Information, ethical preferences and questions with detailed
answers - also for Vegans - relating to Kerstin
Laibach's jewellery creations.
takes every possible measure to ensure her jewellery creations
are also suitable for more stringent vegan client with specific
crafting process requirements.
The following is a
section from a VeggieGlobal article:
"In any manufacturing
environment, including companies making vegan products, it is
often unavoidable that the tools or machinery to make them may
contain elements derived from animals. A moderate vegan will not
usually look so far into this moral maze. To do so would ultimately
mean avoiding over half the daily items and comforts they are
used to. All cars contain animal products, usually felt-based
materials, as do a majority of house constructions. Many musical
instruments like pianos, drums, wind and string instruments contain
animal hair, skin and other animal derived elements. Does this
mean that a vegan should not listen to music because it is played
on instruments made with slaughtered animal derivatives? Most
commercially bought vegetables are grown using manure fertilizer
and animal derived compost; the manure being a by-product from
farm animals reared for meat consumption and compost containing
slaughtered animal carcass waste. If you want to ensure that the
vegetables you eat are not associated with animal slaughter, you
simply have to grow your own ... impossible for the millions of
vegans who may not have gardens.
For vegans it is clearly unfortunate that humanity has evolved
by utilizing the use of animals to such an extent that their
carcasses permeate the very
fabric of the dwellings, manufacturing processes, invisible product
parts, arts and pastimes which we all take for granted and
subsequently make use of each day. However, to maintain a semblance
of sanity we have little choice but to swallow this moral dilemma,
which has arisen through centuries of mindless commercial manufacturing
and left unchecked as to how it has contributed to animal suffering.
This legacy of human evolution may not sit comfortably with strict
vegans, who are essentially tied to a path upon which world industries and its dependent societies have widely paved. If such a path is
completely avoided ... vegans would have to cover their ears from
most music, live in wooden huts and simply not touch anything
made from animals or have been made with tools containing animal
derivatives. To avoid the onset of paranoia and extremist
moderate vegans will still quite understandably listen to a piano
concerto and drive cars ...
and until all these things and thousands more products with "hidden"
animal products are made cruelty-free we will wisely spare
from the symptoms of hyper-morality."...
Reproduced with permission from an article by www.VeggieGlobal.com
(Kerstin Laibach's ecological mentor) therefore suggests
that it is often impossible to avoid objects and lifestyle situations
without directly or indirectly coming into contact with hidden
components that are the result of animal slaughter. This philosphy
also points out that if it is possible to eliminate animal cruelty
from a product or service then there should be every commonsense
reason to do so.
A piece of jewellery is a style accessory and not an unavoidable
requisite of day-to-day living. This is even more reason why such
an item should be considered a prime candidate to be "veganised"
... without at all being branded as a "hyper-moral"
branch of vegan extremism.
A jewellery blogger with an antagonistic attitude once posed a
question to Kerstin Laibach: "Isn't the idea of vegan jewellery
extreme and doesn't it compromise your design and crafting?".
The essence of Kerstin's reply was,"As more people learn
of my bio-vegan ethics I hope to also emphasise the message that
my goldsmith artistry does not just appeal exclusively to vegans
but that it upholds high-level goldsmithing while seamlessly
celebrating true vegan values, enabling anyone to wear my pieces
free of guilt. As far as design and crafting, I explore "unconventional"
goldsmithing - as an artform - further than ever and without
restriction. I think of designs
through a sense of compassion and with a story which often lends
itself to each piece. This steers my creativity
on journeys which test my skills far beyond anything I might have
done if simply thinking pearls, corals and the easy acquisition
of new-mined stones. My palette, of harvesting nature's elements
without cruelty or environmental harm, is so much richer and rewarding."
Based on the global standard definition of traditional veganism,
none of Kerstin Laibach's jewellery contains any animal-derivatives.
Kerstin's pioneering "Bio-Vegan" approach takes vegan
jewellery to the next level and to its ultimate conclusion.
It may not have occurred to most vegans and even many "veggie"
jewellers themselves that a typical jeweller's workbench contains
numerous tools and associated aids derived from animals, as well
as materials and processes responsible for habitat and environmental
destruction. Kerstin Laibach suggests that, not just stricter
vegans, but anyone with consideration towards humane and ecological
crafting ethics would not wish their jewellery to be made using
any tool or process derived from animal slaughter.
