“Jewellery has been one of the main “savings” programmes for many locals. This has resulted in significant numbers of skilful quality goldsmiths using traditional methods.”

How did the idea of a sustainable pearl collection come about?
Cultured pearls are natural, organic material and hence, from an environmental point of view, more sustainable than some other materials like gemstones or man-made materials. Moreover, to achieve good quality pearls, clean water is needed so farmers have a direct incentive and interest in looking after the marine environment and act sustainably.

Why does sustainability make sense from a business point of view?
In the long term sustainability is a must for all – resources are limited, and actions have consequences. In the short term, it means becoming accountable for one’s actions early. Businesses can also take advantage of the global interest in sustainability because when those involved in the making of a product have been fair opportunities,  the end customers can feel good about their purchase.

There has been some controversy about Myanmar pearls, why did you decide to use them for this particular project?
I have been working in Myanmar on skill development matters since 2014. Myanmar was closed for decades and had fallen behind development in all aspects. The country is in the middle of a major transformation and needs genuine help. Bringing economic opportunities and international clients will not only provide much needed jobs and money, but set an example on standards for the environment, labour relations, education, communications, etc.

How are the participating smiths selected?
Investment in technology has been limited in Myanmar. As a result, there is a strong skill set in cottage-type industries. Gold jewellery has been one of the main “savings” programmes for many locals. This has resulted in significant numbers of skilful quality goldsmiths using traditional methods. To spread economic opportunities and support the craftsmen skill sets, all the smiths we work with are private, small-scale enterprises that use traditional handcrafting methods in jewellery manufacturing. The initial selection has been trial and error in producing various pieces, but the selection criteria has been, primarily, 1) their local small scale qualities; 2) the quality of the product; 3) the cost;  and 4) the time needed to produce it.

How is it to collaborate with ViaTalenta?
As the majority of Asia is not yet sustainable, we are being very creative in our work locally. The ViaTalenta team supports the uphill struggle towards sustainability with sensible and pragmatic approaches. Together with MyDesign of Gems, we are working to provide sustainable job opportunities for the local communities, while developing new markets segments for sustainable products.