Natalie Perry Jewellery is a luxury made-in-London jewellery brand identified by its striking Fairtrade gold and pearl necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. We spoke with founder Natalie for an insight into running an independent, sustainable and ethical jewellery brand, to find out where her inspiration comes from, and to share her expertise on how other designers can incorporate sustainable and ethical practices and initiatives into their own businesses.
What is Natalie Perry Jewellery?
Natalie Perry Jewellery is a British brand which makes contemporary fine jewellery with a focus on ethics and sustainability. Each collection celebrates the beauty of imperfection and I take inspiration from my travels, with each piece then being handmade in my London studio. I imagine the women who wear my jewellery are creative, love to travel and have a passion for unique and handcrafted items. I like to think that my pieces allow them to express their individuality.
You say your inspiration comes from your travels - which countries have had the most profound effects on you?
I have travelled quite extensively but most of my inspiration comes from my time spent working in Jaipur, India. I tell people that this was the first time I was exposed to ‘real jewellery’, and by that I mean exquisite pieces that have been handcrafted from 24 carat gold and gemstones. Being surrounded by all the incredible jewellery-making traditions of India really opened my eyes to the amazing masterpieces that can be created by hand.
A lot of fashion brands in particular have been called out recently for appropriating other cultures - how do you manage taking inspiration from countries and cultures without being exploitative?
This is a topic I’m very interested in and read about regularly. All of my inspiration comes from my personal experiences and the places I have visited. For instance, the Floral Fragments collection has been inspired by the fading paintings from ancient Indian palaces that I discovered when living and working as a jewellery designer in Jaipur. I actually feel that I have always been drawn to India as a place, as I grew up in Leicester which is a very multicultural city. From a young age I was exposed to the amazing Asian culture that was part of my city and I made sure I visited India as soon as I was able to at the age of 20. I think appropriating another culture can be insensitive when it comes from a place of ignorance or a lack of knowledge. I always try to be honest and give full credit to where I have sourced my inspiration and I feel very personally connected to the places that my jewellery is inspired by, having spent significant time there. So I believe these inspirations are also part of my own experiences.
Has sustainability always been at the forefront of the business and your personal life too?
Yes, I try and live my life as sustainably as possible and to reduce the amount of waste my lifestyle creates. I’m committed to recycling, taking public transport, limiting my use of single-use plastic and using a reusable coffee cup, as examples. When it comes to fashion, I really take my time to think about the clothes that I wear and with anything that I buy, I try to make sure the item will have longevity in my wardrobe, and will be loved and worn time and time again. At the weekends, I love trawling charity shops for vintage homeware finds, as well as antique jewellery which can inspire a shape or style of a new design.
Do you find it difficult to incorporate ethical and sustainable practices into your business?
When designing ethical jewellery it can be challenging to source gemstones or certain materials ethically as there are still limitations with traceability on the market at the moment, so this can feel limiting as a designer at times. The great thing is this is changing everyday with more and more sustainable options being introduced within the jewellery industry! These include recycled metals; Fairtrade or Fairmined metals; SMO gold (single mined origin); traceable gemstones; and also lab-grown diamonds. When you make something by hand, it shows you just how much time and care is taken to create the things we use and wear, so it gives you a clear perspective on the damaging nature of throwaway consumerism.
What would you suggest to other jewellery designers who want to make their brands sustainable and ethical?
I’d recommend asking your suppliers questions about where and how your materials are sourced. Then you can begin to understand your supply chain and ways you could be working more sustainably. If you work with production teams overseas, visit the factories so you can be sure they meet your ethical standards. You can also think about the environmental impact your business and products have on the world and try to be more eco-friendly with recycled packaging, biodegradable materials and a repair service.
How do you keep up to date with the latest sustainability news and opportunities?
I’m an avid reader so I keep up to date with news articles about sustainability and am always pleased to discover new brands working in sustainable ways. I love reading blogs and scrolling through Instagram for inspiration on slow living. When it comes to developments with sustainability in the jewellery industry, I’m lucky to be a part of the team at Fair Luxury who are a group of jewellery industry change-makers, each of us with a shared vision of a responsible and sustainable future.
How did you come to start your own jewellery brand?
I knew I wanted to be a jewellery designer from the age of 16. I love the creative freedom that designing my own pieces gives me and running my own brand is so fun (as well as a lot of hard work), as it allows me to design pieces for other women that I also love to wear myself!
Do your customers engage with, notice and care about the work you put into being a sustainable and ethical business?
Yes, I think my customers care about the planet and the beauty within it and want to protect it. I regularly have conversations with my customers about how I create my jewellery sustainably and they are always delighted to learn about the positive impacts of using Fairtrade Gold for instance, as well as the environmental benefits of using recycled metals. I spend time with my customers and help them to choose their pieces carefully - the gemstones used, how the pieces are worn etc. I believe they’re not interested in mindless buying and do take time to build their jewellery collections. I hope the people who buy my jewellery love it enough to take care of it and wear it for years to come - maybe even handing it down to younger family members.
What's next for Natalie Perry Jewellery?
I’m expanding my fine jewellery collections with some new designs such as some new hoop earrings that I’m making at the moment. You’ll see new statement designs in recycled silver too. I hope to partner with more UK based and international stockists and have some exciting events lined up.
What's your favourite piece?
Personally I love statement earrings so I wear my Ammonite Pearl Earrings almost everyday as they go with everything, I can throw them on and they instantly update a simple outfit. In the future I hope to have enough of my own pieces from the collections so I can mix and match with stacked rings and layered necklaces!
Discover more at natalieperryjewellery.com