Ethical jewellery isn’t just about using recycled and sustainable materials. It’s about the care, craft, and creativity put into each piece by those sourcing, supplying, designing, and making.
Sofia is one of these people. I had the pleasure of asking her some questions about her brand, SofiasConnection, and what it takes to have your own ethical jewellery business.
Sofia started the brand when she realised she wasn’t living a life authentic to herself; ‘I had done academic degrees, was approaching my 30’s, and was completely dissatisfied. I questioned everything and began to dig deeper and figure out who I was, who I wanted to be, [and] where my passions lie.’
Despite being a creative individual, she was often deterred from pursuing creative pathways, in particular graphic and fashion design, being told to pursue something “more serious.” A few years ago, she ‘took a leap of faith and decided to learn the craft of silversmithing, something [she] always wanted to do, but never allowed [herself] to.’
Her creative nature and drive meant she threw herself into learning a craft that requires patience and intricacy, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she decided to create a brand and business from it. She describes SofiasConnection as ‘classic, an ethnic fusion, conscious, sustainable, and wild woman spirited.’ From her cuffs, necklaces, and rings, you can see just that.
There are always challenges when starting your own business, let alone a sustainable brand. Finding sustainable materials is difficult, and this is one of the biggest challenges Sofia has faced. ‘I want something completely zero waste, but with the standard of my pieces, I have to have suitable protection in the boxes. Currently, the only option for this [are] foam inserts, which unfortunately, are not zero waste. I am actually still trying to find another option and [I’m] in conversation with somebody about creating a better option to bring to the market.’
Sourcing sustainable materials can be quite limiting, ‘I use precious materials only, and not all options required for custom pieces have been [made] available in this way. I also haven’t found a supplier for recycled Argentium silver yet (hypoallergenic silver).’ Despite not yet being able to find a supplier, Argentium silver is kinder to the environment than sterling silver, as less chemicals are used in its process.
Sustainable value is really important, and any obstacles haven’t hindered Sofia in her mission to produce high quality, ethical jewellery. Not only do her suppliers have recycled options, but Sofia’s ‘Maya Collection’ was inspired from her wanting to make use of scrap metal leftovers – ‘all the pieces have been largely made from melted down silver or gold that I’ve refashioned into the pieces of this collection.’
When it comes to diamond mining and trading, there are lot of detrimental social and environmental impacts. Most notably, the children forced into mining. Other detrimental impacts include physical and sexual abuse, poor working conditions, as well as soil erosion, deforestation, and the destruction of ecosystems.
SofiasConnection uses lab grown diamonds due to the state of the mining and trading industry. Her supplier in Antwerp cultivates stones in a lab, and ‘the natural environment in which crystallised carbon in diamond cubic form grows, is simulated. So, you get the same gorgeous stones, with the exact same physical properties, same luxurious sparkle, without harming the earth.’
At first, she was sceptical. But she ‘compared them with cubic zirconia (synthetic stones) and they are far superior, and identical to natural diamond. They are slightly cheaper, but not by that much, [which] gives you a sense of their superb quality.’
The production happens in her garden studio. Silversmithing involves toxic chemicals to remove any tarnishing, so Sofia has been experimenting with a natural solution – vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
Two years after starting her brand, SofiasConnection is now nearly 100% circular in its production. She says ‘I’m constantly learning though, and always trying to improve, whether in my work or private life. Suppliers has sent things wrapped in a whole load of plastic which is frustrating, but I never fail to give them a piece of [my] mind. The biggest supplier now uses paper or biodegradable plastic because of customer complaints.’
‘Individuals really can make a difference, and it is so great to see the sustainable fashion trend going mainstream.’
Her newest collection, the Collarette Collection, was developed due to the lack of ready-made recycled chains for pendants. ‘I had the idea for the collarettes as neck jewellery because I can make them from 100% recycled materials.’ Most of this collection is available on the website now.
SofiasConnection works mainly on a made to order basis, apart from a few items that are in stock on her website. In September, Sofia will be reopening made to order as she is on a well-earned break. But her website still has some items in stock.
Thank you to Sofia for answering my questions and opening my eyes to the world of ethical jewellery. SofiasConnection is proof that you can create high-quality, gorgeous pieces whilst being mindful of the environment.