Laibach atelier is on a continual mission to perfect a vegan jewellery
workbench environment, researching and examining many aspects
previously unexplored for vegan suitability. For the first time
a professional goldsmith of luxury jewellery can offer pieces
entirely made without using any animal derived crafting aids.
Laibach atelier has researched, adapted and sourced workshop tools,
which to the very best of our knowledge are free of any animal
Here is just one example. All fine jewellery goes through a polishing
process. The standard preparatory jewellery polishing wheel in
every goldsmiths workshop contains felt (animal derived). This
felt specifically prepares the foundation for a traditional glass
finish to larger areas of a completed gold or silver piece (i.e.
some ring interiors). There is no direct non-felt alternative
commercially available for this process. We have therefore created
our own non-felt alternatives using a natural plant fibre which
is proving very successful. Kerstin Laibach also polishes her
work exclusively with specially obtained polishing paste which
is completely free of animal fats. Kerstin Laibach is able to
cater for exact ethical polishing preferences for vegans and responsible
vegetarians by avoiding the use of a felt buff altogether. Final
polishing and buffing duties are undertaken using cotton.
mean we give a completely honest answer about any ethical question
relating to vegan requirements. We prefer to explain the more
essential moral aspects of Kerstin Laibach's creation process
rather than hide any anomalies by simply not mentioning it ...
Kerstin intends to offer her designs to the strictest vegan with
a clear conscience. So, please let her know if you have any essential
requirements regarding the construction of your piece when ordering.
Laibach's Pure Vegan Jewellery Art ... Questions and Answers
Q. If you say that
being vegan should also mean no detriment to environmental habitats
and so nothing new-mined, why should a vegan wear any sort of
previously mined metals and stones - however old they may be?
Say a diamond was mined a hundred years ago, the environment surrounding
it and probably the human who was mining it would have suffered
... so why is wearing recycled jewellery OK for vegans?
A. (By VeggieGlobal for Kerstin Laibach).
This aspect in corelating vegan morals with newly mined precious
metals and stones had never previously been considered as a principle
of professional goldsmithing. Through our extensive
preparation and research, the "Laibach Principles"
present a new, clear and unparalleled definition of ethically
crafted jewellery and through its definition the vegan tenet is
not only automatically applied but also remodelled for 21st
century environmental requirements.
A diamond ring without pearls or any other animal derived
parts would have always traditionally been considered suitable
for a vegan to wear. But since creating this project to pioneer the world's first bio-vegan
jewellery crafting (Laibach) principles, we have also redefined the morals
of veganism and therefore brought about questions surrounding
the issue of vegans wearing NEW-MINED jewellery of any
Our work in this field has raised the bar to introduce the most
genuine ecological standards in jewellery ethics which we hope all
jewellery makers will one day aspire to.
We cannot change the past but we can help compensate for the wrongs
that came about at the time precious stones or gold was, and is
for a piece of jewellery without any thought of the devastating
environmental impact of preciouslife dependent eco-systems.
In terms of ecological damage caused by mining, there is essentially
no escape from a world which runs on so many things made from
extracted earth sources; not just jewellery but all metals and mineral-based building
and production materials, whether it be recycled or newly extracted ... including
a vegan's bicycle.
Quite obviously though, by sourcing goods of any kind from recycled
materials which had once been mined means we can continue to
advance towards a future with a clearer conscience.
even though Kerstin Lainbach is only using reclaimed / recycled
precious metals and stones it doesn'tmean we should forget to look back at the times when
those same metals and stones were newly mined and caused a lasting
negative impact on the world - for humans and nature. We need to
help pay back for those actions.
In the 21st century it means developing a mode
of "veganism" which encompasses the whole framework of animal
compassion, environmentalism and humanitarianism. This is what
VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass have set out to do since the mid/late
1990's. By 2008 we initiated the "Laibach Principles" of jewellery craft,
which embraces an example of this philosophy to adapt a fully professional,
ancient craft and thus educate its followers towards a new
We have endeavoured to "veganize" and ethicise jewellery to an
extent that it has the potential to reverse the past detrimental
effects of mining, and provide subsistence based
peoples the incentive to repair their communities and their fragile
natural environments. There are pro-active elements of this
potential in action through Kerstin Laibach's principle of giving
15% of her profits to environmental and wildlife protection causes
- and in the case of her no-new-mined principle this means money
awarded to environmental protection and educational projects
within subsistance-based communities in areas affected by mining.
