Trends are cyclical – but what if they could also be circular in a material sense?

Jewellery designer Zoë Alexandria started her eponymous jewellery label in 2018. Three years later, she’s rethinking the process – introducing a recycling initiative that buys back solid silver and gold jewellery and using it to craft entirely new pieces.

“It’s similar to a buyback credit system,” says Alexandria, speaking to Broadsheet from her home in the Sutherland Shire. “Say it’s five grams of gold, you’ll then get a credit [towards other pieces] based on market rates of gold with that credit.”

In 2020, Alexandria had a baby and the effects of Covid-19 shutdowns prompted her to reflect on how she could integrate more sustainable techniques in her jewellery design. “I was making jewellery, but not every single bit of it,” she says. “A lot of things changed, and that’s where the brand evolved. It got me thinking about how I live my life and [how I] want to live my life in terms of being a bit more considered with my choices.”

Melting down metals and repurposing old pieces from her studio got Alexandria thinking about all the other jewellery laying around in boxes, unworn and unloved.

“We’ve all got those pieces from an ex-boyfriend; something you bought 20 years ago at a different stage in your life; something that holds sentimental value but it’s not your style now; something you don’t want to throw away; [something] you don’t know what to with or you don’t wear. So then it’s about, ‘How can we restore this?’ Let’s make that into something new.”

Alexandria isn’t the only Australian jeweller embedding sustainability into their jewellery-making process. Another New South Wales designer, Holly Ryan, has a repair and recycling scheme, which sees the Sydney and Sunshine Coast studios take back pieces by the brand to be redesigned and repurposed.

Other brands like Pip Stent and Sarah & Sebastian, while not offering a credit or a recycling initiative, do use recycled metals and repurposed, ethically sourced stones. It signals a broader shift in the industry, which is seeing more transparency about where its materials come from.

Alexandria’s jewellery style includes circular silver earrings with small mixed colour sapphire gemstones; moon-like pendants in gold; and delicate rings bearing uniquely integrated, ethically sourced stones.

Each is handmade from start to finish, using a technique called sand casting, which involves a cast crafted from sandy clay.

“It can be quite unpredictable. Sometimes the stones will shift slightly because [of] the sand; it has a particular texture, which makes every piece slightly different. That’s the beauty of it.”

After her own reflection, Alexander also hopes customers can use the recycling process to think about the outdated notion that jewellery has to be a gift, rather than something you buy for yourself.

“There used to be the notion that jewellery was bought for you – especially for women – you waited for someone to buy you a nice piece of jewellery,” she says. “You don't always need someone to mark that milestone for you. You can do it yourself.”