December 09, 2020
I’m reading… The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
I’m watching… Nothing lately - with two young kids and a business to run I am in bed too early to watch anything!
I’m listening… The National, Julie Byrne, Kevin Morby and podcasts!
I’m eating / drinking… Many, many cups of tea and lots of dark chocolate.
I’m feeling… Reflective, hopeful, grateful.
Can you share the story, and inspiration behind Natalie Marie Jewellery?
The story of the brand and has been one of organic evolution and natural progression. As I finalised my studies in the Arts in 2010 I started to form a vision of what would become Natalie Marie Jewellery. After graduating, I slowly started building my studio set up and experimenting with my skills and aesthetic, which naturally progressed into making pieces for family and friends, in turn led to creating more defined stories, and eventually a collection. The brand had humble beginnings, and was a slow burn initially while I developed my skills and put the pieces into place to facilitate what I wanted to create. I was working behind the scenes on the brand for two years before we launched in 2012, and worked singlehandedly designing and producing every piece for another four years.
While I always had a vision for what I wanted to create, I didn’t start out with big dreams or concrete plans for NMJ. I was only ever driven by a desire to create pieces of meaning, with intention. The last five years have seen NMJ grow from a two-person operation, to a thirty strong team. While our scale may have rapidly changed, I am proud that our ethos and character still stands strong, and that we are still creating work with the same level of care, conscience, intention and personal investment as I poured into each of those first pieces I made.
At the core of what we intend to create, is connection. I hope our customers feel a deep sense of connection with their piece and the story of its creation, adding to it an intrinsic value.
Describe the NMJ customer inthree words:
Conscious, Diverse, Discerning.
For us jewellery is a way of celebrating milestones, each piece representative of a monumental moment, and feeling, in our lives. What does jewellery represent to you?
To me, jewellery is a tangible expression of sentiment; embodying a memory, a feeling, a commitment or a moment in time. Jewellery presents a unique opportunity to connect on a deeper level with a wearable object, something that will become a part of your daily life in a truly valuable way.
Your ethos of creating beautiful, made-to-order pieces designed to last a lifetime makes NMJ a fundamentally sustainable brand, on a journey towards creating a brighter future. What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability to us means creating consciously. It means going beyond the language and the day-to-day commitments, and diving deeper into the finite details of the industry as a whole. Our brand is built on fundamentally sustainable core principals, and our day-to-day practises are innately responsible; however, we are aware that we are a part of a wider industry which has a complex history, and one which has been slow to find its ecological conscience. For NMJ, the sustainability journey that we are committed to goes beyond our walls, and extends out to the wider industry. We are passionate about building connections with likeminded brands, responsible suppliers and game changing organisations; so that we can continue to educate ourselves and others, ensuring we can stand up as a driving force for continued growth, change and improvement in this ever complex industry.
Can you share some insight into your suppliers, and the incredible materials you use, such as recycled metals and GIA certified diamonds?
Supplier partnerships are key to our progression as a responsible jewellery company. The industry in Australia is still fairly new to the party when it comes to ethical reform, and sourcing stones and materials through sustainable avenues is a notoriously grey area. Working with closely vetted suppliers is extremely important, we try, where possible, to work with suppliers who are independently accredited as well as those who have a closed chain of custody, meaning they have transparency over the transfer of materials through each stage of the supply chain.
With regard to metals, we use recycled material where possible, and where new material is required, we choose material which is mined in Australia. This gives us assurance of the working conditions under which the material is mined, but also, given Australia’s strict legislation around environmental regeneration, we can feel confident that the environmental effects of material extraction are largely reversed on the completion of mining activity.
When it comes to gemstones, we work with a broad range of stones and the conditions and requirements around sourcing are different for each. Our semi-precious collection stones are custom cut for us through our key gemstone supplier, ensuring traceability and control. We also choose to work, where possible, with Australian mined stones such as Australian sapphires and Argyle diamonds which are popular with our clients. All of the diamonds used in our work are acquired on the written guarantee that that they are sourced in line with the Kimberly process, the only legislation in place within the diamond industry to guarantee conflict free stones of legitimate origin.
