Sibling Studio EM Member Interview
Devin Gomez (left) and Aaron Gomez (right) specialize in custom unique pieces of jewelry. Devin utilizes his graphic design background to create his designs with the help of CAD. Aaron comes from the other end of the spectrum and enjoys hand fabrication.
How did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewelry industry?
After I apprenticed under my father, I wanted to learn more about how to bring sustainable practices into this industry which brought me to Revere Jewelry Academy of Arts. At the time, Revere offered a Green Jewelry course with mining as a major topic. Everything from mercury usage to the tons of dirt removed for a single oz. of gold. Anywhere that there is a lot of money to be made, there are usually people willing to, or forced to, cut some corners for that profit. Oversight of materials sourcing becomes difficult to maintain and to monitor. This has made me very suspect of mining in general, before I even got involved in the jewelry industry.
When did you start making jewelry, and how difficult was it then to begin ethically sourcing materials?
I have been around jewelry my whole life though I did not start making jewelry professionally until 2009. The difficulty in sourcing was dependent on what exactly I was sourcing. As well as, how transparent the companies I was dealing with were. Items like precious metal fabrication materials were pretty easy with companies like Hoover & Strong and, then later, Stuller providing 100% recycled materials. Finished goods like chain, bezels, heads, bails, etc. as well as stones were then, and remain now, more difficult to source.
It boils down to how ethical you want to be and how transparent you need the company to be. Many reps have no idea where their goods come from. Which means it takes some digging and research to figure out the source of things.
From there, drawing an ethics line is necessary. If an item comes from overseas, does that automatically make it unethical? It will have a larger carbon footprint, but what if it comes from a company or group that holds environmental stewardship as top priority? On the opposite end, it could be a domestic product, but little to no time is spent on whether or not their practices are ethical or sustainable. I have run across both of those situations.
That being said, I feel it is very important that we all determine what it means to be ethical in this industry. It is a term I think is tossed around far too liberally. Ethics in sourcing, to me, has always been based around what is sustainable. Sustainable for our environment, sustainable for the people it effects, and sustainable financially. With all that is put into consideration, the difficulty in ethical sourcing becomes a very relative term. It is certainly easier to just get items from whomever, wherever, and from the cheapest place, but can you feel good about what you are promoting and putting in to this world? At the end of the day I want to feel good about those goals.
What made you take a strong membership role within the Ethical Metalsmiths’ organization?
Ethical Metalsmiths is a beacon of hope in this world and industry. It is a grassroots group that is pushing for transparency in the jewelry industry. Amazing! Grassroots organizations are SO important in our world. One person can only get so far in an industry that is firmly rooted in its ways. It only makes sense to join a group that is pushing for a better way of doing business.
Our world is being affected by global warming, world-wide poverty, clean water issues, wars, and mistreatment of both our environment and our people. All of which happens because of how we go about our daily lives and of how we conduct business. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our daily duties that we forget about the world around us.
This makes a group like Ethical Metalsmiths so important. EM has congregated such a great group of people that there seems to be a constant flow of great information circulating on the Forum. It gives a jeweler a better insight and a stronger voice when it comes to how we want this industry to conduct itself. Showing and leading our industry that we need to take sourcing seriously. When one person asks a company to change how they do business it does nothing. When a group of individuals ask a company to change how they do business, that business changes. And that is what Ethical Metalsmiths does. It gives a group of individuals a unified voice. This makes it a great organization to be involved with.
You use recycled materials and ethically sourced materials in your artwork. Tell us if this is to set an example to the industry and/ or more of a personal expression. What advice do you have for other independent jewelers adopting responsible practices?
I do it for both reasons. As I said earlier, at the end of the day I want to feel good about what I produce and promote. My business life has to reflect my personal life. The term "Put your money where your mouth is" comes to mind. Many people would consider themselves ethical people, but when it comes to business it is all about making money. This is no longer an acceptable practice.
It is not acceptable for us neither as individuals nor as an industry. The more people are adopting ethical principles, the more the industry is forced to respond. You can already see the industry adapting to this new way of doing business.
My advice to the independent jeweler would be to get involved with groups like Ethical Metalsmiths. This group is a wealth of knowledge. It has helped immensely in the research process. I am so thankful for this group and what they bring to our industry. I also encourage you to ask questions to all of your suppliers. Knowing the companies you deal with is vital to creating a transparent supply chain. The more these suppliers hear questions about ethics and sustainability, the more likely they are to adapt their business model.
As an independent jeweler you are the client that suppliers need. They will respond to your requests if they care about your future business. This again is why Ethical Metalsmiths is so great. It gives us independent jewelers a much larger voice.
What do you love most about your work/job and what else would like to share about your career?
I love creating. It is at the heart of what life is: constant creation. The fact that I get to use my hands creating pieces of art for others to wear always amazes me. I also really enjoy being able to work with materials that were formed millions of years ago as a star hit supernova. This to me is extremely fascinating and exciting.
On top of that, many of these items will be passed down from generation to generation. Look at how many people have jewelry from their grandparents or great grandparents. That piece was once made-by-hand ten-fifty-hundreds of years ago. And that piece of jewelry is able to touch generation after generation. From a star, to my hands, to his or her finger...what is there not to love about being a part of that process?! Plus, I get to collaborate with my brother weekly!
Devin Gomez and Aaron Gomez specialize in custom unique pieces of jewelry. Devin utilizes his graphic design background to create his designs with the help of CAD. Aaron comes from the other end of the spectrum and enjoys hand fabrication. Combining their talents, SiblingStudio was born with a unified goal of creating great pieces of jewelry using sustainable methods. In a world of over consumption, mass production, and the destruction of our environment, these brothers decided it necessary to use their art in a different fashion. Their art is making one of kind heirlooms from recycled precious metals and ethically sourced gems. Our resources are finite, let’s use them with care!