Niccolo Bella EM Supplier Interview

Ethical Metalsmiths member, Niccolo Bella, offers diamonds and gemstones that are traceable, recycled and cut and polished in responsible centers. In this interview Jorge Arrieta, founder and owner of Niccolo Bella, shares his core values and vision behind the company.

Alexandra Hart, ethical jeweler, metalsmith and Ethical Metalsmiths board member developed a series of questions and encouraged Jorge Arrieta, founder and owner of Niccolo Bella, to share with EM members and others interested in the ethical jewelry movement. Enjoy.

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Niccolo Bella owner Jorge Arrieta portraitHow did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewelry industry?

I enjoy research and the interesting discoveries that it often brings. The idiom, ‘leave no stone unturned’ resonates with me. So when I first began in the jewelry field it did not take long to become well aware of the negative impacts of mining. Before joining this industry I was a visual artist mainly focusing on political and social commentary. Finding the truth just came natural and really once this uncovering began it was impossible to not see it nearly everywhere.

When did you start Niccolo Bella company, and how difficult was it to begin sourcing ethically then?

Niccolo Bella began in 2010 and at that time, there were very few organized responsible sources anywhere in the world for diamonds and gemstones. Some of the cooperatives that were good choices were sold and so [were] no longer available as options. Many of the available sources were unpredictable and with little selection for customers. One could read pages and pages on the negative effects of the industry, without viable positive alternatives or solutions mentioned. So it was difficult to find ethical sourcing, but that challenge was very stimulating and compelling to me. We have a long way to go, yet in just a few years there has been a positive change and it is due in large part because of groups like the Ethical Metalsmiths and your jewelers that educate their customers and put pressure on the industry.

You state clearly that you want to "make the world a better place.”  Tell us some of what you do to set an example to the industry and specifically what you would like to see other jewelers do as a part of this movement.

Niccolo Bella loose diamondsI begin with myself in this very moment. The peace, the happiness, the anger and the sorrow in each of us resonates. Mine extends from me to my wife and my daughter and my son. They take it with them and give it to whomever they meet along their journey, as do I. When I talk on the phone or email a client or partner, I want to make that moment better for them. Not merely because we found the diamond they wanted, but because two people are connected in a moment in time,  with each of us trying to make the world a better place by using the only ways we know how. Mine is by living by the Golden Rule as best as I can.

Mainly, what I do to set an example in the industry is by being myself. Which means being honest, ethical, and working to find the best possible solutions to problems within the industry. To answer your question more traditionally, we only offer responsibly traceable stones and many are cut and polished in good facilities that provide fair paying jobs with benefits. We also offer recycled stones to help reduce the industries’ reliance on environmentally damaging practices. Can it be better - yes, and we are working with our partners to offer better holistic options which we will have coming out soon.

We also donate a portion of each sale to charity:water, which is a great organization that provides much needed clean water wells all over the world. They stand apart from other organizations in several ways, but one that is unique is that all of the donations they receive go directly to fund each water project - not to marketing and not to pay the organization. Their projects are in areas related to our industry and I urge everyone to check them out because they really do help these communities grow strong.  
I believe it all starts with each of us. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. By explaining to your customers that everything comes from somewhere and by revealing the positives and negatives of its origin you help the customer begin to understand the importance of finding out where all their stuff comes from. This discovery goes beyond jewelry and if we are lucky perhaps they too will become connected to the values and expectations we collectively share.

How does your company stand out from the others?

Our purpose is to connect our ethically minded clients with the resources they need. Niccolo Bella stands out from many other companies in this industry because we see our business mainly as a social mission - to help the industry move into a realm of truly sustainable and responsible practices that benefit everyone involved. Statements like social responsibility and environmentally friendly are real issues to us and not marketing hype. If we see something we do not agree with then we are not afraid to speak truth to power. I was not born a diamond man with generations in this family business. So I have fresh eyes and see things as they truly are which allows me to notice contradictions and negative impacts. We sometimes struggle to create possible alternatives or solutions that really are sustainable and responsible and this is a struggle which is shared by our clients. Together we are part of this movement to create a better world and it is difficult at times, yet it is much easier with a smile on my face and being surrounded by good people such as the Ethical Metalsmiths members.

What do you love most about your work/job?

Working on new ideas that I believe will bring about positive change is what I love most. I also appreciate emailing with clients and helping to achieve their goals. We strive to provide the options our clients need and their customers want. I really love that we are all a small part of a collective participation in the ethical pulse of the jewelry sector.