While precious jewellery has long been a symbol of love and care, few consumers have pondered a deeper meaning in the pieces - social conscience. Some Hong Kong-based jewellers have taken note of that. John Hardy has raised public awareness of deforestation through one of its collections and its large-scale bamboo-planting campaign in Bali, where the company's design studios and workshops are based. 'The financial crisis has left a big impact on the relationship between [luxury goods] brands and consumers,' notes Damien Dernoncourt, CEO of John Hardy. 'There is a growing trend that people feel the need for a reason before they purchase something. It is more complicated than just attractive items. I think it matters to the consumers for brands to show their care.' His sentiment is shared by Ashwin Makhija, director of Platinum Heart, who thinks jewellery will mean a lot more when consumers know that throughout the entire process, from procurement of the precious materials to production, everyone involved is treated fairly. 'Consumers in their 20s and 30s have a higher awareness of the [gem trade-related] social issues compared to the older consumers.' Platinum Heart has formulated its business strategies on sourcing gemstones from ethical sources and ensuring artisans in small workshops in Jaipur, India, where the company acquires some exclusive hand-made pieces, get a fair share of the profits. When Canadian John Hardy first set foot on Bali in the mid-1970s, he fell in love with the place and developed a fascination with the intricate metalwork practised on the island. He built his compound of jewellery-making workshops dedicated to completely handcrafted pieces, design studios and homes based on eco-friendly architectural principles in the late 1980s. Dernoncourt bought the company in 2007 and has expanded the eco-sustainability ideas to include corporate social responsibility programmes. Over the past year and in collaboration with local government, John Hardy organised 87 events in Bali, mobilising thousands of schoolchildren to plant more than 600,000 bamboos in an area 41/2 times the size of Central Park in New York. Profits from the sales of its bamboo collection are used to support the cause. The programme also educates the participating schoolchildren about environmental protection. 'They will remember that they make a difference by planting bamboo,' Dernoncourt says. John Hardy's jewellery combines the flair of French head designer Guy Bedarida and the craftsmanship of Balinese artisans. Bedarida learned the design techniques from jewellers in Paris's Place Vend?me, where he trained and worked for some exclusive houses, including Van Cleef & Arpels, Dernoncourt says. Bali is renowned for its aesthetic, and arts and crafts. Inhabited by a Hindu majority, the island was peacefully and jointly ruled by eight kings until the early 20th century. 'The main competition among the royal courts centred around beauty, like who had the most magnificent houses and gardens. There was a strong artistic tradition that spawned generations of skilled wood carvers and metalwork artisans,' Dernoncourt adds. All John Hardy's jewellery - in silver and gold with multicoloured gemstones - is handcrafted and reflects efforts to preserve a jewellery-making heritage. An example is the chains incorporated into the brand's signature Classic Chain Collection. Its Palu Collection features gold and silver pieces with intricately hammered textured surfaces, while the mythical serpent Naga is the focal point in its namesake line. John Hardy's jewellery for men and women and decorative items are available at its shop in Hong Kong and online. At Platinum Heart, 28-year-old Makhija says his university education in liberal arts at Colorado College in the United States deepened his social and environmental consciousness. When he worked for a jewellery exporter on his return to Hong Kong, he came to understand the environmental havoc caused by the rampant use of cyanide in gold mining in some areas and how 'blood diamonds' financed some African warlords. He realised that few jewellers had explored the niche for a jewellery brand carrying a message of social consciousness. Makhija established Platinum Heart in mid-2008. Platinum Heart makes its best effort in sourcing diamonds from mines in Canada, whose operations are monitored by independent councils ensuring the mining methods are environmentally sustainable, Makhija says. 'Other sources are Botswana and Namibia for which we can guarantee the diamonds are 'conflict-free'.' Pieces from Platinum Heart are set with diamonds, coloured gemstones and pearls. The company specialises in exquisite Mughal and Victorian-style jewellery. 'We have partners in Jaipur producing the jewellery. Because we are not in control of the production, a representative of the artisan union joins each of our meetings so that he is fully aware that 10 per cent of the profit from the jewellery sales goes directly towards the workers' wages,' Makhija says. '[As far as I know,] Platinum Heart is the only company which has this arrangement with the artisans in Jaipur.' Some of these pieces made in Jaipur are set with Polki diamonds, which are flat diamonds with asymmetrical facets. All Platinum Heart's jewellery is available online or at its boutique.