Do you want stunning design in diamond jewelry, and complete confidence in how the diamond and metals were sourced? If the word sustainable is more than a buzzword in your life, you need to know about Avilan Storied Diamonds. Avilan represents eco ethical diamonds that are independently certified as 100% up-cycled post-consumer and processed with fair labor practices. Some of my favorite independent jewelry designers are using Avilan Storied Diamonds in engagement rings and other diamond jewelry.
Avilan Storied Diamonds work like this: a consumer who no longer needs their diamond sells it to Avilan. Avilan has SCS Global Services certify that the diamond is post-consumer and has a certification number in a database and inscribed on the girdle (edge) of the diamond (over .25 carat). That diamond has a chance to make a new story with someone who can be assured that his or her diamond is fully sustainable and fairtrade.
Diamond consumers can benefit two ways from Avilan.
1. You can buy a diamond from Avilan and know that the particular diamond you purchase has not been newly mined. It is a diamond that has been up-cycled from someone else’s cherished piece of jewelry, re-certified as a Storied Diamond, and begins a new story. These diamonds are then set into fairtrade or recycled precious metals by contemporary designers at the forefront of fine jewelry design.
2. You can sell diamonds that you no longer need to Avilan, either at their location in Scottsdale, ship it to their office, or have them facilitate the transaction through one of their trusted jewelers. They will compassionately and carefully assess your stone and help you get the best value for it. By putting your diamond back into circulation, you help eliminate the need to mine a new diamond and the potential environmental toll that can have. You get to move on and know that your diamond has made a difference.
One of the participating jewelry designers, Jennifer Dawes, has been a staunch supporter of eco and ethical practices since she opened her business in 2005. Dawes explains, “As a designer focused on offering my clients a product that is sustainable and socially responsible, I am proud and excited to partner with Avilan™ to offer them certified recycled diamonds.”
In addition to Jennifer, other fine jewelry designers creating signature designs for Avilan are Toby Pomeroy of TOBY POMEROY, Rebecca Overmann of Rebecca Overmann Jewelry, Megan Thorne of Megan Thorne Fine Jewels, Sofia Kaman of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels (aka Kamofie), and Jamie Joseph of Jamie Joseph Jewelry.
Interview with Avilan Diamonds
Since I know most of the designers involved and have a personal and professional focus on ethically- and sustainably-sourced gems, I was intrigued by this concept. I had a chance to speak to Jana Hadany, VP of Marketing, Sustainability and Operations for Avilan to find out more.
idazzle: How did the idea for Avilan come about?
Jana Hadany: My husband has worked in wholesale diamonds, specializing in fancy colors and shapes. When the economy crashed, he got a lot of calls from people who wanted to sell back their diamonds. It seemed there was a market for buying back diamonds versus selling newly mined diamonds. When I heard about this, to me it sounded like a classic example of up-cycling: where you stop mining natural resources and use what you have. This was a focus on sustainability that has been mostly lacking in the conventional diamond market.
So you had the concept, how long did it take to become Avilan?
Well, that’s another story! I am a math and science girl, so it seemed that there should be a way to certify that these diamonds are post-consumer. I contacted SCS Global Services for third party certification for diamonds that consumers want to sell. Their answer: “we don’t have any certification for diamonds.” My response was, “well, you didn’t have certification for LEED building interiors until there was a need and the market requested it, why would diamonds be any different?” So, about a year after I started calling them, we had a 200 page document submitted to Washington, DC that outlined the details of a “Responsible Source for Diamonds” certification process. We are a Platinum certified account, meaning that we meet all of the product specifications of sustainability, but we also have to meet certain energy consumption requirements, and our company ethics and values also have to reflect a sustainable focus in how we treat our employees.
But by having that certification, Avilan can be indisputably confident that we have diamonds that people will be proud to purchase and wear. Everything over .25 carat has the girdle (the edge of the diamond) inscribed with a unique number that matches the SCS database.
So it took about two years?! That sounds like a lot of time and effort to execute for a piece of paper, essentially.
Well, we had an idea that this concept would be important to some consumers: to buy a responsibly sourced, up-cycled diamond. We needed to give it credibility through the certification process. In addition to that, we had to communicate our model to the traditional, multi-generational jewelry industry. Jewelers are our link to the consumer, and they have been hit hard by the economy, and competition from the Internet. They need to embrace change or they won’t be competing in a business that they totally controlled a number of years ago.
It seems to me that Avilan solves two problems at the same time: One, there is no secondary market to speak of for jewelry, even though the precious materials have the potential to last forever; and two, it paves the way for someone to acquire a diamond that doesn’t have the human rights or environmental baggage that can accompany a newly mined diamond.
