Products made of sustainable materials are beginning to gain traction in the fashion industry. This includes clothing, shoes, handbags, and of course - jewelry. People often think of sustainable jewelry as being trinkets, not made to last. However, this can’t be further from the truth. Some of the most beautiful sustainable jewelry collections are made with the highest quality materials - from ethically sourced or recycled precious metals (gold, silver, bronze) to precious and semi-precious stones (diamonds, jade, emeralds) that are ethically sourced. There’s also an element of creativity, as artisans and jewelry designers around the world pull from the beauty of their environments to create timeless jewelry pieces that are one-of-a-kind and culturally inspired.
Besides materials, the biggest distinction separating sustainably made jewelry brands is the process itself. Simply put, everyone benefits. Artisan jewelry designers are working within their communities to employ and train people in the art of the craft. Their talents are being leveraged, respected, and fairly compensated to the benefit of the community and the culture.
Across the continent of Africa, artisan collectives have been formed making it easy for local and international jewelry brands to source sustainable materials, utilize ethical labor practices (including fair wages) to bring their brands to market. Here are seven of the eco-friendly jewelry brands that are made in Africa.
Inaivu / Kenya
INAIVU, a Tamil word that means “fusion,” handcrafts unique decor and lifestyle accessories that mix African and Asian influences. Located in Kenya, the brand invests and partners with local artisans by providing them access to a global marketplace. They also focus on providing deep business training to local artisans, offering product development, product purchases, and quality assurance training.
Akola / Uganda
Akola means “she works”; a befitting name for this globally-inspired jewelry brand, creating beautiful designs to lift up and champion women around the world. The brand provides “life-changing job opportunities through vertically-integrated manufacturing, employing women in Uganda to make each Akola piece.”Each piece is handcrafted and made of natural, high-quality materials like upcycled horns and gemstones.
Eden Diodati / Rwanda
This fashion brand is known as a sustainable luxury brand. Their workers are collective women who are survivors of genocide in Rwanda. The pieces are manufactured ethically and give opportunities for marginalized people to recreate their futures.
Their brand represents their four-tier philosophy: Art and collaboration, ethical manufacturing, wearable philanthropy, and beauty through compassion. Ten percent of their sales are directly given to Doctors without borders, a cause that embodies their brand’s philanthropic philosophy.
Kapoeta by Ambica is a luxury collection of handmade feather, brass, and silver jewelry and accessories where each unique piece beautifully plays the edgy against the elegant. Founded in 2010 as an African eco-fashion brand, Ambica supports ethical and sustainable sourcing, production and design. Shop Kapoeta on LOVE DOT.
SUED Watches / Kenya
(A watch from Sued Watches’ African Timer Collection.)
What does it mean to build a brand that is “authentically Kenyan”? It means infusing the beauty of Kenyan culture with the needs of the modern man/woman. SUED Watches does just that. The Kenyan watch brand sells handmade, authentically Kenyan timepieces, designed to celebrate local cultures. Each timepiece is handmade, many featuring straps made of Maasai beads, ethically sourced Zebra hair and/or cowhide.
SOKO is one of the most well-known ethical jewelry brands currently in the market. The brand has been able to successfully infuse Silicon Valley innovation and Kenyan craftsmanship to scale its operations at a phenomenal pace. SOKO employs around 2,300 local Keynay artisans - each making five times more than the amount they would be earning with other brands being crafted out of Kenya. Each piece is made using ethically sourced brass, horn, and beads.
You can shop select pieces from SOKO on LOVE DOT.
Yala Jewelry is an award-winning jewelry brand that uses geometric shapes to create elegant statement pieces that can not be ignored. The brand works with over 150 artisans in Kenya to design and produce each piece. Each item is made using locally sourced brass and semi-precious stones. Many of their pieces are crafted by the women of the Maasai tribe.