Natalie Fitch of Natalie Marie Jewellery on artful accessorising and the challenges of hand-making sustainable jewellery
We talk to Natalie Fitch, director and designer of her namesake brand Natalie Marie Jewellery, about her dedication to traditional, high-quality craftsmanship with a focus on sustainable and luxury materials. Committed to designing unique styles with a focus on sentiment and connection, Natalie Marie pieces are treasured additions to any jewellery collection. Although the more conscious choice is often more costly, Natalie Marie favours premium, ethically and locally sourced materials from independent suppliers to truly stand behind the claim of being a responsible jewellery company.
What is the inspiration behind your latest Idaho collection?
The inspiration behind our Idaho collection was born when we discovered an incredibly rare, beautiful stone which we hoped would become the focal point of the collection. The stone is mined exclusively in Idaho, in the mid-west of the USA, and has an incredible appearance which literally reflects the landscape from which it is derived. This led us on a journey throughout the incredible wilderness of the mid-western USA and formed the foundations for the collection. Ironically, the stone never made it to us in time due to all of the international turmoil this year, but the valleys, peaks, wildflowers and lakes which shape this particular landscape are reflected throughout the forms and stories of the collection.
What sparked your passion for sustainable jewellery?
When I entered into the jewellery industry, I came to learn that there are no set standards in place regarding sourcing, reporting or traceability of materials. I discovered that it is the responsibility of the jeweller to ask the right questions and ensure that they are sourcing and acting responsibly.
The jewellery industry has had a reputation for being slow in finding its ecological conscience, and I believe there is a lack of transparency which comes down to an insufficient understanding of the supply chain, or a lack of willingness from those leading the industry to truly look at these often complex pathways. Traditionally, precious metals and gemstones have been mined out of the poorest regions on earth and pass-through multiple hands on their way to market, most without any traceability. I believe we, as jewellers, have a responsibility to understand every element of where our materials are sourced, how they are obtained, and the ethicality involved in each step of the process.
How important is sourcing sustainable materials to your conscious jewellery practice?
Understanding of supply chain is a vital component of acting consciously in the jewellery industry. Over the last few years, we have invested time and resources in assessing our entire supply chain thoroughly, equipping ourselves with the right expertise to ensure we can continue to improve our practises and tread as lightly as possible. This has been a great challenge, but throughout this process we have forged strong and trusting relationships with our suppliers, which are paramount to our continuing growth and development as a responsible jewellery company.
We are a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council and we are currently working through the process to become accredited. The RJC is a standards setting initiative that ensures sustainable and ethical practices are met from mine to retail. Supply chains are often complex, multi-tiered and interconnected, and with RJC’s guidance 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.
What is the biggest challenge in creating hand-crafted sustainable jewellery?
When it comes to manufacturing, the more conscious choice is often the more costly, it also takes a great deal of commitment, time and resources to truly stand behind the claim of being a responsible jewellery company. We work with a large proportion of Australian sourced materials, pay for Australian labour and 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 imbedded with the confidence that it has been strictly crafted consciously.
One of the biggest challenges we have faced as we’ve grown has been scaling our production to meet an increase in demand, while staying true to our core ethos and values. Each of our pieces is made to order in our Sydney studio, by our small team of jewellers. Ultimately this means our clients are almost always having to wait for their pieces to be crafted for them, which, in a world of immediate gratification, can feel quite foreign. This is why we invest so much energy in sharing our processes and educating our clients in the story of their piece, so they can feel as invested in the process as they are in the finished piece.
What are your most worn jewellery pieces?
My wedding stack is my most permanent fixture, with a recently added eternity band gifted to me from our beautiful team to celebrate the recent arrival of our second daughter, Ottilie. I also wear an Art Deco sapphire and diamond plaque ring on my pinky as well as a chunkier stack on my right hand which features a Queenie diamond band, a new Dali ring from our Yves collection, a Ruby promise ring and a couple of fine stacking rings. None of my rings ever come off, along with my Kalani Studs and a necklace my husband made me (with some help!), which features my daughters fingerprint.
How do you approach accessorising your outfits with jewellery?
Seeing as I never really take off my jewellery, I feel like I approach it the other way around, with my jewellery acting as a constant and my outfits styling in around this. The way I wear my jewellery changes all the time. Nowadays, I like to stack up a handful of chunkier textured rings to create a heavier look, balanced with a feather thin band on the next finger. In the same way, I layer up delicate necklaces alongside heavier vintage pieces. I don’t actually change my jewellery pieces all that much, or expand on my collection, but I change how I wear them daily. I am personally connected to all of the pieces I wear and own - whether it be a piece which was gifted to me, a piece I made for myself or a piece featuring a stone I fell in love with. Jewellery by nature represents so much sentiment and connection, and I am lucky to have built my collection of loved pieces which I can rotate as per my personal style evolution.
What is your top tip for extending the life of your jewellery?
Maintenance and care are really key to extending the life of any jewellery piece, particularly something which is worn every day like an engagement ring. Understanding appropriate wear is vital, especially with fine pieces, and regular maintenance and care will ensure the longevity of materials and stones as well as keep the piece looking its best. We offer all of our bridal clients complimentary annual servicing, where we check, clean and service the piece to get it looking brand new again.
What’s in the future for Natalie Marie Jewellery?
As a brand we are driven by an intention to continuously improve and develop on everything we do. Next year will see a continued focus on our sustainability journey, internal investment to ensure our team are nurtured and energised and therefore able to provide the best possible experience for our clients, and the furthering of our give back initiatives through which we proudly support organisations and charities who are doing important work.
Next year we have three new collections launching, an exciting concept capsule going live in January and the potential for a new flagship retail space. We are so excited for the new energy that comes with a new year, and can’t wait to share what we have been working on behind the scenes.