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Combining Style and Conscience – Q&A with Richard Warrender

Improving our sustainability has been a real focus for us over the last few years. Since our small business first began in 2008 we have strived to be as honest and transparent as possible when it comes to creating our bespoke pieces, however we know these are not static issues and we will always have more to learn.

Here Richard Warrender shares some of the ethical practices and processes we have in place when it comes to creating our beautiful bespoke creations…

How do W&W ensure that the gemstones used are conflict free?
The ethics around gemstones have developed beyond the single question of “conflict” to include wider considerations such as legality, human exploitation, ecological damage and origin. Diamonds are accompanied by a statement confirming that they are supplied to us from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions. Whether we are buying diamonds or gemstones our first point of contact is always with trusted UK based suppliers who in turn have established purchasing relationships. That isn’t always a guarantee of ethical standards though, so we also source particular gemstones where even the specific site and artisans involved are known to our supplier. We also reclaim and upcycle gemstones and diamonds that we recover from pieces being broken up or sold. That doesn’t guarantee that the ethics of when and where they were mined and cut met any current standards, but it does allow us and our clients to avoid any further negative contribution.

What is your view on lab grown diamonds verses traditionally mined diamonds? Do you ever use them within your bespoke jewellery?
We use many more natural diamonds but yes, we do use lab grown diamonds as well. There is often a conversation about why, which tends to focus on the question of ethics and sustainability or price. In the current market we can be clear about price, Lab Grown Diamonds cost less than natural diamonds, so they may be a great option for that reason alone. Equally purchasing a Lab Grown Diamond enables us and our clients to avoid mining and all of the associated ethical questions. That doesn’t guarantee that a stone is sustainable though as the energy used in their production may not have been renewable. They provide choice though and that is a good thing.

Is it possible to reuse metal as well as gemstones from a piece I would like remodelled?
Some projects lend themselves to the reuse of gold from existing pieces but for others it can be a complication and even raise the cost by increasing the amount of work involved. We often use “old” gold to create new wedding bands but rarely when working with stones and their settings. Instead the vast majority of the gold we use and some of the platinum is refined recycled metal that has been prepared and made ready for use by our bullion dealers. This sounds like a breakthrough development but has always been the case to some extent – working with precious materials means that very little goes to waste and precious metals have always been recycled and reused. Stating that they are recycled is simply telling the story of what has historically been a secretive industry.

What changes have you made to the W&W processes over the past few years to increase your sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint?
There is no grand statement but by making sustainability part of our conversation there have been lots of small and gradual changes that overall build to a better process and way of working.

Some changes include, monitoring and controlling the temperature in our working spaces with the aim of reducing them and continuing to recycle all single use packaging until it is no longer fit for purpose. We have also brought together a stock of reclaimed gemstones and diamonds ready to be upcycled.

Overall, we have become more aware of the challenges and are exploring them rather than ignoring them. We will continue to ask questions and are working on a plan that we can aim towards over the years ahead.

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