Hong Kong-based jewellery designer Nathalie Melville-Geary, who runs the Hatton Studios academy for emerging gold and silversmiths, in Sheung Wan, talks about sourcing ethical materials and a close call.
What's the biggest misconception about being a jeweller? "That it's glamorous! When not designing, I spend a lot of time at the bench as I value the ability to work through my designs from the raw-material stage. This does, however, mean that manicures are a rarity and any career as a hand model has long been forsaken."
What's the biggest work-related disaster you've had? "A near disaster, on my first commission. When I was delivering my first fine-jewellery commission [gold, black moonstone and diamond - for a wedding anniversary], I was finishing up the final polish and the chain caught on the polishing mop and ripped one of the settings off. It took me till 4am to fix, but it was delivered on time. I've never indulged in a moment of 'almost-finished' complacency since."
Where do you source your materials? "My gold is certified Fairtrade, and Melville [her namesake brand] is Hong Kong's only Fairtrade precious metals licence holder. This means I can guarantee the precious metal came from a mine that has been Fairtrade-certified, ensuring [it adheres to International Labour Organisation conventions on] child labour, fair wages, a safe work environment and the rights of women miners."
Is it possible to create ethical jewellery at an attractive price point? "A five-carat diamond is always going to put a dent in your bank account. Some traceable supply chains will carry a small premium due to the work involved - but it is a negligible amount compared to the value of the work as a whole - and when we encounter higher costs we absorb any significant differences."
What are your top three jewellery destinations in Asia and why? "In Hong Kong, it's Ame Gallery - all brands are personally selected by the founder [Anna Cheng], ranging from cutting-edge conceptualists to established artisans. In Bali, it has to be John Hardy - specialists in sustainable sourcing, their Ubud workshop is a master class in how to run a global brand with integrity and vision. In Taiwan, it's Cindy Chao. She's the Rene Lalique of our generation, creating highly sought after pieces. Her pieces take months - if not years - to make, and are the toast of prestigious auction houses around the world."