Dorothée Contour, 34 years old, is at the head of JEM Jewellery Ethically Minded, a French jewellery house at the crossroads of ethical commitment, minimalism and poetical philosophy. This collective project gathers several talents and embraces a lucid jewellery. Mixing the immaterial that is transparency and consciousness with the tangible and the preciousness of the materials, the aesthetics of the pieces translate into a timeless elegance. She is convinced that tomorrow’s business model must be embellished by a sustainable environment through authenticity and sincerity.
“A jewelry always tells more about what it is. It reflects the universe and the values of a house. When you wear JEM, it means transparency, ethical gold, confidentiality, and exclusivity, meaning you’ve looked for it because it is niche.”
A: The gold you use is labelled fairmined, could you tell us more about it?
DC: The eco-responsible standards, gold extraction, artisanal mines developed by ARM Alliance for Responsible Mining existed before JEM’s license. The jewelry house was born from this encounter with the program and with this will to spread this solution. It wasn’t called fairmined at this time but “ARM’s eco-responsible standards“. The word appeared in 2010 among others such as fairtrade and became a label in 2014.
A: Luxury brands have a mission to educate the client through a subtle way
DC: Luxury is supposed to be subtle. I sometimes hear people saying luxury is useless. I disagree strongly. It is way more useful than fashion. Luxury in its real values means quality, craftsmanship, beautiful materials, long lasting, gorgeous products, the contrary of fast. Luxury remains very symbolic when you identify yourself through the values of a certain house. People want softness, desirability, dream and commitment. We have to find a way to talk about sustainability by creating a “wow” effect and not telling “they’re right because it’s good to do so”.
A: Then what is your vision of luxury?
DC: Luxury is a universe more than just a product – values, premium, quality etc of course and above all, from everything that surrounds their creation to everything that is told through the person wearing the product. Luxury is the contrary of the trends, the punctual, the ephemeral. My perception of luxury is a field that takes on responsibility, that is considered as a model. The aim of luxury is to inspire people beside innovating and creating trends that inspire others. But the impulse comes from luxury. It’s not only about aspiring to luxury, but some people can consume luxury from time to time and get inspired. Luxury goes really deep. The process is to see the commitments through.
“JEM’s creations are timeless. The jewelry becomes really intimate. We put it on every morning without even thinking. It is always here, just like a perfume.”
A: Can we expect jewelry pieces made of other materials in the future?
DC: Of course. For now our signature material is gold. For historical reasons, the one related to ethical gold, the fairmined gold what the brand is based on. This field is the most advanced one and the most traceable one, very rigorous in terms of commitment in the mining industry. We really build our identity and our products around gold. Then obviously we want to use other materials and we are working on it. It is very difficult, as we want to make sure the sourcing remains ethical and controlled. Although we haven’t found the solution for the precious stones yet, some initiatives can be noticed. Things are moving but we are really picky and have to be convinced about the sourcing. When we think about diamonds, it is very complex because the field is extremely opaque.
We don’t boycott diamonds, this isn’t the solution. We are looking for the right initiatives and trying to move things forward. Two interesting points: the first one deals with our bespoke service including Canadian diamonds – it is the only mining diamond in the world that is traced. Not only it is extracted but also laser-cut in Canada so the traceability is kept. They are not ethical but it remains a real progress by ensuring this traceability. Moreover we, as many other developed countries respect a certain level of social requirements for the employees and workers (minimum wage, safety, decent working conditions, …), but even though the diamonds are conflict-free, this isn’t enough.
Secondly, I would like to focus on something new: cultured diamonds. They are real diamonds, with physical, chemical and aesthetic properties of the diamond. They simply don’t come from nature but produced by humans in laboratories through carbon crystallization. The reproduction deals with the natural process that usually last millions of years to create a diamond. This is biomimicry, a new technology that helps building a better tomorrow. To me, it is fascinating because it’s an enormous technological progress. It will remain an eternal stone even if it’s not a gift of the earth. Diamond is about the history of the 20th century. The diamond is about the history of the 20th century. De Beers managed to spread a certain echo with values that it didn’t have before. It is a marketing stone even if it is very beautiful and unbreakable. But the dream created around it is a real marketing success. Now in the 21st century, the considerations are different. For the new generations, it is important and interesting to ask what is our position in the world, in the society, compared to nature. What is the most important? Having a natural diamond that has grown in nature for ages? It is a dream. But could this dream be different today? Having a diamond that is made only for myself from scratch, a bespoke diamond? Our new challenge is to create a new dream around a new diamond.
“It’s not a diamond made by nature anymore, it is a diamond made by humans. We move from raw material to know-how.”
available at 121 rue Vieille du Temple 75003 Paris
until December 31st