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Fifi Bijoux: an interview with luxury ethical jewellery designer Vivien Johnston

Vivien Johnston is a pioneer of ethical luxury jewellery design - since she set up the British Ethical Jewellery Association so much has happened. Here's an extract of her interview in Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Abby Wright Fifi Bijoux rutile quartz
Rutile quartz jewellery by Fifi Bijoux. Illustrated by Abby Wright.

I first encountered Fifi Bijoux at London Fashion Week a few years ago, look symptoms and we subsequently interviewed her for the print version of Amelia’s Magazine. Since then she’s achieved an amazing amount in ethical jewellery production…

You were one of the first jewellery designers to take an ethical stance on manufacturing of high end jewellery in the UK. What have you achieved?
I set up the British Ethical Jewellery Association to create a set of auditable ethical standards for the industry. This has since been superseded by the ethics working committee of the National Association of Goldsmiths which has adopted the same aims, approved medications helping to enable relationships between jewellers and small-scale mining projects. NAG has nearly a thousand members, pills so it is the perfect platform to achieve our aim of supporting jewellers in the UK to lead the way in adopting ethical sourcing as a core business value. In the UK there is a real will to embrace better ethical practices and a fairtraded logo for jewellery will be agreed on shortly.

Have you seen much change in the industry since you started Fifi Bijoux?
The most remarkable change has come from gem and diamond-producing countries such as Tanzania, Madagascar and Namibia, who are now cutting and polishing the gems before export. This represents a huge shift in technical skills and economics since a large percentage of a gem’s value is added at this stage. The lapidary art of stone cutting requires a high degree of technical and scientific expertise in order to create the sophisticated facets expected by western customers, and this can be provided by modern lasers. Gravity mining provides a relatively low impact solution for gold extraction. It is really important that producers in developing countries are able to access markets and this is where organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation and membership bodies like NAG can create quantum shifts; an individual jeweller may struggle with the process of sourcing gold, exporting it from a developing country, refining it and processing it into a usable material to create jewellery. However, by acting collectively with support resources in place, this becomes considerably less daunting.

Read the rest of this interview with Fifi Bijoux in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, alongside interviews with 44 other ethical fashion designers and 30 fabulous fashion illustrators. You can buy the book here.


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