Summertime is the perfect time to show off your jewelry style. With that in mind, I rounded up five sustainable semi-fine jewelry brands that offer timeless styles that won’t break the bank.
I was recently with a friend of mine who had on this stunning cuff bracelet that was the perfect mix of industrial design and timelessness. I was immediately intrigued by the unique aesthetic and asked her who it was from. She told me that it was from Miami-based Miansai, and was created by a classmate of hers in college back in 2008. I went home curious to learn more about the brand.
Founded by Michael Saeger and his wife Rachael Russell, Saeger tells me that, “From the beginning, our focus was to showcase what we call elevated aesthetics: simple, minimalistic jewelry, timepieces and leather goods that are wearable and timeless yet nuanced and special.” And while jewelry as a category may be considered an accessory Russell adds, “We believe our pieces will become a part of your everyday lifestyle, items that you won’t want to remove and that are easy to slide on and wear. Miansai is all about elevating one’s everyday style in a fun, effortless way.”
Saeger gets his inspiration from history—a curiosity that was developed from being surrounded by antiques at his mother’s antique store growing up. “I’m inspired by vintage pieces and the stories behind them, especially those that intersect with astrology, and Roman and Greek mythology,” shares Saeger. The brand also takes inspiration from recreating the warm feelings associated with the concept of nostalgia. “For example, the glamorous old Hollywood lifestyle of the mid-century conjures up feelings of euphoria and joy, and we wanted to encapsulate that feeling with special pieces like our Century Round bracelet and choker,” Russell explains.
The pair (and by extension, the brand) are deeply passionate about positively affecting social and environmental causes. “We’re addressing sustainability with a multi-pronged approach,” Russell tells me. “First, traceability allows us to validate the authenticity of each of our materials and contribute to a supply chain that is not only responsible, but also ethical. We are also firm believers that we can mitigate environmental impacts through our designs, which we feel are timeless enough to be worn now, as well as decades from now. These are well-crafted pieces that you can buy once, never need to replace, and appreciate for years to come.” Saiger adds, “As Miami residents, we’ve seen the negative impact plastics have had on our ocean and waterways, so we’ve joined the movement to ban plastic straws. We’ve even created reusable straws using signature Miansai materials, like sterling silver, copper and brass.”
When it comes to expressing your summer style Saiger tells me Miansai’s Lennox pendants and rings, which come in a variety of stones, are great way to wear your individuality. “There’s also our customizable ID bracelets, which can be personalized with engraving. And for those warmer days, the Orson Loop is an easy, lightweight accessory that can add subtle style to your everyday look.” If you are looking for fine jewelry options Russell suggests looking at the brands Diamond Huggie earring collection. “It’s edgy and modern. A collection I’m really proud of is our Mommy & Me line, which feature bracelets, earrings and necklaces for moms plus mini versions for their little ones.”
Born out of the desire to create a sentimental jewelry line that could be worn everyday and at any occasion, Alexa Leigh Meyer launched her eponymous brand in 2010. When describing her brand Meyer tells me, “We offer timeless everyday essentials that can be worn day to night and adds a little special touch.” Currently, Alexa Leigh is sold online as well as at select retailers across the country. “We love the mom and pop shops that carry our brand and offer special exclusives that appeal to their customer base.”
Each piece is made by hand using a variety of both rare and precious metals and stones that result in a one-of-a-kind piece. “Any gold plating you see used is 14k gold,” explains Meyer. “Our black-rhodium charms are made from sterling silver coated in and black rhodium, which is a member of the platinum family. We always want to do our part to help the environment and are constantly coming up with new ways to become more sustainable even if it’s a small change.”
On where she gets her inspiration Meyer tells me, “I wish I was someone that knew where I sourced my inspiration from. If I did, I would use that source DAILY. For me, the ideas come right before I fall asleep or just from the right mental zone.” As for what is on trend now, Leigh tells me that the summer ‘it’ style is wearing anklets. “Our team is loving the Snake Anklet! We are also obsessing over our new Ball Chain collection. It’s super light weight, doesn’t tarnish and the perfect layering piece.”
If you are looking for sustainable, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that instantaneously transport you to the tropics—then look no further than new brand, Serendipitous Project. Launched right as the pandemic hit in 2020 by Sydney Ziems, the founder tells that the brand is an extension of herself and her heritage. “I think it’s important to reclaim the craftsmanship practiced by my ancestors in a new and modern way that feels more accessible, while still paying homage.”
Ziems draws on inspiration for creating her statement pieces from South American indigenous fashion, African fashion, museums, and tropical destinations. “The Museum of Natural History is always a nice trip to jumpstart my mind. I typically launch seasonal collections and 1-2 collections in-between seasons,” she tells me. Sustainability is crucial for Ziems and her brand, especially since she get so much inspiration from both nature and indigenous cultures. “I aim to mimic the symbiotic relationship indigenous cultures have with nature. Take what you need, and give back what nature gives to us. That is why my pieces are made to order, and we use natural materials.”
“It’s about not over-consuming, reducing waste, and appreciating the beauty of nature so we will be more inclined to care for it,” continues Ziems. “I hope that I can create more conscious shoppers who purchase with intent and give back through our philanthropic ethos. Each seasonal collection we select one item where a percent of the proceeds go to a charity/organization that aligns with our mission.”
