Good Gold

Selecting an engagement or wedding ring isn’t the most stress-free exercise in the world. Because not only are you shopping for an accessory you’ll wear every day, but it also needs to last the distance so that you can, if you so wish, pass it on to the next generation.

In the market for a sustainable and ethically-made ring? That just ratcheted up the difficulty level even more. Because while most of us know about conflict diamonds and how to avoid them, less is known about how precious metals are extracted from the earth, and which rings those metals go into.

“It really matters where the gold or silver in your ring comes from, in terms of how destructive it is to both the environment and human rights around the world,” says Laurel Hilton, who co-owns Nelson’s Ash Hilton Jewellery and Good Gold with her husband, Ash, and his sister Siggy Hilton, also a jeweller.

“Research from Oxfam has shown that hard rock gold mining is incredibly wasteful, taking around 20 tonnes of mining waste to create enough gold for just one wedding ring.”

What’s more, hard rock gold mining also uses cyanide and mercury to extract the gold from rock, creating contaminated ‘pools’ which aren’t always environmentally disposed of, particularly in third world countries.

“And of course, the mining industry has also caused deforestation, soil erosion and displacement of local communities,” says Laurel who grew up in Texas but moved to New Zealand in 2004.

Prompted by the lack of information and, often, transparency in the jewellery industry, five years ago Ash decided he wanted to create the world’s most ethical wedding ring.

“So we started another brand, Good Good, which focuses on classic gold wedding rings hand-crafted by Ash and Siggy using sustainable New Zealand alluvial gold which is naturally washed down from the mountains by rainwater.” Small-scale local miners, mainly in the South Island, then sustainably extract the gold from rivers and coastlines.

“Ash’s father used to work in alluvial mining, so Ash has contacts with miners on New Zealand’s West Coast, who he visits,” says Laurel. “It means that we know exactly where the gold in our rings has come from and how it’s been extracted and refined.”As part of t heir efforts to simplify processes, Good Gold has kept designs to three tones — rose gold, white gold and yellow gold — and two profiles, or band sizes (1.5mm to 8mm wide).

“Some jewellery designers are passionate about coming up with new designs and concepts. While we have so much respect for that, that’s not what drives us. We want to focus on keeping it simple with a wedding band design we can make entirely in-house using alluvial New Zealand gold. By doing that, we don’t have to constantly come up with new designs, create them and then photograph them for the website, but instead can concentrate our time and energy into making the world’s most ethical wedding band.”

It also means that Ash and Siggy have a greater capacity to train new jewellers at their Nelson studio. “We’ve recently brought on Shannon Lee, my cousin’s wife, to work on the Good Gold range, and we hope to train more jewellers.”

Laurel admits having a family business allows her two young sons to be involved. “Our kids and Siggy’s kids are always in the studio, hanging out and making their own rings.”

Sitting alongside Good Gold is the Ash Hilton Jewellery brand, which Ash started 20 years ago in his Nelson garage. Today, that brand focuses on bespoke rings, necklaces and bracelets.

“We’d eventually like to put more of our resources and ourselves into Good Gold,” says Laurel.

But both brands are a reflection of the owners’ values, from the use of sustainable products and processes and a reduction in the use of harmful chemicals to paying staff above the living wage and ensuring their jewellery is accessible to everyone.

“It doesn’t matter what your sexual or gender identity is, everyone is welcome at Good Gold. That’s incredibly important to us and the way we operate the brand.”

Discover the mesmerizing world of Good Gold, where beauty and craftsmanship intertwine.

Visit their website and follow them on Instagram: @godavaridiamonds. Unleash your inner goddess and join the enchantment today!

WORDS Sharon Stephenson PHOTOGRAPHY Ana Galloway