In this industry, there are no set standards in place regarding sourcing, reporting or traceability of material. It’s the responsibility of jewellers to ask the right questions and ensure that they are sourcing responsibly. As such, our catalysing partnerships enable us to push our sustainability efforts forward with great momentum. We are a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council, and we are currently working through the process to become accredited. The RJC is a standards setting initiative that ensures sustainable and ethical practices are met from mine to retail. Supply chains are often complex, multi-tiered and interconnected, and with RJC’s guidance our focus has expanded far beyond our in-house practices, which we have had a great grasp on for many years - to tracing material throughout every single step of the supply chain.
Most recently, we have partnered with IMPACT, a global organisation that works to improve how natural resources are managed where security and human rights are at risk. The mismanagement of natural resources fuels and sustains crises around the world and IMPACT is guided by the core belief and principle that lasting and transformative change in the natural resource sector will come by providing capacity to local actors. We donate 1% of total online sales to IMPACT on a quarterly basis to help to support the incredible work they do across Regulatory and Legal Reform, Supply Chain Transparency, Gender Equality, Illicit Trade and Financing and Environmental Stewardship. In exchange, Impact work with us on further educating, guiding and assisting us on our sustainability journey.
We hope to lead by example and hope that other jewellery companies will undertake similar initiatives to drive long term change, shifting to a point where this type of practice and level of consciousness becomes the normal not the exception.
What does a typical day at NMJ Showroom look like?
We are fortunate to house our studio, production office and flagship retail space under the one roof, with our head office a few steps away. The presence of our manufacturing site within our retail sphere provides a uniquely holistic and immersive experience for our customers.
The combined site makes for a consistently busy space! The day begins with our showroom team setting up the retail space for the day, with each piece having been carefully packed away each night. This provides an engaging and refreshed environment each day, tailored to the appointments which are booked and the clients we are expecting
Our team of jewellers get set up at their benches, with their daily work delegated by our production manager. Each jeweller specialises in different work; some jewellers being more production focused and creating pieces for our stockists, with other jewellers focused on more time intensive bespoke pieces. The jewellers all have their heads down for most of the day, while our production team work on communicating with customers, processing orders, preparing materials for production handover, quality checking completed work and coordinating dispatch.
Meanwhile, at head office, our bespoke team are engaged in the lengthy process of designing and sourcing for their individual clients, working on bringing their visions to life. Our customer services and production management team work closely in assisting with streamlined communication and timely creation of these unique pieces, and our marketing team engage with the process, documenting and communicating this to our clients to ensure they feel connected to our story and educated on our processes.
The days are extremely busy and dynamic, full of creation and collaboration.
What are some of your favourite NMJ pieces at Del Rainbow store, and how do you recommend our customers wear them?
Del Rainbow store is home to some of my favourite pieces from our Sabel collection, such as the Ochre Ring - everyday elegance with tiny rainbow shaped arcs that evoke happiness! I love the Saffron Studs, a subtle sparkle of diamonds that can be worn from day to night, and another favourite is the Tiny Rose Cut Pendant; featuring a custom cut Peach Zircon, perfect for layering with your current necklace collection.
What’s next for NMJ?
The focus for this last part of the year is always on production, with the holiday season marking one of our most significant deadlines across all facets of the business. It is all go until we close our doors on Christmas Eve!
The new year presents some exciting opportunities, the potential of a new space and the much needed expansion of our studio being the biggest project on the horizon. We are hoping to have the opportunity to resume our interstate and international bespoke pop-up events at some stage, depending on the state of the world as the months unfold. We also have three new collections which are unfolding behind the scenes.
As each new year rolls around we regroup our focus on continuing to improve across the board; we review where we can do better and how. We have recently appointed our first ever Head of People who has joined NMJ tasked with the purpose of nurturing and inspiring our team, ensuring that they can design, create and relate to our pieces and clients from a place of connection and energy.
2021 will see us forge ahead with our efforts to become accredited members of the Responsible Jewellery Council, an intensive, thorough process which is pushing our sustainability journey to a new level.
Photography: @tealily @samrilesphotography @natmarie
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