Jewellery is a fantastic way to show off your unique style and turn even the simplest outfit into something special.
But, pretty jewels often have an ugly backstory. For many centuries, precious metals (such as gold) often combined with gemstones, have been the popular materials for jewellery making. Unfortunately, when these popular materials are mined it often results in extreme environmental damage including the contamination of water sources due to the leakage of harmful chemicals. Currently, in South Africa, there are 86 gold mines, and 48 diamond mines operating, and the country is ranked sixth as the world’s largest diamond producer by volume.
Not all jewellery causes harm. In contrast to these extractive practices, we have noticed a rise in local brands making jewellery using more ethical and sustainable production practices to create treasured adornments. These practices include using recycled materials or materials with a lower environmental impact, implementing ethical labour practices, and cultivating supply chain transparency.
So, if sustainability and ethics are important to you, but you still want to add some sparkle to your outfits, this article is for you! Whether you’re looking for custom engagement rings or a simple pendant to wear with your favourite outfit, here are some of the best ethical and sustainable local jewellery makers to consider:
The Herd is inspired by and pays homage to the iconic beading culture pioneered and mastered by Nguni women. The Herd works with highly skilled women artisans from marginalised communities to create neckpieces that honour the practice of beading. In doing so, the brand also aims to create a sustainable social and economic development model by creating dignified work opportunities for all their artisans. These neckpieces are more than jewellery – they are wearable archives, art, and mediums for generational storytelling.
- To learn more about The Herd, click here.
Care, consideration, and keen attention to detail are at the heart of local jewellery brand, AuTerra. Started by Ashley Heather in 2011, AuTerra makes heirloom-worthy jewellery, with an eco-friendly twist. The AuTerra timeless pieces are made from reclaimed silver and gold from e-waste.
- To learn more about AuTerra, click here.
Jungli is a Cape Town-based brand creating sculptural jewels. The brand was started in 2017, by Leila Khan and La’eeqa Mosamin, as an act of reclamation in response to widespread cultural appropriation in the fashion and jewellery industry. Their offering of handmade products is inspired by their cultural heritages and includes everything from pearl chokers and bold brass earrings, to anklets and sweetmeat-inspired ear adornments.
- To learn more about Jungli, click here.
Ma’art combines traditionally-inspired pieces with modern construction techniques to create contemporary African jewellery that is distinctly sculptural. Ma’art Jewellery mainly works with materials such as brass, silver and wood or incorporated with found objects. Drawing inspiration from the geometry of the objects and the relationship it shares with the body, each jewellery piece narrates and conveys different stories.
- To learn more about Ma’art, click here.
MONI x MOYIN
Founded by a mother and daughter duo, Moni and Moyin Oloruntoba, Moni x Moyin designs unique jewellery that celebrates female relationships. The offering consists of a line of stylish jewellery primarily made of brass and stainless steel plated in gold. Moni x Moyin offers chic simplicity.
- To learn more about Moni x Moyin, click here.
NICE & LUCKY
For those looking for fun, vibrant, colourful and chunky gems, Nice & Lucky have got you covered. Nice & Lucky offers designer rings, each unique and made by hand, for sizes small to x-large. This is a brand that understands the assignment ‘Go big and bold or go home’.
- To learn more about Nice & Lucky, click here.
Care and attention to detail are visibly shown through each piece that Nina Bosch creates. Influenced by her family of ceramic artists, Nina creates fine porcelain jewellery. Her artistic jewellery is creatively handmade and incorporates a variety of different materials, creating pieces that are naturally inspired by geometric and organic shapes.
- To learn more about Nina Bosch, click here.
Ntozinhle Accessories creates African tribal accessories, skilfully crafted by local women. Ntozinhle focuses on contemporary beadwork which has been carefully handcrafted with leather and beads. The Sowetan brand offers pieces inspired by the Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa and Venda craft, created with love and wisdom using bright and vibrant colour glass beads.
- To learn more about Ntozinhle, click here.
Oola Jewels is a brand with a vision to create modern jewellery inspired by you. Oola Jewels are playful, easy to wear, and unique using materials that are not only good for you but the planet as well. Each piece is designed to elevate the most basic look and can be mixed and matched to create a look that is unique to the wearer. Products are made from naturally harvested pearls and glass beads.
- To learn more about Oola Jewels, click here.
Pichulik is an ethical jewellery and accessories atelier based in Cape Town. Pichulik’s jewellery offers quality, pieces created to adorn your body and make you feel like the very best version of yourself. Pieces are inspired by stories of heroines from different cultures; creating jewellery that empowers the owner by connecting with strong female icons.
- To learn more about Pichulik, click here.
Soul Design was established in the heart of Kalk Bay and is a collaboration of talented artisans that aims to create handmade jewellery using local materials. Their jewellery pieces are keepsakes of modern African creativity, each telling a story about a different part of the continent.
- To learn more about Soul Design, click here.
TALI & DAMY
Made from sterling silver and brass, Tali & Damy’s pieces are handmade, beautiful, timeless and can be worn on all occasions. Adelaide Mavu started Tali & Damy in 2017 to create pieces that are nickle-free, using locally-sourced materials. Their designs are inspired by organic shapes and basic elements.
- To learn more about Tali & Damy, click here.
Thingo meaning ‘rainbow’ in isiZulu, is a Durban-based jewellery brand manufacturing simple yet elegant jewels and custom pieces that have been made with love and care. Their minimalist designs are inspired by Zulu culture and involve soldering memories in simple pieces of metal from studs to spinning pendants and more.
- To learn more about Thingo, click here.
So, next time you are looking to treat yourself or a loved one to a new jewellery piece, take a look at this list and support a local, small business that is kind to the planet and people. They are bound to give you an extra sparkle when you may need it.
- Cover image: Soul Design
- Images supplied.