Within my wedding planning business I try to be as sustainable as I can be. I also like to work with suppliers who share my respect and love for the natural environment. Businesses who aim to be as sustainable / green / eco-friendly as they can be.
Weddings are known to have particularly high carbon footprints and I am always looking for ways that my couples can cut their footprint down.
Wedding jewellery can be a contentious issue these days. However, there are ways to avoid these issues. In Nethy Bridge, in the Highlands of Scotland, I am privileged to share the village with Amy Niven, an amazing jewellery maker and tutor. Her business The Third Aye, is environmentally friendly jewellery making. Not only does Amy create stunning pieces, but she runs workshops for couples who wish to make their own sustainable wedding rings.
I recently chatted with Amy. Here is what she says about her business and also the sustainable wedding jewellery industry.
Tell me a little about what you do, the materials you use and where they are sourced from.
As a trained jewellery designer, maker and tutor and my motto is this: connect, create, celebrate.
These are the things which drive me to do what I do, when I am designing and making jewellery commissions or guiding people through the wonderful process of making their own wedding rings. There has to be connection, whether it is between loved ones, person and place or a personal story calling to be expressed. I work in recycled silver and gold to create exactly what my clients request. These items tend to be for very special occasions. It is with celebration of life and the energy of love and gratitude that each piece is made in my workshop.
How are you a sustainable business?
Sustainability is one of the core values which I share with my clients. It is so important to consider the impact of each step in the process of my work and to always select the most ethical, non-toxic and environmentally friendly options. Recycled silver and gold are my preferred metals and being custom made, every item is made to order to reduce waste and also to ensure a personalised fit for extra comfort and peace of mind. My packaging is made of Fairtrade cotton and FSC certified eco-cardboard and my clients have the option to choose a wooden ring box which I make by hand using local birchwood offcuts.
Do your clients ever ask to use their existing jewellery to make new rings?
Absolutely, I have melted down family gold to make new rings to be cherished for their beauty and sentimental value, it is a great honour to be entrusted to do this for couples. I had a recent project which entailed melting down a chunky gold bracelet to make two wedding rings, a sword kilt pin and a pair of hoop earrings. They even had enough gold left over should anyone else in the family wish to have rings made at a later date. This is a very environmentally conscious way to create wedding rings.
Tell me a little about your workshops
Oh my workshops are special! There is something so magical about seeing someone do something with their own hands which they never knew was possible. I absolutely adore the opportunity and privilege of sharing with a couple in creating something so precious as their wedding rings. Some couples make their own rings and some even have enough trust to make each other’s! We have a consultation in person or online to discuss the materials, sizing and style of the rings and then come together to truly connect, create and celebrate! Couples make their rings from scratch, measuring, sawing, soldering, filing, polishing until they have wedding jewellery to be very proud of. We can document the day with images to keep forever as a happy memory of the day. Soon we will even have some accommodation here so couples can make a holiday of it and take their time to relax in the woods surrounding the studio.
Do you find that your clients are quite conscientious about where the materials are sourced?
Most of my clients are very conscientious and that is what draws them to my jewellery because we tend to be like-minded people who love the outdoors and have great respect for our natural environment. Sometimes though people come without having considered that aspect, simply because they’ve never had to think about it before and that’s ok too because I am more than happy to discuss the options available to them, it can be an education!
What would your advice be to couples wanting to have sustainable wedding rings?
It is advisable to get in touch with small-scale jewellers who have sustainability as a clear core value in their making process. As individuals we know every step of our process and can explain each stage, which material options there are and how we minimise environmental or ethical impacts. Look for jewellers using recycled, Fairtrade or Fairmined precious metals and have a chat about the steps they take to use non-toxic methods and ethically sourced gemstones.
Do you use lab-grown diamonds and what are your thoughts about them?
Yes, there is some debate about lab-grown versus mined diamonds. It is well known that the diamond mining industry has been accused of very serious human rights violations in some parts of the world and so it is an important subject to consider. Additionally, there are the environmental impacts of mining to be considered which are by no means negligible. For these reasons I would opt for lab-grown diamonds as they have the same chemical and physical properties as naturally mined diamonds and are guaranteed conflict-free, they are also less expensive. But do make sure they come from a lab using 100% renewable energy as it takes a lot of energy to make these little sparkly stones. One of the most sustainable and potentially sentimental options of course is to give new life to unworn old diamonds which, if they’re old enough, were cut differently and have a lot of character.
Finally, do you have anything else you would like to say about the use of gold or diamonds within the wedding industry?
There’s no getting away from the fact that precious metals and gemstones are natural resources and sourcing them should be a carefully considered process. It can be tempting to go to a high street store to get less expensive jewellery when weddings can cost a lot of money. But if minimising our environmental footprint is important to you, and I think that includes almost everyone these days, it pays in the long run to have a clear conscience every time you glance at your wedding rings.
Some people now are even choosing to skip the diamond engagement ring and choose to have special commission wedding rings instead as a symbol of equality which is definitely one way to avoid the diamond decision. But if diamonds are forever for you, there are plenty of eco-friendly options, you could even go for a Cairngorm quartz to keep it truly local!
Above all, remember your wedding’s most important element, the celebration of love.
If you would like to contact Amy you can contact her via her website at https://www.thethirdaye.com/contact
I cannot recommend Amy’s work enough and for couples looking to get married here in the Cairngorms National Park, why not enjoy a pre wedding, weekend celebration in Nethy Bridge and create your own unique wedding rings. Each time you look at your rings in the years ahead, you will know that there was no damage to the environment in the process, but instead, a whole lot of fun together.
I would love to hear your thoughts about sustainable ideas for weddings. If you have got an idea which I could recommend to my clients, please do email me at email@example.com.