Ruby love

Jan 19 20160 Comments

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The luscious ruby has for centuries been one of the most sought after and admired gems. Along with diamond, emerald and sapphire it forms the 4 “precious” gems. As some of you may know, ruby and sapphire are actually the same mineral (corundum – from the Tamil word Kuruvindam). Red corundum is ruby and the rest are sapphire. 
Many of our gorgeous rubies are from Tanzania, and supplied to us by a British company that has a partnership with Tanzanian miners. Rubyfair.com supply these beautiful rubies knowing that the miners welfare, the environment and the ecology of the land have been given careful consideration. Other rubies we may use occasionally are from Mogok, in Burma, Sri Lanka and Australia, all from ethically sourced supplies with known origins. The depth and range of colours in rubies is just stunning. They’re hard little nuggets and rate 9 on the Mohs scale (Diamond is the only thing harder at 10). Which makes them not only beautiful, ethical but durable too…perfect for an engagement ring.

 

Our Australian Diamonds

Oct 29 20150 Comments

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Ethical and traceable diamonds from the Argyle mine in Western Australia, supplied by Origin Australia. We use diamonds from our very own beautiful continent, ethically mined, sourced with careful consideration for the environment and the local indigenous communities.. 
We buy both rough diamonds and cut diamonds from Australia and they come in a beautiful array of colours.
Particularly natural Pink, Blue, Champagne and Cognac colours. The majority of the world’s rare pink and red diamonds are from Argyle, with pink diamonds being some of rarest diamonds in the world.
Each diamond comes with it’s own certificate and serial number.
So much rare beauty on our own gorgeous doorstep!

Fairtrade Gold: East African Mines set to become certified

Aug 24 20150 Comments

We’re excited! – following the success of Fairtrade Gold in Latin America, a new Fairtrade Gold project was recently launched in East Africa.

One of the mines, which has entered into a Fairtrade deal with the UK, is in Geita, Tanzania. Tanzania is the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, with hundreds of thousands of the country’s miners working in harsh conditions with little pay and few prospects for their future. That could all soon change with the initiation of several gold mines across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to be working alongside Fairtrade to become certified Fairtrade Gold suppliers.

Gold mines must comply with the Fairtrade standard to become certified, and the benefits to miners and the surrounding community is huge. Miners are paid a Fairtrade Minimum price per kilo for the gold, they are given better bargaining power and collectively gain greater control of the jewellery supply chain. Working conditions are greatly improved, including adhering to safe workplace practices, the use of appropriate clothing and protective gear, and minimalizing the use of harsh chemicals. Communities benefit with more environmentally friendly mining practices, miners and their families are given more opportunity to create a successful profitable future in the mining industry and mines must eliminate child labour.

Artisanal and Small-scale Mines produce just 10-15 percent of global gold supplies, however they make up 90 percent of the global work force in gold extraction. Many of the ASM mines are in areas of high poverty and disadvantaged parts of society, where people often have limited options and are forced into mining to make a living. These miners and their families are caught in a vicious cycle of exploitation, illegality and many lack the skills or resources to move forward.

Fairtrade Gold means consumers have traceable supply chains and can be confident that they are purchasing ethical gold products, that make a difference by giving miners a fairer deal and better working environments, improving communities and increasing employment opportunities.

We’re looking forward to these new Fairtrade Gold Mines in Africa to start producing so we can create some beautiful Zoe Pook Jewellery with a little piece of Africa!East African gold mines set to be Fairtrade Certified

The Ruby – ethical, beautiful and durable

Aug 27 20140 Comments

The luscious ruby has for centuries been one of the most sought after and admired gems. Along with diamond, emerald and sapphire it forms the 4 “precious” gems.

As some of you may know, ruby and sapphire are actually the same mineral (corundum – from the Tamil word Kuruvindam). Red corundum is ruby and the rest are sapphire.

It’s found in many places around the world – but most famously in Burma. Happily, for ethical reasons there are other options. Tanzania, Malawi and Sri Lanka all offer excellent choices. (See my previous blog about sapphires for info on Sri Lanka’s mining practices.)

I source my Tanzanian rubies from a fantastic company called Ruby Fair who have taken ethical sapphire and ruby mining to Tanzania. Ruby Fair is a partnership between British jewellers and Tanzanian miners where both the miners’ welfare, the environment and ecology of the land and the final quality of the gemstones are all given careful consideration. I can source my sapphires safe in the knowledge that both the miners and the land are given due care and reward and I thank them for it!
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Malawian rubies come from the Chimwadzulu mine in the southern African county of Malawi. I source them through another great company called Columbia Gem House.

