Musa Mundi founder, Lydia McEvoy.

Jewelry with a Conscience


Accessorize in an Environmentally Friendly Way.

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It is the exclamation point to any outfit that you wear.

You might be wearing the plainest white t-shirt and jeans combination but by wearing just one or two pieces of these will instantly change your look. They can either dress up a casual outfit or dress down a formal ensemble. You can create a number of different looks with the same outfit simply by adding one or a combination of a couple of pieces. Whether it’s expensive or inexpensive, the jewelry that you wear will definitely make you stand out from the crowd.

Who does not love beautiful jewelry? Unfortunately, no matter how dazzling a piece of jewelry may appear, too often there is a dark side to how it came to be. It can be tracedback to how that piece of jewelry was produced, from the extraction of the precious stones and metals resulting in pollution and environmental degradation due to irresponsible mining practices, to the sweatshops where the raw materials are refined and transformed by workers who are often exploited and where child labor is not unknown. The 2006 film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the issue of diamonds which are mined in war zones. These are eventually sold to finance armed conflicts, therefore creating the cycle of war and exploitation in the jewelry industry.

What is the alternative? “Ethical jewelry” is the new buzz phrase that’s fast gaining currency among a growing number of enlightened consumers. In simple terms, it refers to jewelry that has no negative impact on the people who make it and the environment where they are produced. This also means that for a piece of jewelry to be considered ethical, first the material used can be traced back to its source. This is to ensure that they were produced in a responsible way both socially and environmentally. Secondly, the item should be made in fair and decent working conditions, fair wages were paid, and no child labor was used.

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Clever and mindful approaches to production have evolved such as recycling materials and upcycling. Musa Mundi, an artisan brand, for example, makes use of certified eco silver, vintage gold and upcycled gemstones. “Precious metals and gemstones are finite geological resources and we have already extracted so much, there’s really no need to continue,” says Musa Mundi founder, Lydia McEvoy. Her production process is quite simple as well. She shares, “Each piece is made slowly by hand, so no two pieces are the same. There are no factory lines, just me and my workbench.”

The jewelry designs are mostly minimal and they carry an eclectic artistic identity.“I don’t plan the designs,” McEvoy says. “I just allow my creativity to flow intuitively.I put so much good energy into the jewellery and I connect with it as I create it.”

Ethical jewelry does not have to be bland and boring. It certainly does not mean compromising on quality. In fact, knowing that the piece of jewelry that you are wearing had in no way been responsible for exploiting people or the environment gives it more added value. As in ethical clothing, ethical jewelry is synonymous with sustainability. As certain clothing companies offer incentives for consumers to recycle their old clothes, so too have certain jewelers encouraged people to sell their old jewelry for upcycling, to create new pieces. Other ethical jewelers refuse to use endangered animal products such as ivory and shark’s teeth as well as coral and rare woods.

McEvoy muses, “We're living in a time in which eco-conscious and ethical consumerism is relatively easy and it's improving all the time, so really, why wouldn't you want to support ethical brands?” Indeed, with the plethora of choices that we have, it only takes a little bit of effort to be both fashionable and sustainable. The decision is totally up to us.

Astra C. Alegre, B.A. in Philosophy, Official Master in Tourism Management of Natural and Cultural Heritage: University of Barcelona. She currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She loves interviewing people, attending events, writing and sharing these stories with everyone.

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