Our Approach to Making Jewelry More Sustainably - A Step By Step Breakdown
Let’s start by saying that this is a beast of a topic. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and this is just one of many posts that will explain how we are doing our best to make jewelry the right way. One important place to start is by acknowledging that we are not doing everything perfectly. We don’t have all the answers; we don’t even know all of the questions. But when in doubt, we always remember that perfect is not the enemy of the good. Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. So we do what we can.
It is also notable to acknowledge that Many Hands is a super small operation. With just one owner/founder/designer/maker, the business enjoys a lean and flexible model. Our challenges and questions evolve as we do, and we are prepared to explore more goals as we grow.
For now, it seems the best way for us to examine our operations is through a custom lifecycle assessment. We dissect each stage of our jewelry production process to help evaluate key impact areas, and promote a circular economy through restorative and regenerative design. This closed-loop lifecycle eliminates waste and helps restore and extend the value of earth’s valuable resources.
Even before sourcing begins, we integrate the principles of circularity into the design process. Circularity is a term that all businesses and consumers should know and love; it is a key concept embedded within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as captured in SDG12, which aims to promote resource and energy efficiency in order to reduce economic and environmental costs.
Designing for circularity means considering the full lifecycle of our jewelry - making durable and repairable pieces, and ensuring that precious metals can be recycled into an input material for the production of a different product. Sometimes this means modifying a design, like avoiding premade components made from metals of unknown origins (think premade chain, clasps, and earring posts). We may just choose to hand-make those parts from responsible materials instead.
Using resources mined from the earth, including metals and precious stones, is inherently unsustainable. In an effort to minimize our negative impact, Many Hands sources recycled metals and encourages conservation. Using recycled metals reduces the demand for destructive mining pits, and instead recovers the value of existing minerals.
As we integrate gold into our product selection, we will prioritize the millions of artisanal and small-scale (ASM) miners who depend on the mining industry for survival. The best way for jewelry brands to do this is by choosing Fairmined or otherwise “certified” artisanal gold. Unlike recycled gold, choosing certified ASM gold helps directly support miners who are doing their part to demonstrate responsible practices. Gold extraction is inevitable due to its inherent global financial value, so it is essential for all industry partners (including consumers) to actively promote improvements by purchasing certified ASM gold. The question of recycled vs. ASM certified gold is a somewhat debated topic, and one that we will certainly keep exploring.
Many Hands partners with suppliers who monitor their supply chain carefully, engage in safe labor practices, and protect the health of their employees and the planet. We ask questions, and we do our research.
The jewelry industry is typically very secretive about sourcing and suppliers. But that just doesn’t make sense when it comes to scaling industry-wide responsible jewelry production. In the spirit of transparency and collaboration, we plan to keep an updated list of Suppliers who offer responsible metals and materials.
Check out the current list here → Our Suppliers & Production Partners
The production process for our jewelry is slow, lean, and ethical - we create everything by hand at a little workshop in Los Angeles. Unlike mass-produced collections, each Many Hands piece is unique - and we think these one-of-a-kind pieces made in small batches arguably embody more value than jewels that larger brands traditionally market as “luxury.” Not to mention, the success of handmade jewelry helps preserve important (sometimes even ancient) jewelry making traditions.
Our lean production model allows us more visibility and control over resource consumption and emissions. We can more easily monitor (and then minimize) waste, energy, water usage. At the making stage, the focus is on our studio; specific efforts include re-configuring tools, saving scrap material, and making sure that toxic chemicals are controlled and disposed of properly.
When it comes to packaging, we try to use as little of it as possible. We refrain from including stickers, printed branding cards, excess packing material, etc. Our boxes and mailers are made from 100% recycled material, and all of it is recyclable or biodegradable. We’re also in the process of partnering with a global artisan group to create soft jewelry pouches as a way to make each order feel special while also expanding our social impact (stay tuned for more on that soon).
Our final note on distribution is simply that we want you, the customer, to know that we’re thinking about you. We’re imagining your experience with Many Hands, from start to finish, and thinking of ways to make that experience the best it can be. Feeling close to our customers is part of our core mission; we hope to hear from you and create a two-way communication flow.
Use & Collection
At this stage in the game, each Many Hands piece is enjoying their life in (or on) your hands. We just hope it’s a long life full of love! This is why we encourage you to shop slowly and select quality pieces that you will want to wear for years, and will value enough to repair. When you’re ready to depart with your jewelry, remember that the metals still hold a ton of value. Retain that value (and get some $$) by reselling to a jeweler, pawn shop, thrift store, or metal refiner.
The Bigger Picture
From the moment Many Hands established a sustainability process, that process began changing. As we write these words today, tomorrow they will beg for revision. Our approach to making jewelry will forever evolve in a cycle of grow, learn, change, repeat. Sometimes our goals even conflict with one another, making for an extra challenging (albeit interesting) journey. But we make the effort because we really believe in our vision, mission, and core values - and this is what it takes to uphold those commitments.
None of our goals can be accomplished alone, and if you’re still here with us at the end of this admittedly dense post, we thank you. We kinda poured our hearts out. But we are so grateful for your support. And we want to hear from you! Send your thoughts, suggestions, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org - let’s work together to do business better.