Columbia Gem House has extensive contracts with mine operators around the world. Its mining partners agree to support the company’s efforts to safeguard workers, the environment, and the integrity of the gems they produce. In fact, Columbia Gem House was one of the first jewellery industry companies to join the Fair Trade movement. Founder and director Eric Braunwart puts it beautifully: “This is what romancing the stone really means – making sure that people and the earth are treated with respect, and so that gemstones bring positive emotions to the lives of everyone who touch them.”

Finally, and a little more practically, rubies are hard little nuggets. They rate 9 on the Mohs scale (Diamond is the only thing harder at 10). Which makes them not only beautiful, ethical but durable too…perfect for an engagement ring.

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Commissioning an ethical bespoke engagement ring.

Jul 24 20140 Comments

Having a bespoke engagement ring commissioned can be a daunting process. I imagine it’s much like if I had to fix a car in order to ask my boyfriend to marry me. I would be a little intimidated.

Hopefully I can answer some questions here and allay some concerns.

Firstly, I am a nice person. I am not a high and mighty, snooty jeweller who will scoff at your knowledge of diamonds or turn my nose up at your budget.

The Start:   To begin, a quick email or a call is enough. You can let me know what kind of ring you are thinking of – you can send pictures, or just let me know ideas. Give me an idea of budget – a ballpark is fine and an idea of timeframes.

The Financials:   Most rings on my website fall between $3000 – $8000. Have a look around – but do compare like with like. I am more expensive than Prouds but a little cheaper than Chopard ; )

The Designs:   Some clients are 100% sure of what they want. Others are 1% sure. That’s ok! I’ll ask questions that come from years of experience in order for us to reach a final design that everyone is 100% happy with. I’ll sketch up some preliminary designs to begin with – obligation free. As long as they are on the right track, I’ll then send a quote and a 50% deposit will get me started.

The Making:   I could tell you how I do it but then I’d have to kill you…

The Finish:   When the ring is ready, the remainder of the payment is transferred and the ring is all yours.

The Proposal:   You’re on your own.

Sapphires – a great ethical choice

Jul 09 20140 Comments

I love it when a client asks me to design an engagement ring using sapphires. Not only are they beautiful, durable and available in a fantastic array of colours, they are also a good little ethical gem.  ecycled-platinum-engagement-ring-with-small-white-sapphire-halo-and-a-beautiful-ceylon-blue-sapphire

Most sapphires come from either Sri Lanka (commonly known as Ceylon Sapphires) and Australia. (Malawi and the USA should also get a mention!). Australia is a known quantity when considering the ethics involved in gem mining. Obviously, there is no child labour, workers are paid a fair price and employment laws are sound. Environmentally – whilst they are always improvements that can be made – on a world scale the practices are pretty sound. Sapphire from Australia tend to be denim blues, steely blues, yellows, greens and parti sapphires (green and blue or yellow and blue). Mining is small scale, often alluvial (panning and fossicking) and often family owned.

Sri Lanka has a long history of gem mining. It is a country full of beautiful gems. Corundum, which is the mineral specimen responsible for ruby and sapphire, is rich in Sri Lanka. It is well known that the best ‘cornflower’ blue sapphires come from Sri Lanka and if you are looking for an ethical ruby – Sri Lanka is a much better choice than Burma.

In terms of the miners – in Sri Lanka traditional methods are still used, miners work in groups called “karahaula”. These groups share profits from all gems found, they are overseen by an “uncle” who provides food, lodging and an allowance to each team member. More than that, each member of the group holds a share of the mine in return for contributing his labour. Child labour has been outlawed in Sri Lanka since 1992. Sri Lanka, whilst it has its problems, is a wonderful example of a gem rich country creating an ethical future for itself.

A special mention should go to an awesome company called Ruby Fair who have taken ethical sapphire and ruby mining to Tanzania. Ruby Fair is a partnership between British jewellers and Tanzanian miners where both the miners welfare, the environment and ecology of the land and the final quality of the gemstones are all given careful consideration. I can source my sapphires safe in the knowledge that both the miners and the land are given due care and reward and I thank them for it!

Whilst a blue sapphire is a thing of true beauty, the other colours of sapphire should not be overlooked. Rich yellows, baby pinks, bright oranges and vibrant purples to name a few – and if you don’t want a diamond – you can always have a white sapphire.

 

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Remodelling your existing rings – a guide.

Jul 02 20140 Comments

As an ethical jeweller I have many clients who come to me with sentimental rings and heirlooms that aren’t quite their style, or simply a stock of old jewellery that they never wear. Remodelling existing rings is a great way to bring another level of meaning into your jewellery or a great way to recycle something precious.

