Climate change and water scarcity are sadly a common occurrence of our everyday lives. It is known that more and more companies are turning eco-friendly to cut down on waste with the jewelry business being no exception. One Arab Jewelry designer in particular took a creative approach to send out an environmental message to the masses.
Laila El Mehelmy, a Saudi jewelry designer worked with Golem, a French design studio, to create a unique necklace called “OoOoooOoooOh la l’ice.” Simply, it consists of silver beads held together with a string and each bead is encased in an ice cube, seven in total. When worn, it would melt after thirty minutes.
The idea came from an observation made by Ariel Claudet, Golem’s founder while at a club in Berlin. According to Claudet, this summer, there was a heatwave so clubgoers ended up getting ice cubes and rubbing them on their bodies to cool off. The necklace is sort of a wake-up call and showcases the increasing importance of water, especially with the world’s rise in temperature.
El Mehlemly is not the only Arab designer putting an effort toward environmentalism. In fact, many other Middle Eastern jewelry brands are approaching their craft through minimalistic and sustainable means, changing the way jewelry is made for the better.
Taking it back to basics, the British-Lebanese designer Alexandra Hakim uses the world around her and the simplest objects and items to make her jewelry. From the very start, while she was a student at Central Saint Martins in London, discarded items that people would never notice caught her attention. From burnt-out matchsticks in ashtrays to the stems of tomatoes at Beirut’s lively markets. She would take those items that usually would go to waste, cast them into metal or gold and transform them into a piece of jewelry. Her work reached the limelight when she launched her self-titled jewelry brand in 2016.
Her hometown of Beirut plays an intrinsic role in her designs. As Beirut is a port, Hakim drew inspiration from its fishermen. She knows of one fisherman personally who would give her any rubbish he would find hooked onto his fishing net. She would rummage through the rubbish and make use of any item that she can turn into unique pieces of jewelry which included fish hooks.
It is said that her jewelry is zero waste and each piece is handmade. To make a bigger connection between her work and environmentalism, Hakim also creates collections dedicated to certain causes. To raise awareness of how Lebanon’s coastline is eroding, she made a collection called “No More Fish In The Sea” and her collection consisted of jewelry made from freshwater pearls.
Her collections range in price from 90 to 400 US dollars.
Diamonds were always a natural part of Aya Ahmed’s life. The Founder and CEO of Fyne Jewellry, a Dubai-based brand launched in 2019 were raised in a family of Diamantaires. She noticed that the current market lacks diamonds that are affordable but also sustainable.
The norm is for diamonds to be mined. When it comes to sustainability, mining is quite problematic. It poses a wide range of environmental issues including the contamination of water through metal build-up as well as air pollution. Ahmed wanted to avoid this approach and so she took an innovative step in her jewelry process by making lab-grown cultured diamonds instead. They are cheaper than mined diamonds by 30-40% and take about several weeks to make. Ahmed stated that in terms of their composition, they are the same as mined diamonds.
In terms of production, Ahmed ensures that each new collection is made in small batches based on orders made by clients. This is a way to reduce waste and give the designers the luxury of time to craft each piece with care and precision. Her overall approach is one that goes against the concept of fast fashion (rapid production of large volumes of clothing) yet in terms of the jewelry industry.
Her collections range in price from 1000 to 2000 US Dollars
The UAE president’s granddaughter, H.H. Sheikha Mariam wanted to create jewelry that connected to her Emirati heritage and exuded that rich identity. In 2013, she founded MKS Jewelry and launched her first jewelry collection.
Pooling from elements that are representative of the UAE’s history, one of H.H. Sheikha Mariam’s jewelry lines is called the Al Otaiba’ collection (King of Pearls). The collection mainly depends on the use of Emirati pearls as well as the mother of pearls as a way to showcase the innate connection between the Emirati identity, pearl divers, and the sea.
All her collections are made from raw materials, hence, are environmentally friendly. Yet, her bigger contribution to sustainability is expressed through MKS Cares, a platform used to support and promote associations and people the brand believes in and is inspired by. H.H. Sheikha Mariam supports many other causes one of which is the ADMC Group marine charity conservation project.
Her collections range in price from 250 to 2000 US dollars
Based in New York, this jewelry brand was the result of two longtime friends Moroccan Bouchra Darwazah and Dutch Sophie Kahn, coming together and building their passion for sustainability by forming Aurate in 2015.
Just as with Ahmed’s Fyne Jewellery, Darwazah and Kahn put emphasis on making sure the materials they use produce jewelry that brings the least harm to the environment. The gold they use for their jewelry, for example, is actually recycled and not mined. So they would re-use their gold rather than extract it from a mine.
Their pearls are also extracted through ethical means. They are actually cultivated and harvested in farms owned by Darwazah and Kahn that follow strict guidelines against unethical practices. Despite the fact that their diamonds are mined, they also apply strict guidelines to ensure that the manner by which the diamonds are extracted is ethical and ensures worker safety.
Their collections range in price from 100 to 6000 US Dollars
What is common between all the eco-friendly Arab jewelry designers is that they take a step back, slow down the creation process and focus on the story behind each piece they create. It can be said that they are part of the slow fashion movement; yet for jewelry, one that respects the creation process of each product. With the fast-moving pace of our current reality, slowing down may be the best approach for a better society and environment.
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