Join us for our weekly BAJ:Insight on the latest industry trends by Rachael Taylor, a freelance journalist who writes about jewellery for a number of titles, including The Financial Times, The Jewellery Editor and Retail Jeweller. In her 10 years reporting on the industry, she has travelled the globe to visit key industry fairs, descended a Fairtrade gold mine on top of a Peruvian mountain, toured silver jewellery factories in Thailand, and regularly has access to the most sparkling jewels and people in the business.
When I was asked by ethical jeweller Ingle & Rhode to be a judge for the first Fairtrade Gold Design Awards, I had no idea that it would culminate in a crowded room in Birmingham with a couple of tearful students. But that is exactly how it played out.
Myself and the rest of the judging panel (Tim Ingle and David Rhode from Ingle & Rhode, Victoria Waugh from the Fairtrade Foundation, Dave Merry from The Goldsmiths’ Company and Peter Crump of Vipa Designs) selected the overall winner quite a few weeks ago. We met in a back room in the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London and spent a good few hours poring over the designs and diligently reading through the descriptions of each. We also had quite a measure of lively debate.
In the end, we were all agreed that Angela Gillies of the University of Dundee should win the overall prize. As well as creating a striking design that hit a chord with us – her sketch shows a swirling feather wrapping around a bezel-set brilliant-cut diamond – her design process also really grasped the Fairtrade element to the competition. So many designs that had been entered were beautiful but didn’t really connect with Fairtrade, and Victoria was quite rightly staunch that a genuine connection to the cause was a requirement of any winner.
Angela has called her ring Nestled, and wrote a beautiful explanation of how she felt it connected with Fairtrade: “Fairtrade gold epitomises compassion and empathy for the people involved in the mining industry at source, and assists them in strengthening their communities and providing them with a more sustainable future. With this in mind, Nestled will symbolise a safe and secure outlook for both the mining community and the couple who receive the ring.”
There were so many great designs in our pile (Ingle & Rhode has created an initial shortlist before the official judging) that we felt some deserved to be highly commended. We had battled over who should win right up to the end, after all. One of those entries belonged to Eva Reyburn, a student at the British Academy of Jewellery. Again, Eva’s design – which was a particular favourite among the judges – brilliantly captured the spirit of Fairtrade gold, whilst also being a beautiful and romantic design. The ring was decorated with three interlocking circles, the largest of which, in the centre, was set with a 0.5ct round brilliant diamond.
The rings, she wrote in her entry, symbolise marriage, with the smaller two representing the individual partners while the central loop “with its sparkling centre is the individuals’ bright future”. She continued: “I was influenced by the Olympic Rings as they are one of the ultimate symbols of teamwork and togetherness, and the idea that each of us is better working together, whether it be in marriage, or in larger terms like Fairtrade.”
There was another section to the Fairtrade Gold Design Awards, and this was the public vote held on Ingle & Rhode’s website. This part of the competition took the decision out of the judges’ hands, and let the public decide which were their favourite wedding and engagement ring designs. And again, the British Academy of Jewellery had a victory, with student Tommaso Iaquinta’s ambitious Archerentia engagement ring being one of three winners.
Tommaso’s intricate design used filigree to create an ornate ring inspired by a traditional jewel. In his application, he wrote: “Deep in my roots and traditions I can recall a typical jewel used for the marriage proposal called jannacca. This was a collier made up of oval or spherical shape golden grains worked in filigree; sometimes with insertions all along the circumference. From this came my idea to create a solitaire using the same technique and design.”
Also winning over the public in this section of the competition were Maggie Lin Jung-Hsuan from Birmingham City University and Natalia Antunovity; while the two remaining highly commended judges’ picks went to Lucy Cormack of the University of Dundee and Karen Westland, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art. Huge congratulations to all the winners and I hope to see even more entries from the BAJ for the Fairtrade Gold Design Awards 2018. As for the tears, let’s just say emotions were running high when Angela Gillies and Lucy Cormack were officially presented with their awards at the Flux ethical jewellery conference in Birmingham last week (they had no idea they’d won). It was a beautiful moment.