If you want to do this, there are a few guidelines that I’ll share with you. Firstly, if you have a ring which is yellow/rose gold, I can’t make it into white gold (and vice versa). Well, that’s almost true!  To turn yellow/rose gold into white gold you need to extract the pure gold (i.e. remove all alloys) and then re-alloy the pure gold with the correct alloys to make it white. (Confused yet?).  This can be done on a large scale but is simply not cost effective on a small scale.  However, I can rhodium plate a yellow/rose gold ring which will give it the appearance of being white (while secretly being yellow… shh!)

Secondly, melting vintage gold is hazardous! As I can never really know what alloys are in the gold, I can never be 100% sure of the end result. Some alloys will explode (ouch), some will burn green (pretty) and some will cause porosity in the final metal (boo..). Having said this, 99% of the time it’s fine – and there are special, secret jeweller tricks that I can use to ensure a good end result.

Once I have melted the gold then I can start on re-modelling it into the perfect piece. I can use vintage gems that you have if you wish, or we can source new ones to suit the design. Then, in a few weeks you can be wearing something new and wonderful made from that sentimental ring or that stock of beautiful gold that was not being loved!

I am always happy to answer questions (they are free!) so if there is something you’ve been wanting to know / wondering if it’s possible etc then shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can help. zoe@zoepook.com

Greg Valerio explains why Fairtrade Gold is so important.

Apr 16 20140 Comments

Are you one of Fairtrade gold’s 50,000?

Published on Rhythm’s. Tear Funds on-line platform for youth and community leaders. Visit http://rhythms.org/

As I stood on the edge of the half hill and looked down I was astounded by what was happening here. Indentured slavery, extreme exploitation, and child labour in the murderous heat of the Rajasthani desert. It beggared belief that this level of pre-civilisation style exploitation of human dignity could be permitted anywhere in modern India. This Garnet mine was feeding the booming Jaipur jewellery economy, that in turn fed the world jewellery markets with cut and polished coloured gemstones for the silver jewellery markets of UK and US high streets. As a jeweller it turned my world upside down  as I witnessed the horrors at the source of one of the world’s most creative products, jewellery. How could I sell a piece of jewellery to a customer, let alone buy a piece of jewellery if I did not have a guarantee on the conditions in which my gemstones, silver, gold or diamonds were coming from.

Small-scale mining next to the Nizi River.

Small-scale mining next to the Nizi River D.R. Congo. This is the reason why we need Fairtrade Gold

As my journey into the soft and dirty underbelly of the jewellery trade continued over the years I would learn of the 100 million people who are dependent on artisanal and small-scale mining. This is the  second biggest employer on the planet. The gross and obscene economic injustice, where the $230 billion USD in 2012 credited to gold DID NOT trickle down to the 15 million artisanal gold miners in the world. Where mercury, one of the most toxic substances on the planet is systemically used by artisanal miners to amalgamate their tiny portions of gold from the rock they have crushed, as this comment from one of Fairtrade’s pilot gold miners in Uganda told us;

“…from the time of conception to the birth of my son, I have been using my bare hands to pan. The same container that I used for panning is the same that I used at home to bathe in. And when I gave birth, I used the very basin to bathe him. Today after learning about the adverse effects of mercury on our health, I realise that mercury could be the reason for my son’s eye defect…”

Stella Adeke, woman miner in Busia Region of Uganda

It seems amazing that the huge cultural changes in our country (UK) around ethics in clothing, food, footwear e.t.c. that have in so many ways changed the progressive elements of our society and improved the buying habits of the last two generations has not had any major impact on the jewellery profession. The truth is jewellery is 100% built upon extraction industries, that are the most exploitative, corrupt, polluting and generally deeply unpleasant sectors of industry in our world.

Women miners working with Fairtrade Africa towards Fairtrade Gold certification

Women miners working with Fairtrade Africa towards Fairtrade Gold certification.

This is why in simple terms we need fair trade in jewellery. And it has now started with Fairtrade Gold. Fairtrade standards in any product are meticulous and thorough. With all the huge challenges faced by artisanal miners, Fairtrade’s response has been a long while in the pipe. Launched in 2011, it has taken a few years to bed down and is now ready to spearhead a consumer led response to the human rights, environmental and livelihoods issue that keep so many miners in abject poverty. The backing of consumer’s willing to raise their voices in asking jewellers to stock Fairtrade Gold, will now be essential if the Fairtrade certified miners are to achieve their goal of better livelihoods and justice for their communities they will need our support.

The power of Fairtrade to transform lives has become a well established fact in the UK over the last 15 years, however the introduction of Fairtrade Gold as the newest Fairtrade product, presents us all with a fresh challenge.

Fairtrade Gold Stamp

Fairtrade Gold Stamp

Fairtrade has never tackled a ‘mined’ product. This will be Fairtrade’s first journey into ‘the high end luxury consumer market‘ in gold jewellery, so in many respects the activists and those with a vision to change the world have a fresh an exciting challenge. Just how are we going to switch on the UK to Fairtrade Gold?

