Sustainability has become the number one watchword of the jewelry industry, as consumers increasingly demand transparency in the sourcing and craft of the gemstones and gold they’re buying. Indeed, from ethically mined gold to the rise of lab-grown diamonds, almost every jewelry conversation these days seems focused on the balance of dazzling designs produced via responsible practices.
Nobody has navigated that conversation better than Chopard. The Geneva-based watch and jewelry house, founded by Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860, has embraced sustainable practices for more than three decades, and in 2017 moved the concept toward its ultimate end goal: to declare that every design featuring gold, diamonds, and gemstones to emerge from the house would be produced ethically and responsibly. That same year, Chopard joined the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA), a non-profit association that monitors gold supply chains, while seven years earlier the brand had received its certification from the Responsible Jewellery Council, which promotes ethical, social, and environmentally responsible practices in every facet of the jewelry industry’s supply and production chain.
At the heart of the brand’s commitment is Caroline Scheufele, Chopard’s artistic director and co-president of the company since 2001. It was Scheufele who introduced jewelry to the house in 1985, while in 1997 she also devised a major branding moment when she redesigned the Palme d’Or, the iconic trophy of the Cannes Film Festival, and cemented a high-wattage partnership that has put Chopard on the world stage each May. That event has also become the spotlight for the brand’s annual Green Carpet Collection, which launched in 2013 and highlights a selection of significant jewels crafted with sustainably mined materials. (The Cannes Film Festival was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic; for 2021 organizers shifted the event from May to July, taking place July 6-17. Chopard once again served as an official partner.)
Recently Scheufele debuted the next step in Chopard’s sustainable philosophy. Precious Lace, the latest collection of high jewelry, the one-of-a-kind pieces that represent the ultimate in a house’s craft and tradition, has also been crafted from Fairmined gold and ethically mined stones. Scheufele recently spoke with Iconic Collection about the brand’s commitment to responsible practices, the audience Precious Lace was designed for, and Chopard’s highly anticipated move to the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue later this year.
Iconic Collection: Chopard was one of the earliest adopters of sustainability and ethical resourcing practices in gold, diamonds, and gemstones, but what was behind the brand’s decision to focus exclusively on these practices in your designs?
Caroline Scheufele: In 2012 my close friend, Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco Age, asked me where Chopard’s gold came from, and it led us to further exploring sustainable and ethical sources that had a positive impact on the environment and guaranteed fair treatment of their workers.
We launched “The Journey to Sustainability” in 2013, which started with our work with Fairmined gold and working with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). The objective is to directly support and enable gold mining communities to reach Fairmined certification and provide training, social welfare, and environmental support. Today, we continue to support this sustainable approach with all our significant raw material. From a personal standpoint, I simply believe it’s the right thing to do. As a luxury brand it is our responsibility to make sure we are sourcing our raw materials in an ethical manner that preserves the environment and supports the local people in the mining industries with fair wages and working conditions.
IC: What’s a detail you love most about Chopard’s sustainability practices, either a unique statistic about how gold is reused or how stones are mined?
CS: Here’s a magical statistic: as of 2018, 100 percent of our gold supply is guaranteed ethical, while we have also been transparent in detailing our sources. One of the very positive consequences is to give us the ability to support the local communities. It’s truly a beautiful thing to think about, as the only way we are able to create such precious novelties is to support the local miners by ensuring good working conditions and fair wages.
Most recently, Chopard started an important program with the Swiss Better Gold Association to source gold from the Barequeros, a community of artisanal gold miners in El Chocó, which is one of Colombia’s largest gold-producing regions. Also, as one of the few manufactures to operate our own gold foundry, we are not only able to control the traceability of our gold, but we also can reuse and remelt a large part of our gold scraps.
IC: How optimistic should both existing and new clients be about sustainability as a gamechanger for the jewelry industry? And how can we expect Chopard to continue to lead the path forward in sustainability, not only in collections, but throughout the rest of the experience as well?
CS: It’s important for Chopard to maintain our forward-thinking approach in terms of sustainability. We continue to seek to always do better and develop our supply chain to be the most sustainable it can be. The ethical approach is not always the easiest, but it is part of Chopard’s DNA to ensure we are being responsible each step of the way. For instance, recently Chopard became a member of the Coloured Gemstones Working Group (CGWG), which partners luxury brands and mining companies together in order to responsibly source colored gemstones and to create an overall more transparent supply chain.
IC: Recently Chopard launched the Precious Lace high-jewelry collection—how do these practices play a role in its design and craftsmanship?
CS: This collection is inspired by the intricate design and exquisite detail of lace, which is crafted through several processes in order to achieve the final product. This is truly an example of when ethics meet aesthetics. With the new Precious Lace jewels, all handcrafted in Chopard’s Haute Joaillerie ateliers using ethical gold and diamonds sourced from certified members of the Responsible Jewellery Council, Chopard brings that vision to life, disseminating the beauty, classicism, and craftsmanship of Haute Joaillerie, and translating its refinement into appealingly wearable, charismatically feminine jewels.
IC: Heritage brands are always focused on bringing in younger consumers who will ideally become longtime clients—how does Precious Lace address this idea?
CS: Precious Lace is geared toward a younger consumer, specifically millennials. When I dreamed up this collection, I kept in mind what I would have wanted as my first piece of high jewelry. But this new generation is not just concerned with looks; they are very motivated by principles of responsibility and transparency. With the Precious Lace collection, we offer the best of both worlds: creative design and fine craftsmanship made with ethically sourced gold and diamonds.
IC: What changes have you witnessed in how consumers have been purchasing jewelry, especially over the past year during the pandemic? Is Chopard approaching its marketing in any new or unique ways as a result?
CS: Connecting with our clients has always been very much in-person at events, galas, and visits to the boutique, so when the pandemic happened, we saw the occasion to focus on remote interaction, through digital events and presentations. For instance, Chopard hosted private Zoom appointments for clients with the debut of new collections, such as the Red Carpet Collection, and indeed this Precious Lace Collection as well.
This has been the continuation of our existing strategy to reach out to the younger millennials. As every cloud has a silver lining, you could say the extraordinary situation has allowed us to embrace a bigger digital strategy.
IC: As a luxury brand, what are your thoughts on emphasizing the importance of brick-and-mortar retail, of creating an irresistible in-store experience, but also keeping it modern and fresh for today’s audience?
CS: Chopard has always taken great pride in our in-store experience. Our boutiques are built and furnished with the finest materials, and our main goal is to create a warm, home-like environment where clients feel welcome. We truly want to host them as friends of the Maison, which is why we always offer a glass of champagne when they enter.
For example, the current boutique on Madison Avenue in New York features a palette of warm and inviting tones inspired by my own living room. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to design our boutiques for our customers today and for those who will visit in the future. I can’t wait to unveil our new Fifth Avenue Flagship, which will be opened by the end of the year.
IC: How do you balance the brick-and-mortar and online experiences?
CS: At Chopard we have our own e-commerce websites and also partner with online luxury platforms such as Farfetch and Net-a-Porter; this allows us to welcome new customers from all over the world, particularly where there might not yet be a Chopard boutique.
IC: Indeed, with regard to that flagship boutique, to be located in the Crown Building on New York City’s Fifth Avenue—why was this the perfect location for the brand’s New York flagship?
CS: New York City’s Fifth Avenue is legendary for luxury brands and continues to thrive as an iconic shopping destination. Because of this, it was only natural that when the opportunity arose, Chopard could claim its new home there. Our new flagship will be a precious jewel in the Crown, and we are very excited for what is to come.