As we ride out the 24th month of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the UK, the power of womankind and our nurturing tendency is more palpable than ever. The past two years have been a rollercoaster experience with peaks and troughs of equal intensities, but the woman’s superpower to care has been a constant factor on which we can always rely.
From women continuing to carry the load of unpaid labour in the domestic setting to women dominating healthcare, personal care, teaching and cleaning industries, women are overwhelmingly the force rearing our children, caring for our elderly and vulnerable, and putting food on our tables.
What’s more, our years of experience in the sustainable jewellery industry have taught us that women are largely on the frontline of the campaign for Mother Nature, with aboriginal women leading the rejection of extractivism at mine sites around the world. When all the complexities are stripped away, the woman’s care is the pillar of our society.
The world has made unprecedented advances, but as of yet, no country has achieved gender equality. Fifty years ago, we landed on the moon; in the last decade, we discovered new human ancestors and photographed a black hole for the first time. In the meantime, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women across the globe from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Today, the global gender gap is not expected to close for another 136 years; a time that has increased by 36 years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report.
Estimates suggest that women drive demand for more than 90% of the world’s jewellery. It’s the tastes and preferences of women that shape the market and influence decisions throughout the supply chain. But, to date, the jewellery industry has largely been regarded as a man’s world.
In the words of Rachael Taylor for the British Academy of Jewellery, “The jewellery industry is built around women. The majority of designs are made for them, and with the rise of self-purchasing, most marketing campaigns are now targeted directly at them. Yet it is still an industry dominated at the top by men.” In 2017, research by The Financial Times confirmed an overwhelming dominance of men in chief executive positions for luxury watch and jewellery brands.
Today, we’re taking a moment to shout out some of the hard-working, talented and passionate women behind our beautiful jewels. Without these people, there would be no Lebrusan Studio – and we’d be unable to succeed in our mission of changing the world, one gram of gold at a time.
Estelle Levin-Nally is the Founder and Director of Levin Sources, the consultancy and social venture dedicated to ensuring that the international mining and sourcing of minerals is equitable and sustainable for all involved. Estelle herself is a globally recognised pioneer in mineral sustainability, having spoken at high profile events and conferences around the world. She’s been instrumental in the founding of a number of programmes that develop innovative toolkits and strategies to address global issues surrounding artisanal and small-scale mining, including the The GIFF Project and the ASM-PACE initiative.
Alongside serving on the Standards Committee of the Responsible Jewellery Council and founding the British Ethical Jewellers Association, Estelle has found time in recent years to lend a hugely significant helping hand to Lebrusan Studio.
With more almost two decades' experience in supply chain diligence, conflict-affected areas, conservation and high risk materials, Estelle is perfectly positioned to deliver bespoke solutions to brands aiming for sustainability and ethical practises. At the beginning, she helped our Founder Arabel tackle the mammoth task of generating Lebrusan Studio’s all-important ethical policy, breaking down intimidating jargon, instilling her with confidence and belief in our unique brand and ultimately enabling us to establish our mission. In other words, Estelle’s contributions have helped to form the foundations of Lebrusan Studio.
You can learn more about this wonder-woman by reading our Q&A interview!
Kathy manages Fair Trade Gems, a UK-based business that operates safe and environmentally-responsible gemstone-cutting facilities across two continents, where lapidaries are promised fair wages and protected from silicosis. Her mission is one of making fair-trade gems the standard; not just an exception.
Kathy, a fellow Fair Luxury member, is one of our primary gemstone suppliers - which means she’s responsible for the wow-factor of many of our sparkling jewels. She provides us with extensive supply chain information on every stone she supplies, going above and beyond to ensure that we’re satisfied with the details of provenance. Her fastidiousness not only enables us to fulfil our role of creating stunning jewels with traceable backstories; but serves as a driving factor in the changing face of the global gemstone market.
Our Fairmined Ecological Gold currently originates from the XAMODX non-governmental mining organisation (NGO) in Mongolia. The miners here have worked tirelessly to achieve a livelihood that’s sustainable, both environmentally and economically. It’s this dedication that saw the XAMODX NGO crowned as the world’s first ever organisation producing Fairmined Ecological Gold; gold mined without the use of mercury or cyanide.
Women are active in the leadership of the mine. When asked why people should buy their gold, Mrs. Bolormaa and Mrs. Dolgorsuren - two members of the organisation – say that the Fairmined premium covers the wider needs of their neighbourhood. Their Fairmined certification has enabled them invest in a brick production shop and cattle herds, diversifying the sources of income for their community and subsequently enabling Mrs. Bolormaa to cover her children's tuition fees. Thanks to the hard work of these women, we have access to gold that we can feel truly proud of.
In 2016, our Founder and Designer Arabel visited master filigree artisan Elena high up in the Colombian mountains. Using Fairmined silver sourced from the nearby Iquira Mine, Elena applied mind-blowing skill to craft our delicate From Colombia with Love capsule collection of earrings and rings by hand. These exquisite jewels showcased the innovation of a person who’s found a way to produce beautiful fashion pieces that are mindful of the planet and its resources. With filigree jewellery dating back over 600 years in this Colombia, Elena’s work sustains centuries of South American tradition, ensuring that invaluable cultural heritage can be passed on to future generations.
Then, there’s the woman herself; the restless brain behind our beautiful brand and the reason we’re fortunate enough to sit here today writing this article; our Founder and Designer, Arabel Lebrusan.
Arabel has been dedicated to jewellery that’s beautiful inside and out for over twenty years. She began her journey as a fashion jewellery designer, travelling the Far East and learning the ins and outs of the trade; the good, the bad and the ugly. A Master's at Central Saint Martin's followed, with a deep investigative focus on ethics in the jewellery industry. She then went on to spend five years as Creative Director of Leblas Jewellery - the first ever ethical jeweller on London's famed Sloane Street - before winding up here as designer and conductor of her very own brand.
Now an established frontrunner in the world of ethical jewellery, Arabel is multifaceted; not just an award-winning designer and a leading visual artist but a campaigner, passionate about using her platform to talk about the exploitation of land and the people who have fallen through the cracks of our capitalist system, striving for a jewellery industry that's fairer and more transparent. She’s given her very own TEDx Talk on ethical jewellery, spanned the globe sourcing and researching ethical materials, been commended with a number of prestigious accolades and is a founding member of the Fair Luxury campaign group.
The employer of an all-woman team, Arabel inspires us daily with her drive and genuine adoration of what she does.