For more than 100 years, Lewis Jewelers has been supplying customers with unique, quality pieces from the ever-evolving styles of necklaces and earrings to customized rings for brides and grooms. And in 2008, far ahead of the trend, the family-owned-and operated business shifted toward more eco-friendly, sustainable practices.
“We work with some of the top designer brands in the business as well as creating a lot of our own custom pieces,” custom design specialist and creative adviser Keith Largin says. “We’re ethically sourcing our materials so that everything regenerates and recycles into something new.”
During the 2008 recession, the team at Lewis Jewelers was met with the need to advance their jewelry-making practices. As gold prices went up, the business was flooded with articles and information stating that the metal could run out over the next decade due to overconsumption and issues within the world market. “We had to look inward and figure out how to adapt to the changing climate,” Largin says.
Jewelry making has long been known as an ethically questionable business. Strip mines have been used to tear up land in search of precious metals, toxic chemicals like arsenic have been released in the pursuit of gemstones and diamonds, and the process of mining can release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These factors led to the Ann Arbor-based shop to push toward using sustainable, ethically sourced materials. When it comes to creating wedding rings, Largin says these timeless pieces can only grow more valuable with the use of sustainable practices.
“We want our clients to know what is going into their rings and other items,” Largin says. “The response to our eco-friendly creations has been nothing but positive. With the younger crowd, words like sustainability are a common part of their vocabulary. You can tell they are passionate about being stewards for the Earth and treating it with respect.”
The Process of Creating a Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Wedding Band
- With a team of six in-house designers, Lewis Jewelers helps their brides and grooms customize their perfect ring.
2. Starting from scratch, the designer and their client will meet to use a computer-aided design program to layout all of the elements of the ring.
3. From there, they create a 3D print in wax to give the client an idea of the look and feel of the ring. They are able to try the ring on, play with it in their hands, and make sure that it is a piece they love.
4. The design is approved, and the designers take it to cast. Using recycled metals that are ethically sourced, the cast is filled with the desired materials.
5. Once the cast is completed, the designers work to buff and polish the ring to make it shine. Custom design specialist and creative adviser Keith Largin notes that he has seen a push towards more rugged, scuffed up looking rings for grooms, creating a more lived-in feel.
6. The ring is now complete and ready for sale.
According to Largin, metals like gold and silver can be easily recycled. Lewis purchases used gold and silver and sends it to Stuller Fine Jewelry in Lafayette, Louisiana, where it is melted down, made into blocks, and sent back to the shop where it can be used to create a new piece.
“We have the option for clients to create a ring completely from scratch,” Largin says. “They get to see exactly how the ring will look, what it will feel like, and how it will fit. Most importantly, we want them to have a ring that they can wear forever and feel good about the practices that went into creating it before they say ‘I do.’
Written by Jordan Jewell & Photographs courtsey of Lewis Jewelers