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Change is happening- the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference

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I’m Niki, the founder and designer of Enji Studio Jewelry. We’re a sustainable luxury jewelry brand based in beautiful north county San Diego.

at Enji we’re on a mission to bring you meaningful, modern, ethical design that shows off your style, honors the journey of your life, and reflects your values. We craft each piece for you in our Carlsbad studio bringing new life to recycled gold and silver and using only FairTrade and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones.

Enji was founded in 2014. We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing and giving back to the local and global community. We create our pieces for everyday wear.

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As creators and consumers, our choices now have a global impact. This is why we consider how things are made to be important and this to be part of our responsibility as a business and global citizen. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. This is why we make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fairtrade stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper and clothing.

Niki is a GIA Graduate Jeweler. She was awarded the 2016 Halstead Grant Award and 2014 Windgate Fellowship Award by the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design. She has exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and Europe and her work can be seen in the pages of Glamour UK, Basic, Evening Standard, National Jeweler, and more. To see her one of a kind art pieces and CV check out nikigrandics.com

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. We make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fair mined stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper.

As a member of Ethical Metalsmiths, we hope to be among the first movers bringing transparency and sustainable practices into the luxury fashion jewelry world. Ethical Metalsmiths and Fairmined gold and gems.  All our pieces are made in our studio in San Diego and we use low-impact, environmentally conscious studio practices to lessen our footprint. 

We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing, because it’s important. To us, to you, to the women and men who mined the stones we use to create our pieces. We also donate a portion of each sale to organizations that help empower women locally and globally and work to end domestic violence and human trafficking because that’s part of the future we want to see.

Ethical sustainable jewelry fairtrade fair trade fair-trade jewelry recycled gold recycled sterling silver San Diego Carlsbad ethical gemstones ethically sourced sustainable

Change is happening- the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference

Niki Grandics

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I’m writing this from my Southwest flight back home and leaving Chicago so inspired after the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference. This is only the second year of the conference and the second time I’ve attended, this year with almost twice the turnout of last year. The conference brought together everyone from designers, gem dealers, NGOs, nonprofits, gemstone cutters, representatives from the State Department, and even artisanal gold and gemstone miners from South America and East Africa to hear each other’s perspectives and come up with solutions to complex issues in the jewelry supply chain.

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When you think of the jewelry industry these days you probably think of blood diamonds or Leonardo DiCaprio, but the reality of the issues the industry faces in responsible sourcing and practices are much more diverse and complicated than that. Ranging from toxic mercury use in small-scale gold mining, to deforestation in the Amazon, a lack of health and safety standards and knowledge for mining and gem cutting, to organized crime and corruption, these are global issues that affect people working in sourcing these precious materials.

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Are lab-grown diamonds the answer to responsible jewelry? The short answer is no, but they can certainly have a place in it. Is blockchain the answer? Again it is a tool that can help, but traceability doesn’t mean transparency which doesn’t necessarily equal ethical. While some large companies like DeBeers and Alrosa (the two largest diamond mining companies on earth) are already working on blockchain solutions...but only for themselves and have made it clear that their systems won’t “talk” to any other industry blockchain initiatives such as Richline’s TrustChain system will be open to the industry. And high tech solutions like this have the potential to cut out the small-scale and artisanal miners, who are often very marginalized people doing extremely hard work to feed their families and give their children more opportunities and a better life than theirs.

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But there is good news in all of this. What first drew me to the jewelry industry was how passionate the people in it are about what they do. This conference brought together a very global group dedicated to creating change in the industry, like Roberto Alvarez, a Colombian artisanal miner who eliminated the use of mercury in his mine, built it up to a certified Fairmined standard and is working on cleaning up the surrounding rainforest and reforesting areas that were contaminated. Robert Weldon of GIA and Christina Villegas of PACT collaborated on a beneficiation educational program for women miners in Tanzania. They developed a booklet to help them better understand the value of what they were mining and basic tools to help them identify their rough stones. Toby Pomeroy is spearheading a project to find solutions to eliminate the use of mercury in small-scale mining, where mercury poisoning is devastating to mining communities. And Yianni Melas, the conferences closing speaker, went on a 31 day hunger strike to raise awareness and protest the Christie’s auction of a 163 carat diamond from Angola, which belonged to the daughter of Angola’s former president, and would have further enriched a family known for corruption while children were dying of poverty in Angola at an alarming rate.

 (Yianni Melas, the Gem Explorer and me)

(Yianni Melas, the Gem Explorer and me)

This community is incredibly passionate and dedicated. There was not one person in that room who isn’t doing everything they can to do better and to keep doing better. We’re all actively working on solutions that work for the people in all parts on the supply chain, not just the guys at the top. Change happens by putting one foot in front of the other and we’re on our way.