My but things have changed in the world of luxury. Once it was enough for pieces to be beautiful and desirable. No more. Today it would be inconceivable for a brand to ignore the provenance of its materials or the welfare of its workforce. Quite aside from the moral and ethical concerns, consumers these days care and ask questions. All this helps explain the increasing endeavours of luxury marques to involve their customers in the narrative behind their precious goods.
Take Chopard. In 2013 it launched a project called The Journey to Sustainable Luxury, set up in partnership with Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge and the Alliance of Responsible Mining (ARM). It supports small-scale goldmines in South America: investing in the Coodmilla co-operative in Colombia (the Nariño mine, second picture), which provides work for about 1,860 people; and a second high in the Bolivian Andes that employs 198 people, of which 78 are women.
The Green Carpet Collection, the project’s first, consists of six limited-edition pieces of high jewellery (price on request) made with Fairmined white gold and diamonds certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council. The collection was launched by French actress Marion Cotillard when she wore a delicate cuff and matching earrings at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Other fans include Cate Blanchett, who opted for a pair of the earrings at last year’s Golden Globes, and Colin Firth, who was photographed for the cover of How To Spend It’s 20th anniversary fundraising issue wearing the first men’s watch made from Fairmined gold.
This summer Chopard is embarking on something even more ambitious – a diffusion line of charming, easy pieces made entirely from Fairmined gold. This is not a simple undertaking, for in order to make sure no “normal” gold is mixed with the Fairmined, the production process has to be kept entirely separate, meaning every machine has to be stopped and washed before and after Fairmined gold is used.
The Palme Verte collection – a ring (£1,770), pendant (£2,690), earrings (£4,110) and bracelet (£7,000, all first picture) – in 18ct yellow gold (another version in Fairmined white gold and pavé diamonds is due later this year) is inspired by the leaf motif of the Palme d’Or trophy, which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary and which Chopard has been making for the Cannes Film Festival since 1998.
“What I love about this collection is that it makes ethical jewellery more accessible,” Chopard creative director and co-president Caroline Scheufele tells me. “It can be worn casually during the day or more elegantly in the evening and its purpose is to spread an awareness of this important journey in the luxury industry as far as we can.” A splendid marriage, then, between the ethical and the very beautiful.