Permanence and Sustainability: Supporting the Earth While Looking Fabulous

Jewelry is loved. Good jewelry LASTS.

This blog offers a look at the difference between slow vs. fast jewelry, a subject that has traction in the fashion industry, but only minimally in jewelry circles. This blog encourages conversations between you and friends, as well as with your favorite jewelers and designers, and of course with White Orchid Studio. If you are comfortable initiating conversations, you will find that representatives of major brands shy away from describing their slow business model while small companies celebrate what they are already doing to build their slow jewelry model.

To clarify what I am talking about, let me provide 2 definitions:

The movement to “slow” began in the food industry to counter “fast” food.[i] Like fast food, fast fashion and jewelry are created on the cheap, sold at prices that don’t sustain workers, and products are meant to be thrown away. “Fast” wastes resources, undermines work, and fills landfills. Wikipedia defines fast fashion as: “…(a) business model of replicating recent catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them at a low cost, and bringing them to retail quickly while demand is at its highest.” 

A tag line for a TV ad advances the idea that fashion is fast. But, why? Who benefits? I’m speculating that a few recognizable brands may, and certainly the manufacturers of inexpensive knockoffs do, but virtually no jewelers. Yet, the environment suffers, while people who mine, cut, and polish gems or precious metals suffer too. 

Compare slow to fast fashion and jewelry. “slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It encompasses an awareness and approach to fashion [as well as jewelry] that carefully considers the processes and resources required to make [an item]. It advocates for buying better-quality that will last longer, and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet along the way.”[ii] “Today many people realize they can be happy with less stuff. To them [fast] feels irresponsible.” Aleah Arundale (a well-known diamond dealer)

Impacts on the environment and economics represent just two effects of fast vs. slow business models. Each practice also quietly invokes deeply personal, emotional responses I call experience vs substantive. “Fast” engages our desire for experiences. People seem to seek the experience of connecting to celebrities. Any perception of being bathed in the reflected glow of a celebrity feels good. When people buy something associated with a celebrity; after seeing the celebrity at an event, through advertising, social media, or after a public interview; the buyer feels a thrill and often tells others through social media and selfies.

Substance affirms deeper values. People have revered gems since well before modern civilization. So, it is no wonder that we attach significant meaning to gems.  Pearls are associated with mysticism and love.[iii] In several cultures, jade symbolizes wisdom and virtue.[iv] Opals are considered a seductive gem and are thus emblematic of romance and eroticism. Buyers aware of deeper values also tend to connect to gems associated with those values. It is not unusual for someone considering a gem purchase to search the web or my Enthusiast blog for the deeper meanings of that gem.

Steps in a Slow Model

Recycle: Several decades ago, recycling was all the rage. It remains important here: to save on paper I ask my supply chain venders to not send catalogues. I recycle packaging. When you order a piece of jewelry from the Studio, please don’t be upset if the woven kraft paper, or cornstarch peanuts that surround your gift box looks recycled. They are. If I receive plastic bubbles in a package, I pass them along to customers to reduce the package’s weight and to give customers an opportunity to recycle also. I think that is all the plastic I ever use.  

I also recycle findings. In case the word “finding” is unfamiliar, here is the definition.  Findings are any component used to construct a piece of jewelry, including clasps, headpins, bars, hooks, jump rings, wire, or crimps. Findings can be just about anything depending on the niche of the market. Findings could be made of shell, wood, shiny coatings on a base metal like brass, or an honest to goodness precious metal (for more read “Precious Metals: Buying Smart”). Fine jewelry typically relies on precious metals because they are less likely to turn your skin green; they last; and they can be recycled. 

Any shiny coating over a base metal cannot be recycled. If you support a slow model, but are considering buying an inexpensive piece that looks fine, read the product description. Most companies will say upfront how a finding is constructed.  If it is simply a shiny coating over pot metal, know that the piece is heading to a landfill and has no trade value.  

During the life of White Orchid Studio, I’ve noticed an increasing number of wholesalers in the supply chain offer recycling services. Recycling is important to you as well as to the environment. With the cost of gold dancing around record highs, reducing the manufacturing costs by using the precious metal over and over helps the jeweler and you. 

How do you know if findings used in a piece of jewelry are constructed from a precious metal? First as noted above, read the product description before you buy.  Next after a purchase arrives, look for two small stamps on the back of a finding, often the clasp or hanging component of an earring. One stamp is the logo of the creator, and the other is a metal stamp such as 14k or 925. The metal stamp tells you if the finding is of a precious metal. When you buy precious metals, you are protecting the environment. 

Also know you bought an investment. If you ever want to refurbish a beloved piece, show the stamp to your jeweler and ask for the weight of the finding in grams. You can insist your investment be reused or applied to the cost of a new piece. That cuts down on your cost while still supporting the environment.

The jeweler pays a fair price for work: In the case of the bracelet above: 2 two things contribute to labor costs. First, in fine jewelry gems are strung on a strong and supple material,[v] then that material is precisely knotted to secure the gems while enhancing the pattern. 

Second, a slow model celebrates bringing details to life. Early on, White Orchid Studio developed exclusive, hand carved findings. Out of pride, here are a few of the Studio’s mainstays. 


Made in America is more than an expression of patriotism. When referring to creating jewelry, made in America expresses a commitment to industry artisans in the United States who can work at the level noted above. Finding master jewelers is never easy and supporting that level of expertise is expensive. It takes decades of learning, mentoring, and practice to be able to precisely execute a fine jewelry design. Experts deserve to be paid for their decades of professionalism. Many experts are retiring and not being replaced by younger people with the same level of skill. Remember the adage “you get what you pay for.” 

When you consider buying an attractive piece of jewelry, scroll through product descriptions to see where the piece is made or ask the jeweler. If the price is really low, I’m betting the piece is made somewhere other than the United States and the findings are not a precious metal. 

Help protect those who do the dirty work: in the US upwards of 1500 people mine gems, but most of that mining doesn’t contribute to jewelry production. To support White Orchid Studio, my ideal is to support “artisanal small-scale mining” (ASM), an activity that employs more than 100 million people worldwide, about 80% of colored stones, 20% of diamonds and approximately 20% of gold production….” [vi] People who mine, cut, and polish gems and precious metals want to support their families and live a life of joy. Their lives are precious.[vii] 

"Enough" is a feast. – Buddhist proverb



Best, Peggy

What do you think? I love questions and comments.

“What beautiful gems. I enjoyed learning about the different colors and how "impurities" can enhance the stones and make them even more interesting.”  Carol  


[i] Slow Jewelry – Vickie Hallmark







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