Perry

The look: delicate gold, silver and bespoke jewellery with Indian and natural world influences

Natalie Perry

It must be very gratifying to win Professional Jeweller’s Ethical Collection of the Year the same year as launching your eponymous jewellery brand. After cutting her teeth in India working as a designer for one of Jaipur’s leading diamond jewellery houses, Natalie Perry founded her own brand in 2017 and has also been awarded Young Designer of the Year and named one of Retail Jeweller's 30 Under 30 Rising Stars, recognised for her ethical jewellery design. We love the Floral Fragments collection, inspired by the disintegrating murals in ageing Indian monuments that Perry discovered in Rajasthan; flora and fauna are recreated delicately from solid gold filigree and accented with a smattering of sparkling diamonds. 

Full Bloom necklace and Half Flower necklace in 18ct Fairtrade gold

Choosing jewellery made from Fairtrade gold – which Perry currently sources from the Sotrami Mine in Peru – ensures miners receive a fair price for their gold. “We also pay an annual premium directly to the miners,” Perry explains, “which they can choose to put towards their healthcare, education and support for community and environmental projects.” Each piece is cast using British suppliers, based in London, Leicestershire and Scotland, made in Perry’s London studio and marked with the Fairtrade gold stamp at the London Assay Office. UK-based stone suppliers relay the origin of each gemstone and, when she’s not using Fairtrade gold in her designs, where possible Natalie uses 100% recycled gold and eco-silver (because the metal is already in existence, land doesn’t have to be mined for more). Perry can also transform gold jewellery you no longer wear into something new, or use a family heirloom to create a bespoke piece – both options are as good for the planet as they are for our conscience.

Natalie Perry jewellery

Perry is inspired by "the beauty of imperfection”, textiles, ancient jewellery and the natural world. Sometimes, she says, "I set gemstones inside the ring band which have special meaning to my customers - for example birthstones of people's partners or children, or memory stones which mark an anniversary or a special date... When I worked in Jaipur, I learnt about a tradition in Indian jewellery where gemstones are set to touch the skin, as they are believed to have healing properties for the wearer. I love this idea so it is something I include in my own work also." 

natalieperryjewellery.com

The power of two: Tada & Toy

The look: earrings and earrings only; fun, gem-set, star-spangled, heart-shaped and more 

Tansy Aspinall (Tada) & Victoria van Holthe (Toy)

It takes a special kind of friendship to survive running a business together. Given that London-based Tada & Toy has been going since 2014, we can safely assume Tansy Aspinall (Tada) and Victoria van Holthe's (Toy) friendship – which started on the first day of secondary school – is stronger than ever. They design earrings, and only earrings, all produced in carefully chosen artisan workshops in Jaipur, India. “We are committed to the ethical sourcing of our products and work closely with suppliers to ensure that they are aligned to our beliefs,” the pair say. 5% of all profits are donated to a wildlife charity and for specific collections, 25% of profits go to charity.

You might have seen the brand's playful designs, combining Indian embellishment and what they call a Swedish-Scandinavian style, sported by fans including Emma Watson, Maisie Williams and Poppy Delevingne. Its 9 Gem Collection was inspired by the Sanskrit word Navaratna and the newest collection, Black Sand (out on 17 February), features motifs from natural ocean treasure that gets washed up on shore, from sea shells to emerald green seaweed, bejewelled lobsters and starfish earrings.

Tada & Toy earrings

tadaandtoy.com

Sister sister: Soru Jewellery

The look: everyday statement pieces with a serious dose of Italianate style

Francesca Kelly & Marianna Doyle

What do the Duchess of Cambridge and Rita Ora have in common? Not a lot, but they have both been spotted sporting Soru jewellery, which is often colourful and always joyful with its signature cosmic embellishedment and Italianate detail. English-Sicilian sisters Francesca and Marianna – Soru means sister in Sicilian – founded their jewellery brand in 2013 and they believe in keeping it in the family. Their designs are brought to life by hand, in small family-run workshops in Italy and Turkey, and materials are ethically sourced from all over the world. 

