Shakti Ellenwood becomes the world’s fourth certified B Corp artisan jeweler

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What does it take for an independent jeweler to earn today’s most coveted sustainability certification? Since January 2022, Shakti Ellenwood was one of only four artisan jewelers in the world to hold the B Corporation label and the first goldsmith in the UK to achieve this grade. She crafts Fairtrade gold amulets and gemstone rings in her workshop on the outskirts of Dartmoor, England, with a meticulous approach to ethical jewelery that has earned her a B Corp score of 113.7 and status of best for the world 2022.

“It’s getting harder and harder to run a jewelry business without an ethical approach. People are looking for it now,” she says. “Even the fact that some businesses feel they need to whitewash the environment shows that there has been a shift. I hope consumers will continue to support small businesses, ask questions and push for more transparency.”

Shakti is hopeful for the future of the consumer-led movement towards greater sustainability and is encouraged by the agenda steps taken by industry leaders like De Beers. She thinks “things have come a long way” since she started working sustainably in 2011 and started using Fairtrade gold four years later.

However, it is perhaps the best sustainable jewelers like her that the rest of the industry should take inspiration from. Maybe we should all think a little more like Shakti and help make jewelry companies a force for good. Here’s how she does it.

What first attracted you to jewelry?

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time in India. It was in Asia that I realized I was creative, I played with leather belts, I made string necklaces – I think I was consciously looking for a creative outlet. Then I fell ill and an Israeli silversmith who lived on the top floor of my guest house in India treated me. I watched him sitting in a corner creating incredible pieces with gemstones and had a light bulb moment, I was mesmerized by the intricacy of it all.

Your work draws on the rituals and diverse cultures of the world. What is your biggest inspiration?

I am very inspired by my travels. I went to Mexico and spent time with artisan goldsmiths, then took jewelry courses in San Francisco. When I started my research, Egyptian and ancient jewelry immediately attracted me, I love their spiritual meaning. My work retains this old aspect.

My Thunderbird and Rainbow Serpent amulets were born from visions I had while taking tribal medicine during rituals in Mexico. The thunderbird is a mythological creature that is revered for creating the thunderstorms necessary for the harvest, it creates resounding claps of thunder, lightning bolts out of its eyes and has the strength to lift a killer whale. My Deer with a Peyote Button necklace was also inspired by a Huicholi Indian legend, I am fascinated by the folklore and mythology behind the symbolism.

What’s in the gold you love so much?

I love the color, texture and warmth of 18k gold, it’s like butter to work with. From a spiritual perspective, gold is pure, carries a high vibration, and can be used to transmit energy, which is why it is seen in churches, mosques, and other religious places.

I am a healer as well as a goldsmith. I am aware of the energy I put into my bespoke work and will often put healing codes into my jewelry so a particular piece can be used as a key to unlock happiness, protection. and blessings. I even chant mantras while working on pieces that aren’t made specifically for certain people, or say a prayer for jewelry. Indian mantras carry healing vibrations within them, all native tribes connect to the ancient feeling of spirit. It’s really important to me that jewelry goes beyond being pretty.

Why is an ethical approach so important to you?

There is a level of integrity that comes with trying to approach a business from a holistic perspective. I was convinced that jewelry was what I should do, so I was shocked when I heard about the atrocities in the mining world. I knew I had to find alternatives, I came across Fairtrade gold and it all went from there.

For me, an ethical approach to jewelry making comes from compassion for people, animals, and the environment. Specifically, I want no suffering to be part of the production of my raw materials and I believe the vibration carries over to the final piece.

You achieved B Corp certification with an outstanding score, did you expect it and why?

It was unexpected, I was actually worried if I would be able to pass at all! The whole process took a year, with the help of an independent B Corp jewelry consultant. I recently discovered that I am among the top 5% in the world in my area of ​​expertise, which makes me the best for the World B Corp 2022.

My score also reflects the high donation on my earnings; 2% of sales go to social and environmental causes, and I’m part of 1% for the Planet, which encourages businesses to donate 1% of their sales whether or not they’re profitable that year.

Tell me about some of the ways ethical jewelry can have a positive effect on the planet and its people.

Buying Fairtrade gold ensures that people working along the supply chain can live well. Miners often barely have the means to feed their families, children are forced to work with mercury in dangerous mines, it is very difficult to regulate. If you buy a Fairtrade piece of jewelery you know that the miners have been paid a fair wage, that safety and security are in place and that the mines are not poisoning the environment. They receive a 10% premium from Fairtrade, which allows the whole community to prosper – they can buy computers or build schools with them, for example. Fairtrade also invests in local crafts by working with organizations like Turquoise Mountain, which supports artisans in Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Middle East.

Choosing the right stone supplier means you can see what is going on at each mine and what they are doing in that country. I source my ethical diamonds from Candamark, who work with indigenous people to protect wildlife near their mines. I use rubies from Greenland Ruby, which supports polar bear research and climate change, through their Pink Polar Bear Foundation.

What three measures would you recommend to designer-makers to make their activities more sustainable?

1: Join an organization like the Fair Luxury Collective in the UK, with a shared vision for responsible mining and a sustainable future. It’s great to feel part of a community working towards the same goals, sharing ideas, information and research. I also took the Fair Luxury Pledge: once a year, the organization invites people to pledge to improve their business in a social and responsible way over the next 12 months.

2: Examine your materials, study the supply and research alternatives if you run into dead ends in terms of traceability. Botswana’s diamonds are now all traceable, but Africa is so vast and so corrupt that it is extremely difficult to ensure an ethical approach throughout.

3: Go to the B Corp website and start filling out the assessment to identify areas of your business that could be improved. It’s very specific and a very in-depth approach – especially when it comes to gold mining.

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