If you are seeking pieces that epitomize summer vibes, you won’t be at a loss for options. “I definitely suggest our Bahamas Necklace if you are looking for an elegant showstopper,” Ziems tell me. “If you are looking for something more playful our Soleil Necklace is a must-have and goes great with a hibiscus print dress! Lastly, our Cagua Hoops give a nice global feel and colorful addition to any outfit.” Coming this fall, Ziems will be launching her first handbag.
There isn’t day that goes by where I don’t wear at least one piece from London-based Missoma. I last interviewed founder Marisa Hordern in 2019 when she told me she had big plans for growth. “Missoma has evolved enormously over the last few years, though our core values have always remained the same,” Horden tells me. “We’re still designing all our unique and iconic pieces in-house at our London-based Notting Hill HQ, but we’re now shipping to over 200 countries worldwide and partnering with some of the world’s top retailers—Selfridges, Nordstrom, and Lane Crawford to name a few. We’ve managed to stay true to who we are whilst growing our collections and progressing our reach.”
One of the biggest changes for the brand has been to offer gender-neutral pieces that are wearable by anyone that launched earlier in the year. “That’s just the start,” explains Hordern. “These collections are paving the way for throwing out the rule book and breaking down boundaries, from men wearing pearls to fluid designs for all. Our mission is to ensure that anyone and everyone feels comfortable in our Missoma pieces, and are able to express themselves freely, regardless of who they are and where they come from.”
From its inception back in 2008, Missoma has always taken a community-based approach to creating new product categories—even before it was buzzword. “At our core, we want to inspire confidence, spark creativity and fuel collaboration,” shares Hordern. “Being community led, we always listen to what they ask for. People wanted sunglasses chains, so we evolved our signature Missoma designs; they loved our first-ever chain belts so we expanded the range with our new pearls and beads. We’re a brand that’s playful at heart, so it makes sense for us to experiment and expand what we create, and it’s why we’ll always continue to think outside the jewelry box. We have some very exciting launches in the pipeline so make sure to keep your eyes on Missoma this year.”
The brand just launched their latest collection inspired by the nostalgia of ‘summer camp’. “We wanted to add an explosion of colour to our pieces through playful designs and new creations, letting people freely express themselves by layering these colorful pieces on top of our unique chains and luminous pearls,” Hordern tells me. The brand also introduced the idea of ‘neckmess’. “It’s a new way of layering with no boundaries. Everyone, everywhere can show off their true selves with whatever pieces they like in whatever combination. Our demi-fine and fine styles are the ultimate champions of self-expression.” Missoma also recently went public with their sustainability journey with a goal to become the most responsible jewelry brand that they can be. “In an industry that is prone to greenwashing and misleading customer information, Missoma makes a commitment to authentic and transparent improvement, allowing the customer to see the challenges we face as well as the successes.”
“I believe there’s power in owning what you do, and it starts with knowing that a fully sustainable jewelry brand isn’t possible yet,” explains Hordern. “But, I am so lucky to have a team that genuinely cares about improving what we do and how, just as much as I do. Every decision we make adds up and we have to strike a balance between creating a profitable business that means we can give back while making the ‘better’ choice whenever we can.” As for what pieces she suggests for summer, Hordern tells me that a few of her must-have pieces include the brand’s Beaded Gemstone Bracelet and the Medium Chubby Hoop Earrings.
Founded by Christina Tung 2018, who straddles both being publicist and an entrepreneur, SVNR was born from the intersection of ethics and aesthetics. With this in mind, the brand’s jewelry is made from found, re-used, up-cycled, and natural materials. “Repurposing vintage and existing jewelry, as well as, working with natural gemstones is the foundation upon which SVNR was built,” Tung tells me. “We strive to be as minimal waste as possible within the production process. Each season, we produce less than a Ziploc bag full of waste.”
Tung finds her inspiration for her designs by the colors and textures she finds ‘off the beaten path’ as well as places she’s visited or has on her bucket list. “In the interest of slow fashion, we drop new pieces when we can,” she tells me when I ask her often she drops new products. “The seasonal fashion calendar is not as relevant for us as it is for more traditional brands. There isn’t some grand strategy. When I see something that really strikes me, I’ll make it and offer it on the site.”
In addition to her jewelry designs, Tung has collaborated with several other emerging designers. “Nasrin Jean-Baptiste of Petit Kouraj and I collaborated on a set of 3 net bags inspired by beaches in her heritage land, Haiti. The shells on the ChouChou make the best clacking sound that reminds me of ocean waves. Sheena Sood of abacaxi on a leheriya-dyed slipdress in sandía and marigold sunrise, which we’re both really proud of. We spent 3 whole days tying and dyeing in my backyard. The reveal is always the best part.”
For her jewelry, Tung always works with natural or upcycled materials whether they are vintage or deadstock.“There’s so much already existing out in the world. I’m doing my best to minimize waste,” she explains. “My slipdress patterns are cut so there is as little wastage as possible and I purposefully don’t create more just because it’s a new season. I design pieces that feel timeless and can be worn season after season. Everything is made to order, so I don’t hold inventory or overproduce. Even my slips (which she lives in all summer) are ordered in small batches in white silks and hand-dyed to order.” While Tung usually lives in neutrals, summertime is when she adds pops of colors to her outfit. “This time of year, I break out some color like our bright Otrobanda earring or our pastel rainbow Amalfi necklace.”