We wouldn’t necessarily put Birmingham and Palermo together as complementary sources of urban inspiration but Francesca and Marianna do, and it works. They grew up near Birmingham but would stay with their nonna (grandma) in Sicily’s capital each summer. “The stark contrast between our life in Birmingham and our holidays in Sicily left a great impression on us," say the sisters. "We particularly remember the women we were surrounded by; strong, passionate and always draped in lots of bijoux jewellery. We take our inspiration from those women, those memories and our love for the passion of Sicily itself.”

sorujewellery.com

Less is more: Georgina Boyce

The look: understated, geometric, metallic and monochrome

Georgina Boyce

We’ve fallen for Georgina Boyce’s beautifully geometric, metallic creations, which strike the perfect balance between interesting and go-with-everything. A true perfectionist, she has only released two ready-to-wear jewellery collections since the brand launched in 2015: GEO and KIN.

The rest of Boyce's time is taken up with handcrafted, British-made bespoke commissions and this Gem–A and GIA-trained gemmologist and designer specialises in refashioning old jewellery into something new, adapting existing treasures and repairing old favourites – a sentimental and sustainable way to update your jewellery box. Her works range from unsubtly spectacular engagement rings, one of which was created using a family pendant, to bracelets that “adapt existing charms and treasures”.

georginaboyce.com

Story-teller: Alighieri

The look: impactful, talismanic, mostly gold 'modern heirlooms' with a story to tell

Alighieri jewellery, all photography by Rosh Mahtani

There’s a Heap of Broken Images bracelet, and another called the Whirlwind of the Night. Flashback and Unbearable Lightness rings. Infernal Storm earrings and a Forgotten Memory necklace. We warn you: mere moments on its website and Alighieri will sweep you up into its unique world, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Founder Rosh Mahtani fed inspiration from her French and Italian studies at Oxford into her obsession with melancholy and imperfection to create a brand “firmly rooted in literature and travel – that tells a story of whirlwind adventures, battered creatures, scraggy landscapes and passionate mistakes”.

As a brand, Alighieri believes “the key to being sustainable is love and taking care of the things we own, whilst supporting local trade, prioritising environmental care and being kind and fair to others”. Its jewellery is made by hand, in the six streets surrounding Alighieri’s studio in Hatton Garden – a truly commendable ‘walkable supply chain’. Any off cuts from castings go back into the raw materials mix. Even packaging is “designed to last a lifetime, a safe place for our customers to store their Alighieri layers and take them on their adventures”. 

alighieri.co.uk

Substance & style: Creature Jewellery

The look: ethically-minded jewellery by former Made in Chelsea star Lucy Watson

Creature Jewellery founder Lucy Watson

Using recycled metals for new collections (and introducing them to old collections). Committing to eco-friendly, recyclable packaging, and biodegradable gift wrapping. Offering a minimal packaging option at check-out. All of these might seem obvious but they are by no means commonplace in the jewellery industry, and Creature is justly proud of the steps it has taken towards making its jewellery as planet-friendly and covetable as it is affordable.

Founder of Creature Jewellery Lucy Watson – yes, formerly of Made in Chelsea – has made a name for herself as a passionate vegan and animal rights campaigner, and has won a legion of fans doing so. In 2014, she launched Creature Jewellery and is proud of its transparency: “Ethics are at the core of our brand. We make sure all of our jewellery is produced ethically in the UK and Thailand. Both factories use safe and fair labour practices and are committed to the internationally recognised human rights.” Saying no to surplus and keeping stock levels small is a must for Creature; its customers lead the way. “In responding to your wants and needs, and listening to the demand”, they avoid overproduction and the waste this can produce.

creaturejewellery.com

Read more: The best birthstone jewellery for February