Eco-friendly Jewellery

What is Sustainable, Ethical or 'Eco' Jewellery?

I care a lot about the world we live in and looking after our natural environment and hopefully you do too. 

Curlicue NZ is committed to operating as a socially and environmentally sustainable business on an ongoing basis.

Picking the right jewellery has the power to transform the look and feel of your entire outfit. Usually we only consider the type of jewellery we want to wear: delicate minimalist earrings or large colourful earrings? Plain, simple ring or cocktail ring? Choker style necklace or long rope necklace?

koru heart pendant in recycled sterling silver with swarovski crystal on flax background

But how often do we stop to think about how our jewellery was made?

  • Where did the materials come from?
  • Who’s hands has it touched?
  • What environment was it made in?
  • Who’s lives has it affected?
  • How long was it made to last?

What does sustainability really mean when it comes to jewellery making? 

Firstly, we should look at what makes jewellery-making harmful to the environment? 

It seems hard to believe that something as tiny and innocent as a silver chain can do damage. The main issue is in how metals are mined. 

The extraction techniques – which may include stripping the surface soil and using chemicals – can cause soil erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity and contamination of soils, plus both ground and surface water. 

This happens even when fairly stringent environmental regulations are followed. In developing countries, where regulations can be less likely to be enforced, large-scale lead poisoning or heavy metal soil contamination are just some of the likely consequences.

Secondary factors include the manufacturing processes (energy to produce certain types of glass, for example), and materials, like toxic dyes, used in those processes.  In addition, there is a possibility of environmentally harmful practices in jewellery creation, chemical disposal and packaging.

Sustainable practices at Curlicue NZ:

  • Using recycled metals as much as possible*
  • Up-cycling vintage materials into new jewellery
  • Recycling: metal scrap, paper scrap, packaging and shipping materials 
  • Using fully recyclable products within my packaging
  • Using Compostable Trackpack/ Courier Bags
  • Re-using the mountains of bubble wrap that I have collected over the years
  • Paper is always printed on both sides and used for scrap before being recycled by our Council
  • Soft plastics and plastic bags are collected and deposited at Soft Plastic Recycling collections – supported by major brands who help pay for the collection, processing and recycling costs. 
  • I use Energy efficient light bulbs throughout my home and office and turn off all appliances at night and when not in use.
  • I make all of my jewellery myself, in my home studio in Titirangi, Auckland, New Zealand. So, my commute involves nothing but walking downstairs! 

repurposing bubble wrap instead of foam inserts in jewellery packaging

*Since mining new metal is fundamentally not an environmentally-friendly process, regardless of how many regulations have been put in place to make it more so, I would like nothing better than to use 100 percent recycled metals for everything. 

Accessibility, however, just doesn’t make this realistic.  For example 100 percent recycled chains, clasps and earring hooks just aren’t readily available.  Hopefully this will be remedied in the future, but in the meantime I fully support and utilise organisations that are working to improve mining practices and regulations, like A&E Metals and Morris & Watson.

Even if the jewellery industry switches to all recycled metals, new metals will continue to be mined for other industries, making the work of these organisations very important.

Materials

I only use 100% recycled .925 Sterling or .935 Argentium Silver, Copper or Brass wires for wrapping my pieces. All the wires used for rings, pendants and ornaments are made from 100% recycled Silver.

I also try to use recycled Silver in other areas (such as chains and hooks) where possible and am currently looking into sourcing such findings made from recycled materials, rather than trying to hand-make them myself.

Handmade Eco Sterling Silver wire hooks or clasps

However most of my current stock of earrings, necklaces and bracelets may have other components that are not made of recycled materials (such as clasps, ear wires, hooks and chain sections).

I currently purchase all of my recycled .925 Sterling and .935 Argentium Silver, Copper and Brass wires and chain from an Australian company (A&E Metals), who strive to create the most eco-friendly production conditions possible. However I will also look at being able to buy the same standard of products here in NZ.

As New Zealand is a small country, we do not currently make Cultured Freshwater Pearls here, so those items are bought mainly from China where they are man-made. However most other materials such as Swarovski Crystals, NZ Greenstone, Kauri Gum and Semi-precious stones are sourced from retailers within NZ.  

What does ‘recycled silver’ mean in this context?

My supplier takes scrap silver from jewellers, hobbyists, and other industrial uses – even old photographs! – and then refines it back to pure metals. The copper comes from old copper wire cables that would otherwise go into landfill.

They then recombine the silver and copper into the Sterling and Argentium Silver that I use in my designs. (Argentium Silver is more tarnish-resistant than Sterling).

I also like to use vintage materials and up-cycle your pre-loved and heirloom jewellery into new and distinctive designs. I often do this through Custom Orders (which are always welcome), or when people give me their pre-loved jewellery that they no longer want.

Packaging

Gift Boxes – my new gift box is made from a black cardboard base and a food-grade PVC lid, all of which is fully recyclable – should you wish to do so. 

Curlicue NZ Blue Diamond Pearl Pendant in gift box

Inside the boxes are product tags/ business information cards, on which the jewellery sits. These cards have been made using fibre from sustainable forests, are chlorine free, ISO 14001 certified, use Integrated Pollution Prevention Control and use environmentally friendly inks. There are also handmade re-purposed bubble wrap inserts – instead of foam.

Premium Gift Wrap – my New Zealand flax kete (woven bags) are not recyclable, or compostable – in fact flax has been used for a long time in textiles and weaving because of its known strength and durability properties.

small flax kete woven bag premium gift wrap

It is, however, great to re-use this wonderful bag for keepsakes and treasures!

As I grow and evolve, I will continue to look at other ways my business can be more environmentally friendly.

Social Objectives & Donations

I just wanted to share some of my personal philosophy and that which drives Curlicue NZ Jewellery.

I strongly believe in helping others – and those that can’t help themselves (such as animals and the natural environment) wherever and whenever I can and I am constantly looking at different ways that I can do this. My husband supports me in this and we have both taught our daughter to have the same values – to always be kind, and help others where possible.

Personally, I have volunteered my time and energies with different NZ charities including: Waitakere Guardian Angels, Plunket and Dress for Success (as well as school and kindy). We have also ‘adopted’ endangered wild animals through WWF, donated to the Red Cross on several one-off occasions and also donate food and toiletry items through our local patakas (community pantry) on an ad hoc basis.

As a family, animals are very important to us and we try to visit the Kruger National Park in South Africa every few years to enjoy the amazing wild animals that inhabit the park and help with conservation through park donations and educating others. We have also ‘adopted’ a different endangered animal every year for the past few years and have helped Snow Leopards, Amur Leopards and Polar Bears. 

The philosophy behind Curlicue NZ is to help women feel confident and elegant by wearing beautiful jewellery that has been inspired by nature.

Over the years that I have been in business, I regularly donate jewellery to support charity auctions for various causes both in NZ and internationally and want to donate part of my proceeds to endangered plants and animals in the future – I just need to work out how!

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