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By Elin Topler
Johanna E always had two key interests since childhood: the protection of the environment, and the production of beautiful jewellery. Luckily for her, she has managed to combine her lifelong passions into her work: creating rings, bracelets and necklaces for her eponymous ethical jewellery brand.
Training as a goldsmith in her youth, Johanna became familiar with not only of the powerful acids and chemicals normally used in gold production and processing, but also of the perilous conditions workers face when mining for gold.
Consequently, the designer aims to use recycled gold and silver in her work as much as possible, but when demand is higher than her supply of existing metal, she needs to buy raw materials. Determined to purchase sources of gold from the sustainable mines possible, she searched the world for eco-friendly mines. After some time, she discovered a project in Colombia where the inhabitants pan for gold by hand in a protected biosphere region and sell the nuggets on to the Fondation Oro Verde (the Green Gold Foundation). Workers are paid a better price than the market rate, which in turn allows them to continue to live well on their pristine land without pressure to sell tracts of it off to the timber and agricultural industries that are constantly threatening the region.
But what of the gems in her work? Johanna is adamant that all of her stones are certified conflict-free by not only the Kimberley Process, but by the Jeweltree Foundation, which promotes free trade for small, artisanal miners and mining cooperatives, helping them with access to international markets and receiving the highest possible market price for their stones.
By helping small share miners protect their land and ways of life, recycling metals and ensuring all stones are conflict free, it’s clear that Johanna E’s heart is as golden as her jewellery.