As we move towards the end of 2018, the world is a strange place but there are glimmers of real hope and activism, especially concerned with environmental issues. This festive season everyone we know is increasingly aware of the waste created from unwanted presents, fast fashion and that evergreen-evil plastic but, if you are gifting jewellery this year, have you thought about how ethical it is?
We caught up with Arabel Lebrusan, founder of the eponymous ethical jewellery brand arabellebrusan.com to learn more about ethical jewellery, creativity and new year’s resolutions.
HOC: Tell us about your journey to creating your brand, Arabel?
AL: My background is in fashion jewellery and accessories and I have worked for many years between the Philippines, Hong Kong and Europe. These experiences have allowed me to explore trends, cultural heritage and local techniques, but at the same time to learn from the fast paced commercial aspects of fashion jewellery. It wasn’t all a bed of roses, as this opportunity of travelling and visiting jewellery factories also showed me some of the darker sides of the jewellery industry and its practices. When I made the jump to fine jewellery, I wanted to have a more ethical jewellery approach, which lead to me focusing on making the jewellery world in itself, more ethical.
HOC: What is ‘ethical jewellery’ and what do we need to know about it?
AL: Ethical jewellery is jewellery that has been created respecting the earth and everyone on it. It is a simple concept but with incredible life changing repercussions. For me, the first step is always to know from start to finish, the whole “life” of that jewel.From the very beginning, where those materials come from, to how it was made and how it gets sold.
Ethical jewellery is made with materials that have been mined under sustainable standards (like Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold) and everyone and everything involved in their production has been treated respectfully – including the earth – as well as being paid a fair wage. Ethical jewellery is then manufactured sustainably, where the craftsmen and craftswoman responsible for creating the jewellery have been treated fairly and are proud of their creations.
To finish, ethical jewels are sold under a responsible brand that is fully transparent and communicates accurately this wonderful story to their customers. A jewellery brand, such as ours, who is leading the way on how to do things better in jewellery, how to source responsibly, and how to tell the story only using the truth. We don’t use ethics as the latest branding tool, or the latest fashion, but we use ethics because we care and we want to make the world a better place.
All in all, ethical jewellery is the most beautiful jewellery inside and out.
HOC: How did you come to doing a TED talk on this subject?
AL: I have been campaigning about ethics in the jewellery world for more than 10 years, and I was approached by TEDx Bedford, where I lived at that time, to talk about it. I was incredibly honoured to be asked, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to spread the word about the things that needed changing within this industry. Consumers don’t tend to know that there is even a problem with jewellery production, and the TED talk format allowed me to create a direct but thoughtful presentation to expose the issues in a gentle way.
HOC: Did you train as a jeweller?
AL: Yes, I was trained as a jeweller in Spain. After I finished my Gemmology degree at the university in Madrid, I thought it would be great to complement it with some jewellery training, so I went on to do a 3-year jewellery course. It was a very old-fashioned training program, taught by retired jewellers that had a wealth of knowledge. I spent 3 years at the bench, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. We learnt from the very basic skills of cutting and soldering to advance mechanism for clasps and even how to make articulated diamond tennis bracelets by hand. Then, after working in the industry for 8 years, I went on to do my Masters at Central Saint Martins, in London, which really reinforced my jewellery design skills and style.
HOC: What is your favourite piece and why?
AL: It has to be my latest bespoke creation, a pair of Tahitian black pearl and sapphire earrings. It has a little bit of everything I love. They are made with ethical gold and blue sapphires, it includes some filigree work, made by an expert artisan in Spain and it has 2 gorgeous Tahitian black pearls which I have personally sourced from a small pearl farm in French Polynesia. It’s a piece that combines traditional techniques, excellent quality and ethical materials; my signature style
HOC: How do you keep your creativity flowing?
AL: I make sure I spend time “in the bubble”. This is time (2-3 hours) where I forget about emails, responsibilities, interruptions, and I concentrate on my design process. I need to be alone with my inspirational images from sourcing trips, fashion catwalks, historical snapshots or whatever theme I’m busy with, and my sketchbook. This is the time to draw and dream, to make unexpected connections between images and to create the world of Arabel Lebrusan. This world is full of textures, deep colours, is very feminine and embedded with traces of history mixed with contemporary fashion.
HOC: Can you tell us about a recent ‘Girl Boss’ moment?
AL: I have just created this amazing engagement ring for a client, with a 1.5ct diamond. When I asked him how he came to choose me instead of other designers (two actually very famous ones), he said that he really had a connection with me, loved the designs that I showed him, and was inspired by the wonderful customer experience.
HOC: Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions and – if yes, what’s yours for 2019?
AL: Yes I do! It’s always a good time to reflect on the past year (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and to things about the new one coming. For me this year will have to be ‘do less’ and ‘settle down in Brighton’. We have just moved here and we are still very busy with practical things, so I need to streamline and do what is ‘important’ instead of the ‘urgent’.