Costume jewelry is also given an upcycle treatment
Do you remember the time when your grandmother upcycled her gold coins to create something new? Or when your mother used gemstones from an old jewelry set to have a new design made? This way of thinking of upcycling fine jewelry has been an Indian custom for generations. Now a new generation of designers are introducing this to costume jewelry as well. Think of buying back old stock, refurbishing old parts from customers, and recycling industrial waste to produce “greener” pieces.
Méro Jewelery launched the Silver Recycle Project in June. The premise is simple: the brand buys back silver jewelry and artifacts from its customers in exchange for new custom-made items worth the silver or a credit to redeem in their e-shop. “We grew up watching our grandparents and parents recycle their silver. We also wanted to introduce this concept to a new generation of customers, ”explains Dhaval Palrecha, the brand’s founder.
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Aavriti R. Jain thought similarly when she launched Green Dhora over three years ago, an initiative by her Dhora brand that enables customers to return their old brass and silver jewelry to the label in exchange for new pieces. “As a young jewelry designer, I was scared of the rubbish I saw around me and looked for ways to reuse materials. Green Dhora is our way of avoiding buying new metal wherever we can, ”she says. Jain compares the environmental impact of costume jewelry – whether it costs you ₹500 or ₹10,000 – to that of a white T-shirt brought in from a high street brand. “Fashion accessories are easily forgotten. One tends to get bored easily. That way you can at least get something new for it instead of just throwing the piece away, ”she emphasizes.
Were there a lot of buyers? Since the start of the project, Méro has had around 35 women between the ages of 25 and 45 approach them with their old silver dishes, coins, artifacts and jewelry. The brand’s other co-founder, Priyanka Palrecha, admits that much more education is needed before the concept gains momentum in the mainstream. “Such programs are associated with a certain amount of effort for the customer. Assessing silver and determining its value takes time. And then, making a new piece, adds a couple of days to the process. The younger generation doesn’t necessarily have the patience for that. As they become aware, they also want instant gratification. “
Jain believes the lockdown and ensuing talks about the importance of the circular economy will turn the tide. “When we launched Green Dhora, the response was limited to reposts and applause on social media. But that wasn’t our goal. We didn’t want it to be a marketing gimmick, ”she says. “But in the last 15 months, more and more customers have finally accepted this offer.”
The core idea of upcycling is the development of a circular economy in jewelry. Curated Curiosities, for example, uses discarded acrylic products or acrylic and wood from industrial locations for its creations.
The jewelry design house Chicory Chai works with antiques to recreate “wearable art”. “We don’t categorize our products as ‘costume jewelry’. They are passed down from generation to generation, even though they are made from recycled brass, ”says the founder of the Himani Grover brand. “Costume jewelry is made with cheap raw materials and industrialized processes that are not very environmentally friendly. They’re not made to last beyond a couple of seasons and end up in a landfill next to seasonal clothing. It is only when brands think of fashion jewelry for a few more seasons that their perception and responsibility towards the product change. “
Since brands bring out new collections or drops every few months, the need of the hour is a forward-looking approach, emphasizes jewelry designer Roma Narsinghani. “We have to ask ourselves important questions: Why am I making another collection? Is overproduction at the heart of the waste problem? Upcycling is a fresher and more productive solution to reducing waste and supporting the development of a circular economy. ”Narsinghani, who already has a take-back offer for her jewelry, is now working with couture and bridal designers to convert their textile or crystal waste for jewelry use. “But it wasn’t easy,” she admits. “Many brands do not want to disclose their waste and have declined our offer. Some said they would reuse all of their waste internally. “
Jain, whose latest Sukoon collection is made from Kundan and Meena surpluses from factories in Jaipur, adds: “Small collections from surplus and an exchange of ideas and materials is the way to go. There is a lot of greenwashing going on. But there are also those who are really working to make a difference. It is time to turn it into a movement. “