The principle being that no more flora or fauna is displaced and
destroyed for the sake of vanity. This is why if a vegan desires a diamond it can
and should only be a very old one ... 70 years and counting back
... ad infinitum. (See
Laibach Threshold Principles.)
Even then, how such an old diamond was mined and the story of any humanitarian
discordance surrounding it is impossible to know. For example, a jeweller's historical
account about the provenance of an antique diamond he was trying
to sell you is more than likely to be a work of fiction. An antique diamond
would have bounced around very many jewellers, dealers and private
hands - in and out of various rings since the time it was mined
and cut. The true provenance and nearly all events of that diamond's
history are entirely lost. What we need to do now, in this century,
is look at that beautiful old cut diamond of precious historical
value and think - do we bury it back into the ground or do we
recycle it - and positively embrace its presence above ground?;
Above groun d it will continue to be utilised for vanity-wear
perhaps, but most importantly it can synchronously
make its time above ground effectively work to help reimburse
the planet and any human suffrage it may have caused in the
past. This is
why we have developed a direct correlation between the acquisition
of antique precious stones or recycled precious metals and planetary
repair as mentioned earlier; to give 15% of Laibach atelier profits to help support
the re-naturing of damaged environments and to help lift subsistence-based
communities out of poverty and away from the dead-end vortex of
mining. For vegans, this is an entirely new and important
moral requisite of living on a modern vegan path ... not just
what you eat and wear but also how we can turn negatives into
positives and help repair damage caused by the past and present
mismanagement of our planet and socioeconomic wrong-doings.
Q. Based on the
previous answer, "veganizing" my jewellery attire, based on the
Laibach principles, is also environmentally logical ... but what about the clothes I wear - vegan or not?
A. (By VeggieGlobal
for Kerstin Laibach).
First, here is a quandary from a vegan clothing perspective:
Contentions can surface if for example - a meat-eater turned
vegan continues to wear animal derived clothing to keep warm in
winter as he or she may not be able to afford a new "vegan" winter
wardrobe of clothes. It can be argued that throwing away or taking
to charity a perfectly wearable set of clothes just because they
might contain wool for example, is even more of
an environmental waste - having to then buy replacement vegan-friendly
clothes. Such a disposable action may also
be considered to show less respect for the animal subsequently
slaughtered to have his or her body parts turned into clothing.
New vegans can give away all their old animal derived belongings
for someone else to use, but you should also seriously consider
that you will invariably find yourself wearing micro-plastic releasing
attire, such as polyester and acrylics etc. These synthetic
textiles are causing huge damage to marine environments -
so of course it's always preferable to choose natural organic plant
fibres (hemp, cotton etc.) for clothing and shoes whenever possible. Weighing
it up however, is it wrong for a new vegan to continue to use their current
animal-derived belongings until they are worn out? Apart from
ensuring that you are not giving out contradictory messages, it
is perhaps up to the individual to decide for themselves
what they consider the most pragmatic solution. You may need to
explain why you are a vegan wearing an old woolly jumper, but
the above explanation itself may help spread a more sustainable philosophy
which keeps the moral path a little more in the direction of ecological
common-sense. Jewellery however, is purely symbolic vanity-wear.
It serves no other function than as a style accessory. If you
are a new vegan still wearing leather-corded or coral necklaces
etc. there is no real ecological justification for it. If not
given to charity, such jewellery can be separated for precious
metal recycling and the coral and leather biologically "released" (buried)
back into the appropriate natural environments.
