Jennifer Dawes EM Board Member Profile

Jennifer Dawes is jewelry designer and maker. She is on the board of Ethical Metalsmiths and is a celebrated responsible jeweler, carefully choosing materials for her designs. Her studio, Dawes Design, is located in Santa Rosa, CA.

Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design rings

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How did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewelry industry?

I have been aware since I started working in metal of negative impacts of mining and the procurement of materials.  It wasn’t until I gave birth to my first child that I realized that I needed to be active about creating an alternative and knowledge of what I use in my work.  I feel responsible about the kind of world we hand over to our children.

Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design in studio portraitWhen did you start making jewelry, and how difficult was it then to begin ethically sourcing materials?

I started making jewelry at age 16.  The first moment I started working with metal as a material I knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Back in 2006 I had an epiphany about my work and that I didn’t want to continue to do it unless it would match my moral and belief systems.  This is when I started on the quest of sourcing ethically and responsibly.  

It was incredibly difficult at first.  Every vendor I worked with looked at me like I had three heads just for asking basic questions like, where did this material come from?  What do you know about working conditions at the mine, etc.  It was truly a David and Goliath story!

Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design ringsWhat made you take a leadership role in the Ethical Metalsmiths organization?

This is a subject and an issue I am passionate about.  I decided many years ago that I wanted to be a voice for ethics and sustainability in the jewelry industry because of the lack of coming to terms with the many issues that are too slowly being addressed. Ethical Metalsmiths is a soulful organization creating real change—and that is refreshing and exciting to be a part of!


You use a lot of responsibly sourced materials in your artwork.  Tell us if this is to set an example to the industry/colleagues  and/or more of a personal expression. What advice do you have for other independent jewelers adopting responsible practices?

Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design custom ring, bespoke ringI would say firstly I use responsibly sourced materials because I create powerful talismans for people that are imbued with sentiment and heart.  These object need to be as pure as possible and free of any questionable sourcing to create as powerful an impact as possible.  I would like to set an example because my belief is that there is no reason why we cannot know EXACLY where our materials come from.  We live in a global and technological world in which I can talk directly to miners on the ground and create a more economically feasible environment for all parties involved.

My advice to other artists would be to keep asking questions and, most importantly, demand answers.  Openly reject working with companies that don’t follow your principals and let them know why.  The only way to really make change in this industry is to demand it!

What do you love most about your work/profession and what else would like to share about your career?

Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design stacked ringsI would need to write a novel to accurately answer this question!  I love all aspects of my work!  I am truly living my dream in life, only better.  I get to make things of beauty for people and the amount of appreciation for my work is humbling.  I get to work with some of the most amazing people I have ever met!  Strong, capable, smart, sensitive and thoughtful people surround me, which include my clients, peers, staff, stores and family.  I am grateful everyday for this life and what I have created.


Dawes Design profile on EM Directory

Dawes Design Website

Jennifer Dawes was recently featured in the Sundance catalog and profiled for her commitment to responsible practices.