Fashion contributor George Toon proposes we engage in reusing and recycling our old bits of jewellery at the I DO exhibition at Cox + Power, Chiltern Street
I recently started a business venture with a woman I met in the pub when we were both drunk out of our minds. She plans to run an ethical clothing boutique and wants me to be one her designers. Obviously I said yes. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this from lending a lighter to a random woman outside a pub in Wimbledon. To start off with, we are researching the market, seeing as much as possible and getting our names recognised: one such event was I DO, a Fair Trade Gold Exhibition at Cox + Power.
I imagine you’re familiar with the film Blood Diamond in which the true story of the diamond trade comes to light, where jewels are mined by what are essentially slaves in war-torn African countries. Unfortunately, this practice still occurs today, not just with diamonds but with other precious materials too, and this exhibition aims to rectify that.
On our pitifully small student budgets we couldn’t possibly afford these hand crafted jewels, which cost anything between £200 to well over £1500. However, I think it is still worth your while to go and see the exhibition anyway, even if it is to pretend that you are rich and you can afford all of this for one afternoon. After all, it’s free to go! The jewellery itself is beautifully crafted. My favourite works were a cicada broach by Harriet Kelsall Jewellery and the collection by the award-winning Erica Sharpe, with gorgeously delicate natural curls inspired by Art Nouveau. This fair trade jewellery market is set to expand over the coming years as more and more consumers wake up to the horrors occurring in mining across the world (need I mention the Chilean Miners of 2010 who worked at a copper-gold mine?). Currently there are an estimated sixty fair trade jewellers in the UK practicing ‘professionally’ which is set to rise even more as the demand for ethical fair trade jewellery increases. Cox + Power itself intend to move away from fair trade one-offs to a more permanent collection in their store.
This is all well and good for the concerned bankers and footballers’ wives of Chelsea and Marylebone, but seems a world away from the reach of students. The exhibition, however, made me think about things that I, a student who wears a lot of jewellery, can do. Off the top of my head I thought of trading jewellery with friends, buying jewellery that will last rather than the plastic earrings from Primark, and possibly reusing jewellery in interesting ways – I transformed two World War One medals into earrings.
I encourage you to seriously think about recycling and reusing your gems and jewels. I know it can be tricky and finding the right necklace or broach can be hard but give it a go nonetheless. And what you make will be completely unique.
The “I DO” Exhibition runs from Thursday 15th January to Thursday 29th February, Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 18:00, at Cox + Power (10-12 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7PX).