There is no doubt that the jewellery market is changing. Just like the broader fashion landscape, where consumers are becoming more aware than ever of the impact that their shopping habits may have on the environment, we are finally asking for transparency regarding the brands we buy into, while many of us are also becoming more open-minded when it comes to investing in less traditional methods of production, particularly when it comes to diamonds. For Matilde Mourinho, a jewellery designer who recently launched her own sustainable jewellery brand, she wants to continue breaking down any misconceptions to do with real versus lab-grown diamonds.
“The biggest issue regarding lab-grown diamonds is that they are not considered to be ‘real’,” she tells me. “As a brand, we are trying to educate our consumers by offering tools and resources that will teach them about the reality of sustainable jewellery. Lab-grown diamonds are physically, optically and chemically identical to natural diamonds. The only difference is how they are grown.”
The idea that lab-grown diamonds are less ‘real’ or ‘special’ than their man-made counterparts is an old-fashioned one, and one which brands like Matilde are working to eliminate.
“Without a doubt, attitudes are changing. More and more people know what lab-grown diamonds are, and as consumers, they are more open to this as an alternative or even as a first choice. Just last month, research found that sustainability is now a top priority when purchasing diamonds – and this just goes to show how the perception and attitude towards lab-grown diamonds in jewellery is changing rapidly.”
The research Mourinho is referring to comes from De Beers’ annual Diamond Insight Report, which stressed how sustainability is no longer an afterthought when it comes to purchasing a piece of jewellery. In fact, it has become one of the first questions we ask.
However, the world of sustainable jewellery is still new, brands within it are still adapting and trying to do the best that they can, but there is much to be learnt. This is one of the biggest challenges for Mourinho.
“There is always more to learn – there are so many sustainable alternatives to most things we can think of. If I were to give any advice to someone in my position, it would be to learn as much as you possibly can about what you are doing and be prepared to answer tricky questions. People will ask a lot of questions about what makes your business sustainable – be prepared to answer these and be able to back up everything you are saying.”
For Mourinho, one of the keys to this was ensuring that her supply chains were as transparent as possible. The designer says that she was thorough in researching the suppliers and producers that aligned with her values, and which could prove that they were up to standard.
Matilde’s lab-grown diamond suppliers are carbon neutral, while the metal suppliers are SCS (Scientific Certification Systems) certified – which means they hold the credentials for the responsible sourcing of precious metals. This certification doesn’t just cover the use of recycled metals, but it governs a range of business practices related to sustainability, ethical working conditions, and transparency, all of which was key if Mourinho was going to go into business with them.
Once all of this was aligned, Matilde launched, right in the middle of a global pandemic. However, despite these challenges, in just a year, it has already seen plenty of success, with the understated, elegant and earth-friendly jewellery resonating with shoppers. In fact, the brand recently expanded into menswear – and has just this week launched its first pop-up shop in the heart of London's Soho, where customers will have the opportunity to see the jewellery first hand, and meet with the designer.
“I am so excited to finally meet customers and get their feedback on the collections and the brand – I think this is something I will personally learn a lot from,” she says. “There is so much to be learnt from our community – and there are many more great things to come from Matilde jewellery I’m sure!”
Matilde’s pop-up store is open now until Christmas Eve in Soho’s Ham Yard Village. Find out more and shop the collections here.
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