High jewellery meets art and design - Designer Ana Khouri talks about the challenges in the jewellery industry and her collaboration with Fairmined
In an interview with Ana Khouri, jewellery designer and founder of the label Ana Khouri
© Ana Khouri | Photography by Alex Nataf
Author: House of Eden
The high jewellery designer Ana Khouri is known for her extravagant accessories. But not only aesthetics and design, sustainability also plays a major role for the New York based jewellery label. In her manifesto, the designer emphasises on the importance of fair jewellery and her collaboration with Fairmined. According to her, the only way forward for the jewellery industry, is to collectively scale back the environmental footprint.
In an interview with Haus von Eden, the native Brazilian talks about the challenges of sustainable jewellery and the magical synergy between artful design and fair jewellery as well as the role of organisations like Fairmined.
© Ana Khouri | Photography by Herring & Herring
"My idea of jewellery goes beyond the intended purpose of ornamentation"
Fair jewellery inspired by art and sculpture
In 2000, while still in art school, I had a show where I showcased my sculptures on bodies. After the show, I received an order to adapt the pieces into smaller versions to be worn as jewellery. From that moment, my interest was triggered and that led me to begin studying jewellery making and design. After a few years of experimenting and with a wider understanding of what my work was about I felt confident to launch my New York based namesake line, Ana Khouri, in 2013.
My idea of jewellery goes beyond the intended purpose of ornamentation, entering more into the realm of art and sculpture. The designs are about the myriad ways that a piece can take shape on the wearer, and the balance the work creates with the body and as an extension of it. It is a very intimate process and a never-ending evolution of my artistic and aesthetic vision. Rather than a fashion business that follows any trend, it is about looking inside to who you are and what you believe and being true to that.
Fairmined as a way to sustainable jewellery design
Let’s start by the gold: the only way to reduce our footprint as jewelers is to work with initiatives such as Fairmined. They have developed the Fairmined Standard for gold and Associated Precious Metals to support sustainable development of artisanal and small-scale mining communities. The standard includes requirements for organisations to perform responsible artisanal and small-scale mining: formal and legal mining operations, environmental protection labor conditions, traceability of Fairmined minerals, and socio-economic development through the Fairmined Premium.
Fairmined Standard for Gold, Image source & copyright by Fairmined
We have also worked with FairTrade. As for our gems, they are also ethically and responsibly sourced. There are a lot of mines recently working with us to make sure their communities are kept as preserved as possible - environmentally and socially - with programs that recover degraded areas with replantation for example. Workers are having better working conditions, focused on keeping their well being with better compensations and fair working hours. Working with responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organisations are a great option.
The only way forward is to collectively scale back our environmental footprint. That entails nothing less than a fundamental change in the way we live and what choices we make - which fuels we use, the food we eat and how it is raised, what we wear and how it is made. Jewellery is just another part of the whole spectrum, yet on this matter, of course choosing to work with ethically and responsibly sourced materials allows us to help and promote those working towards change.
Bureaucracy as a bottleneck for fair jewellery
The investment it takes to extract gems and minerals correctly is high and the bureaucracy it takes to implement the projects is what's keeping the sector behind - but we are hopeful that things can change for the better. There are many levels of commitment. If the main focus of a brand or a company is being profitable then we have challenges. The mindset needs to change and that takes time. I was brought up with such beliefs, so it felt natural to me to bring them into my work and my brand. I've always believed that you should do what you believe in, stand out and make a change. I want to help promote responsible, ethical, social and environmental practices, contributing to the change I want to see in the world.
Does fair jewellery work with alternatives like recycled gold and lab diamonds?
I have used recycled gold in the past and it was a great experience. I am proud to be part of the Fair Trade Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM.) I appreciate my colleagues and the discussions on ethics and environmental practices. Of course, the entire community is focused on finding solutions, among others there is a great team working on traceable diamonds. If we will be able to trace a diamond back to its origin, it will be game changing.
Lab diamonds however, are not an alternative for me. I believe a natural stone has no comparison. A natural diamond is unique and rare. Nothing that is man-made can be compared to Nature .
© Ana Khouri
Sustainable jewellery embodies the desire for lasting value
Sustainability is defined by the same elements that are found in all great work - quality, care, delicate craft and timelessness. It is the desire for lasting value; to know where things are sourced and how they are made; and, to know that the companies we place our trust in are doing things ethically and responsibly. That should be the only measure of a product or an industry. We need to speak up and get everyone educated on these matters. Once that happens things will change faster.
Gemstones and precious metal are of ethereal beauty
Though we have a sense of what the natural world looks and feels like, we have little understanding of where it’s magic comes from. Creating art was once our way of participating in and understanding that magic. It was a way to bring us closer to nature; of striving to reconnect with it. If the mind and hands are our tools, then perhaps the act of making is a process by which the same mystical energy flows.
It may seem odd to say so, considering the scientific and technological abundance we find ourselves in. But the more those pursuits overrun our lives, the more we lose a sense for the connection we have with the world. My own sense of this dissociation is at the root of my desire to reconnect with Nature through my work.
An awareness of that has always been essential to my process, but it’s come to have a special relevance for me. From the beginning, my work has been a way to communicate a sense of harmony - of knowing my place in the world and being fully present within it. It allowed me to see what had been right in front of me, something so fundamental to life but so often muted by man-made distractions - the interconnectedness of all that surrounds us.
My dearest jewellery piece, is always the one I'm working on right now.
Thank you for the interview, Ana Khouri.