A panel discussion at the inaugural State of the Art Jewelry Summit presented ways the jewelry industry can use art and storytelling to create desirability for jewels produced in a sustainable manner.
Eira Thomas, president and CEO of Lucara Diamonds, and jewelry designer, Thelma West, say the success of the Botswana diamond industry is proof that sustainably sourced jewels can benefit the local community.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, and now living in London, West says she uses her own story to show how working with sustainably sourced materials positively affects the lives of those who work to produce these materials.
The success of Botswana is a particularly important story to tell, she says.
“As a black person they can see my path. The story of Botswana is close to my heart and proves that natural diamonds and mining can be done sustainably,” West says.
Thomas’s company owns Karowe diamond mine in Botswana. She explains the benefit to the community is immense.
“Diamonds have a history and a connection with the planet,” she says. “We employ 2,000 people. Ninety-nine percent are Botswanan. 75% of our executive team are women. I disagree that lab-grown diamonds are more ethical. Mother Earth has given us so much.”
For Bella Neyman, co-founder of New York City Jewelry Week, it’s about bringing the positive story of jewelry to the general public. In fact, it is why the annual jewelry event in New York was created, she says.
“Giving access to consumers allows them to make educated decisions,” she says. “It’s one of the keys to building a strong community.”
Neyman also discussed the variety of ways people need to create and wear adornment. To emphasize this, she told the audience that she is wearing a necklace made of hair.
“Preciousness means different things to different people,” she says. “Jewelry is an art form. It’s about ideas. It can be a combination of precious and non-precious materials. It’s a need to express oneself.”
The State of the Art Jewelry Summit was an all-day event held June 23 at Harvard University.
A combination of jewelry industry representatives and Harvard educators challenged the jewelry industry to begin building a framework of policies, standards and measurable solutions for a more sustainable future.
Panel discussions and individuals presented a number of topics that included climate change, technology, sustainably sourced jewels, the human rights of miners, innovation in jewelry manufacturing and the art of jewelry.
The all-day event was organized by the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Gemological Institute of America, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University.
This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.