My message is “Storied Diamonds.” They have a past: they have a legacy. At first, we tried to sell the diamonds intact in their existing settings—the mountings were still beautiful and current. But we found that while people really loved the idea of buying the center stone, they weren’t necessarily interested in the previous setting. We discovered that when a jewelry designer redevelops a setting for one of our Avilan diamonds, it’s a totally new creation that the customer really embraces. The designer has a source for sustainable diamonds, and the consumer gets a designer piece of jewelry that they can feel very good about. A diamond is just a diamond—you have to put it into a piece of jewelry for it to really matter to someone.
What about the stories of the diamonds before they become Avilan Certified Responsible Diamonds?
I have collected many, many inspirational stories from the previous owners. Some are from treasured relatives, some are from other relationships. But the stories are all about moving forward. The designers then design around the diamonds and create a new story, beginning the cycle all over again. It truly is a virtuous circle of recycling.
Who are your fine jewelry designers, so far?
We have a growing roster of fine jewelry designers who are deeply committed to sustainability: Jennifer Dawes, Rebecca Overmann, Toby Pomeroy, Sofia Kaman…Jamie Joseph is introducing a new bridal jewelry line using our center diamonds. She has wanted to launch bridal jewelry for a long time, and Avilan diamonds were compelling to her. All of these designers, while offering different aesthetics, hew to a certain ethical and sustainable focus in their companies. It’s not easy to be green in the jewelry industry, but these designers do more than just talk about it.
How do you work with the jewelry designers you collaborate with?
We want to partner with them. Co-brand. They have to meet certain qualifications which we have laid out in our Sustainable in Style program. They are required to use recycled sustainable materials: precious metals that are certified fair trade from fair trade companies. We need to know that is what they are buying.
So the designer gets a sustainable source for diamonds. What are the other benefits to jewelry designers?
I think Avilan Storied Diamonds are attractive to designers for a couple of reasons. As artists and business owners, they are crazy busy, and their business is very capital intensive. I don’t want sustainable diamonds to be a financial burden. We’ll provide the diamonds on memorandum, and they can pay us when it sells. We want them to co-brand with us: I don’t want the money to be the problem. Making this leap of faith and crossing this bridge is important. The end consumer, particularly engagement customers, want to know the provenance and where their diamond comes from.
In addition to your mission of getting your Avilan Storied Diamonds into designer settings, you also mention on the website that each purchase benefits one of your partner charities. How do you select the charities that you partner with?
There are three concepts that we focus on for our charitable partners: environmental, empowering women, and lives in transition to a new beginning. These concepts reflect out core values, and even our business model of a story of transition.
So how can customers see Avilan rings?
Interested customers can see the ring designs online at our site, www.avilandiamonds.com. If they want to see the ring in person, they can contact us, and we will put them in touch with the designer.
This is a new model in the jewelry industry. What are some of the issues you’ve encountered so far?
Well, there are a couple of challenges. One is that we don’t really have a reliable supply of melee diamonds, or accent diamonds that weigh .18 ct and under. While we have a good supply of larger diamonds, the quality and consistency of the accent diamonds is harder to predict. So for now, we can supply Avilan diamonds for the center, but designers will have to use their own sources for the accent stones. This story is not necessarily about perfection, it’s about doing the best you can. I drive a Prius, and it isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s one of the best options available if you have to drive a car. If we wait for entire package before doing anything, then it will simply take too long.
Excellent point about the waiting. Sometimes, the bias has to be for action, even if it won’t be perfect. What’s the other issue?
The other question we cannot answer definitively is “where did this diamond come from originally?” The answer is that no one—yet—can look at a diamond and tell origin. So, for Avilan Storied Diamonds, we don’t know where it came out of the ground or under what circumstances. But we can, unequivocally, know that it keeps one new diamond from being mined.
So, we can present another option for diamond consumers: sustainable versus traditional. They are both beautiful, but one may fit your needs better than the other. It’s a conversation.
What is next for Avilan Storied Diamonds?
We would love to partner with more fine jewelry designers and retailers. We think this story will resonate as more people ask questions and find out their options. We want to be a forum where the consumer can find, discover and ask.
Jewelry can be sustainable AND beautifully designed! Consumers can check out their website, or contact Avilan about any of the rings you see in this article at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit their website at www.avilandiamonds.com, or call Avilan toll free at 855-434-1444. Jewelry designers interested in learning more about the Avilan Sustainable in Style program should contact Jana at email@example.com.