Creating each piece by hand in her Sydney studio, Natalie understands the unlimited possibilities of precious metals and uses this knowledge to create pieces that will be valued throughout the owner’s lifetime. We speak to her about her ever-growing jewellery brand, Natalie Marie Jewellery.
1. Talk us through your hand-made to order model? How has this become an important mission for the brand?
Since our inception eight years ago, we have seen a really organic growth, which has had a positive impact on how we’ve been able to focus on the core ethos behind how I wanted this brand and our manufacturing processes to work from day one – to create consciously and with intention.
When I started the brand, I was making every piece myself (in my garage!) and as times gone on, the actual procedures and processes behind every piece have very much remained the same, only expanding as we have scaled our production. We create one sample per season and then every single piece ordered instore or online is made specifically for the customer. Apart from a small range of pieces in our flagship showroom, we don’t hold stock of our jewellery.
Handcrafting our jewellery in-house gives us complete control over the process - from sourcing and production to setting, finishing and packaging. We are functioning as a minimal waste company, working on a supply and demand basis, and this has played an integral part in ensuring we maintain a really conscious, sustainable ethos.
2. Sustainability is a hot topic and a buzz word, particularly at the moment. What does the word actually mean to you?
The words ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ are so commonplace now and have somewhat lost their weight. What we are really driven by is a desire to stand behind these claims with confidence that we are going beyond language and seeing this through in every facet of our practise as a manufacturing company and retailer.
As a brand, we are taking significant steps to not only drive internal progress, but also initiate a broader reform among the Australian jewellery community. We are in the process of becoming accredited by the Responsible Jewellery Council, which is an immensely in depth process, but one we are deeply invested in to ensure that we can really stand confidently behind the label of being a responsible jewellery company.
In undertaking this process, we have also partnered with some international industry game changers, who act as our mentors and assist us in connecting with a broader community of conscious jewellers, something we hope to establish and build on within Australia in the years to come. Throughout this process, 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.
3. With discounting being against your core principles, can you tell us why this is especially important to upholding the integrity of your brand’s values?
The jewellery industry is a complicated one, and one with a deep history. As a whole, this industry has been slow in finding its ecological conscience. I would urge anyone investing in a piece of jewellery (and that is what any jewellery purchase should always be – an investment), to consider all aspects of the piece and its production. We try, at NMJ, to give our customers a deep sense of connection with our processes and practices, so that they can truly understand the nature of their investment and feel confident in their choices.
Our sense of moral responsibility is what drives us. 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 norm not the exception.
4. What is the most challenging part of being a sustainable and ethical brand?
Growing sustainably can present challenges. The more conscious route is always going to be the less profitable. We work with a large proportion of Australian sourced materials, pay for Australian labour, choose to work with small scale, independent local suppliers. These choices all come at a cost, but the value is reflected clearly in a product which is not only of superior quality but comes with the confidence that it has been strictly crafted consciously.
As we make each NMJ order by hand, we don’t purchase in bulk, so our cost price is also much higher than a mass-produced brand. We work with a select few suppliers who work to the same ethical and sustainable standards that we do, and each piece is a labour of love. Materials as well as labour is included in our pricing. That said, we are rewarded daily by every customer that chooses to invest in this journey with us, and that’s enough of an incentive to continue on this path.
5. What’s something we might not know about you?
Prior to plunging into my arts education, I was pursuing a career in marine science! This was driven by a very academically focused high school experience where the arts were really downplayed as a valid career path. It wasn’t until I moved to Sydney from my home in England at twenty, that my eyes were opened to the fact that my passion of creating could actually present an opportunity for a much more rewarding future. I am so glad I chose my heart's path, guided by my now-husband who encouraged me to take a risk and follow my gut.
6. One of your favourite pieces from the NMJ collection?
Most days you will find me wearing our Six Oval Necklace and Mae Pendant with my daughters’ initial hand-engraved on it. I am due any day now with my second daughter and will be adding her initial to this sentimental piece too.
7. What do you wish people were more aware of?
I wish people were more aware of each other, and the impact of our actions on one another. Everyone is fighting their own battles and deserves kindness, grace and respect in interactions big and small.
8. Can you share a bit of your creative process with us?
I always designed from a more tactile, process-based methodology, letting the materials and the practice take the lead. This is really where the brand's aesthetic was born.
9. I like to remind myself that…
We create our own good luck. This is something my high school headmistress told me at age twelve and it has stuck with me. I do believe that the universe has a part to play but feel strongly that we manifest our own existence and bring forward what we dream of. We write our own stories, if we are brave enough.
10. Why you felt inspired to support WFG?
I believe that Worn for Good truly is a vehicle for change and can think of no better way to share the first and only sample pieces from some of our favourite collections. As I mentioned, at the core of NMJ is creating consciously, and I feel so much joy in discovering such a strong intention for these samples with WFG: to find a forever home, with proceeds going to an important causes.