The Fairtrade Stamp on a wedding ring also guarantees you that the gold you are buying comes from a certified mine. My friends at Earthworks have worked out that the average 18ct wedding ring creates 20 tonnes of toxic waste. What I hear you gasp, yes 20 tonnes of toxic waste. Imagine walking down the aisle in Church, exchanging your wedding rings and flushing 40 tonnes of toxicity down the toilet. Fairtrade certified gold changes the gold trade from being a dirty business, into a business of economic and environmental justice.

The iconic gold jewellery symbol is the wedding ring. A symbol of love, affection, commitment, solidarity and faithfulness between people. Let us make it culturally unacceptable to buy a wedding ring that has not been created from certified Fairtrade gold. Imagine for a moment that in the UK 50,000 weddings in 2014 were to exchange Fairtrade gold rings. This would mean in real terms, 100,000 rings purchased, close to 500kgs of Fairtrade gold coming from certified Fairtrade miners and $1,000,000USD of Fairtrade premium being invested into the mining communities businesses, communities and social development. This idea simple idea puts consumers, back in touch with the origins of the gold they buy and ensures that the money that is spent on weddings rings does not disappear down a black hole of corporate mining company profiteering, but rather goes back to the pockets of the poor and marginalised artisanal and small-scale miners who are Fairtrade certified.

So lets be one of the first 50,000 to turn the tide in favour of Fairtrade miners. Lets commit to buying, and promoting to our friends who are getting married the idea of buying Fairtrade Gold wedding rings. If you need to find a jeweller working with Fairtrade gold all you need to do is visit The Fairtrade Foundation Gold web page, click on ‘where to buy’ and you will find all the licensed jewellery across the UK.  For worldwide suppliers, see here: http://www.fairgold.org/retailpartners/page/2/

How to bring the sparkle back to your jewellery

Apr 09 20140 Comments

As some of you may know, we offer a free clean and polish service every two years for your wedding and engagement rings.  However, many clients ask me how best to look after their rings on a daily basis – so I thought I would share with everyone my trade secrets for cleaning and caring for your precious jewellery.

 

Firstly, it’s important to remember that although gold and diamonds are pretty tough as materials go, they are still prone to wear and tear.  So, you know, if you are rock climbing, building a house, mining, hand to hand fighting – take your rings off!    A good rule of thumb to keep your rings looking as beautiful as possible for as long as possible is – they should be the first things you take off in the evening and the last thing you put on in the morning (after perfume, moisturisers etc)

 

A simple and cheap trick to cleaning your jewellery is to rub a small amount of toothpaste on and clean the ring gently with a toothbrush. Another technique is to get a fine paintbrush, dollop on some dishwashing detergent and clean under warm running water.  It’s important to clean behind the gems too to keep them sparkling. Then dry with a hair dryer if it’s handy..

 

For diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other non porous precious gems, cloudy ammonia will bring back their sparkle.  Just get a cup full of warm water and add a cap full of cloudy ammonia. Dip the ring in the cup of water a couple of times and then gently scrub with a toothbrush.  Beware not to use cloudy ammonia with porous gems like pearls, topaz, tanzanite, turquoise, simulants etc. Also, beware not to put a green gem in very hot water – they don’t like it!

 

Unfortunately to get the dents and scratches out you will need to take the ring to a jeweller to have it professionally repolished – luckily for my clients that’s free!

How a wedding ring is made…

Mar 26 20140 Comments

I thought this week I’d let you all in on how a wedding ring (band) is made.  I have simplified it a bit (so it fits on the page!) and taken out all the bashed fingers and burnt worktops (no-one is perfect…).

 

Gold ready for melting

 

Here the gold is in granule form in the crucible ready to be melted down. Once melted I will pour it whilst still molten into the black ingot bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold melted into a bar

 

Here’s the gold after it has been poured into the ingot bar and cooled.

 

 

 

 

Milling the gold down to the right size and shape

 

This is the rolling mill where the gold gets shaped. I pass the gold bar through the mill, progressively squeezing the gold marginally each time until I have the size and shape that I need.  At frequent intervals throughout this process I have to heat the metal up to ensure its flexibility.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready for shaping into a ring

Here the gold has been shaped, measured and cut to the right size and is now ready for forming into a circle.

 

 

 

 

 

Soldering the join

 

Here the ring has been formed into a rough circle and now the two ends need to be soldered together.  I place a tiny slither of gold solder on the join and then heat the whole ring until the solder melts and fuses the two ends together.

 

 

 

Hammering on the mandrel to make a perfect circle

 

Now the ring is hammered onto a round mandrel to shape it into a perfect circle.

 

 

 

 

All finished ready for polishing

 

 

The finished rings ready for polishing!

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