“I wanted to make something that I could buy myself,” says Laura Chavez, founder of new London-based jewellery line Lark & Berry. A great starting point for any brand, for Chavez this meant launching a brand that offered premium-quality jewellery, made in a socially conscious way and at fair price points.
Aiming to bridge the gap between costume and luxury jewellery, Chavez, along with creative director Katie Rowland, has focused on precious gems – particularly diamonds – tasking themselves with using them in an ethical way. So, rather than using the traditional method of mining for stones, they grow them.
Referred to in the industry as “cultured”, “lab-grown” or “space diamonds”, this involves placing a tiny piece of carbon into a machine that applies heat and pressure to it, mimicking the natural process. The result? A gemstone that, Chavez claims, is not only of the highest quality, but also produces “fewer emissions, less waste, uses less water and has less environmental impact than mined stones”.
“We want to guarantee that we know where our diamonds come from and this is really the only way to do it,” says Chavez. Though traditionally, lab-grown gemstones have been met with a degree of snobbery, they are swifty becoming a huge jewellery trend, with demand predicted to grow significantly over the next few years. Certainly, as we become more aware of where our clothes and food come from and the impact that our purchases have on the environment and the people who make them, it makes sense.
Even more so when you consider the very happy by-product of producing gemstones in this way – they are cheaper. Not cheap (we’re still talking about diamonds here), but, reportedly, they are up to 20 per cent cheaper than mined gems. Tapping into the ever-increasing self-gifting market, Lark & Berry’s pieces start at £300. Widely considered the “sweet spot” for big-ticket items such as bags, it’s undoubtedly still a fair whack. But for a special occasion – a promotion, a new job, a birthday or clubbing together for a friend’s present – it’s something to consider. The pieces are incredibly lovely: delicate, sparkly and beautifully made using 14- to 18-carat gold or platinum (which means they won’t be turning your skin green any time soon – so cost-per-wear it stacks up). There’s even an under-£350 engagement-ring option, in case you’re in need of one.