Have you ever found yourself on the hunt for an exquisite piece of jewellery – for yourself or as a gift – and had difficulties finding something that was not only environmentally and socially ethical, but high quality as well? Well I have excellent news for you! Olive & Reg has done all of the hard work for you by placing gorgeous eco and fairtrade jewellery all under one roof.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Penny Payne, the inspirational founder of Olive & Reg.
Q. What drew you to become involved with ethically designed jewellery in the first place?
I’d worked in the jewellery industry since 2004 and had become increasingly aware of the disconnect between the beautifully branded luxury product I was working with and its unknown origins. I understood the problems in tracing supply chains and also how difficult it could be for designers and retailers to source ethical precious metals and gemstones, but I could also see that there were inspirational designers and campaigners like Vivien Johnston, Greg Valerio, Oria and Cred jewellery who were showing that there was a way forward.
We can afford to be compassionate and fair to those who mine our gemstones and precious metals and also to be considerate to the environment by using low-impact, sustainable practices. Currently it takes more time and effort to work this way, but Olive & Reg is not about fast fashion, we believe in quality and craftsmanship and offer an alternative to the mass-produced jewellery widely available. All materials used in our jewellery are traceable to either recycled sources or to primary producers who are free from exploitation and whose methods respect the environment. We know where and how our jewellery is created and we are proud to be different.
Q. How would you describe Olive & Reg in 10 words or less?
Beautiful, quality, jewellery, sustainable, luxurious, designer, transparent, forward-thinking.
Q. What makes Olive & Reg a great ethical choice for eco-fashionistas?
Olive & Reg offers a great choice of designers, excellent quality and exclusive designs all online-only so you can shop at your leisure, the site is easy to navigate with good imagery of the jewellery. We have a range of products from engagement and wedding rings to high end dress jewellery as well as silver pieces ideal for gifts starting from £35. We clearly state the origins of the precious metals and gemstones in our jewellery and all of our designers have a shared commitment to sustainable practices, so you can trust that every piece has been ethically sourced.
Q. How is Olive & Reg assisting jewellers who would like to reconsider their supply chains?
I would like to encourage more jewellers to consider the origins of the materials they use and help them find industry contacts. I approached two of our designers – Jessica Poole and Kimberley Selwood – and asked them to create collections in Fairtrade gold and recycled silver. Both Jessica and Kimberley were really keen to work with ethical metals and I put them in touch with trusted suppliers I had found out who could provide them with the precious metals and gemstones they needed for their collections. I am keen to share the experience I have had sourcing materials for these designers with other jewellers.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the designers you’re working with right now?
I’m a big fan of Jessica Poole’s work. Jessica specialises in the technique of Micro Pavé setting where precious stones are used to highlight twists of gold. This is a really special collection exclusively available in Fairtrade gold for Olive & Reg.
I’m also enjoying working with September Rose and Kimberley Selwood both of these designers are so talented and have created beautiful exclusive pieces for us. I’m really proud to say we are also working with established fair trade jewellers, Cred, Oria and Oak and there are three new designers we are working with and will be featuring shortly.
Q. Your grandparent’s names were the inspiration for calling your boutique ‘Olive & Reg’, how big of an influence were they in your life?
They were wonderful people; kind, strong and inspiring. My grandmother’s name, Olive, means peace and my grandfather, Reg, worked within the jewellery industry for 55 years. I hope they would have liked having the business named after them – Mum says ‘they’d be tickled pink’!
Q. Do you believe that there has been a real turning point over the past few years toward ethical jewellery becoming more mainstream?
Yes, there is a real interest in improving ethical practices and gradually it is becoming more mainstream – it’s a really exciting time. The licensing of Fairtrade and Fairmined gold was a wonderful step forward for the jewellery industry and a certified traceable, ethical supply chain became a reality in 2011. Fairtrade and Fairmined gold has been embraced by so many talented and inspirational designers and what they are doing will shape the jewellery industry of the future. As well as this, more people are questioning where and how their precious metals and gemstones are sourced and asking for change.
Q. You’re a talented photographer – what are some of your favourite subjects to shoot other than jewellery?
I came to the jewellery industry as a jewellery photographer – it’s a great subject to photograph, other than that I used to do landscape photography which I sold in local galleries. To be really honest though, these days – other than jewellery – my chickens are my main subject – and distraction from work! I love my chooks – in fact we have a newly hatched chick this week and she is adorable!
Q. What does the future hold for Olive & Reg?
As I mentioned earlier we are currently working with some great new designers who will be featured on the website over the coming months, so I’m really excited about that. My aim is to showcase a really extensive collection of fine ethical jewellery, I want to build the collections over the next few years and I’m always keen to hear from designers with a commitment to ethical jewellery. Things are changing, there is a lot of interest in ethical jewellery now, the future is bright.
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