Q. You use only recycled
precious metals, but aren't there chemicals used in the refining
A. Whether gold and other precious metals are newly mined
or have undergone recycling, refining ALWAYS takes place before
it is bought by the jewellery industry to make products. Refining
ensures that the precious metal is pure and can be appropriately
hallmarked in relation to whatever carat it is refined to - and
as mentioned this process is compulsory whether it is new mined
precious metal or old precious metal. I source my recycled precious
metals from a specialised recycling refiner in Germany who recycle
only from old precious metal scrap and jewellery shop sweepings
and not from directly mined. For example, in 2013 and operating
at full capacity, individual measurements taken at the refinery
by certification inspectors were well within the emission limits
specified in the 17th issue of the German Federal Emission Control
Act Ordinance. The reason for this is that my refiner uses the
most ecologically advanced refining system, (developed and optimised
by themselves), which substantially limits any environmental impact
caused by precious metal reprocessing. Just as with new-mined
gold, recycling is undertaken through "wet chemical" recovery/refining
whereby strong acids are used for the separation and purification
process. At my refiner, this action is kept under strict environmental
control with emissions kept to an absolute minimum and subsequently
filtered down to non-hazardous levels. Any residue from refining
goes through incineration, separation and homogenising processes
to become harmless ash or for reuse. I feel this is a good example
of high-tech precious metal processing with strong eco-commitment,
which serves to vastly improve the handling and safe disposal
of precious metal refining residue; far superior to the environmentally
damaging procedures which take place within all artisanal mining
activities and small scale refineries including some jewellers
in areas of the world who refine their own precious metals in
environmentally reckless conditions. The most environmentally
friendly option I offer my clients is to use their own old gold
to create something new. Providing the gold is of a sufficient
quality I offer to re-melt and forge it into their new piece.
This practice of re-melting old gold to make new is nothing new
and can be achieved by most professional goldsmiths. It means
no chemicals used to refine the gold again (and since I do not
refine myself I have no such harsh chemicals for refining in my
Q. How do you know
that everything you make is 100% recycled / vegan?
A. I don't feel
it is honest or humanly possible to guarantee anything as "100%"
For example, you often see refiner-sourced recycled golds and
silvers described as "100%" recycled, but this is misleading.
Although the action of recycling is obviously a 100% process,
the material (the precious metals which go into the recycling
process at the refiners) most likely always contains traces of
newly mined material. This happens through workbench sweepings
and offcuts from other goldsmiths using new-mined, and even small
new-mined ingots and nuggets bought from people who come into
jewellery shops to sell the gold they have mined themselves while
on (increasingly popular) tourist mining trips. I have been offered
gold like this from people,
but I don't accept it. So, "old" gold is sent to
the refiners all the time from these sources and collectively
put into the refining (recycling) process. So when buying newly
recycled gold or silver from a refiner, what it is is "100%"
recycled but it is most likely not "100%" free of new-mined
material. The only times I will say that the precious metals I
use are "100%" recycled is when I use clients old family
scrap gold (often for sentimental value) to make them a new piece
out of it. This is the most ecologically balanced way to create
client pieces and also eliminates the necessity to acquire newly
refined recycled gold. (see also previous question)
Regarding animal derivatives getting into any aspect of my crafting;
this is actually easier for me to monitor, simply down to our extensively
researched elimination of anything that may traditionally have
contained animal parts. But even so, I cannot guarantee "100%"
that a tiny insect has not flown into the cotton buff of my polishing
wheel when I am polishing a piece, even though the polishing paste
and the buff are not animal derived! And as long as I refrain
from using anything which isn't fully biodegradable I can be sure
(as much as anyone can be sure) that it will not harm animal habitats
upon disposal. If I can't determine the materials or ingredients
in crafting aids I might have to outsource, I won't buy them and
instead make a "vegan" version myself. The only crafting
essentials which I use that I would say cannot be quantified into
the purest possible vegan ethics without entering the realms of
the extreme is the gas I use for soldering, melting and fusing
(no more each day than the average use of a kitchen cooker) and
a minute amount of borax. As a fossil based fuel, propane* is
one of the cleanest options but of course it is sourced from the
natural world and can be detrimental to the environment. The soldering
flux borax is also a material that derives from earth extraction.
I use raw borax in its natural crystal form and is not tested on
animals (as in accordance with the uncrossed "A" on the NOVA Key). These two aspects mentioned above (soldering gas and
borax) are impossible to eliminate from fine goldsmithing
because without a soldering flame and flux, such detailed work
would be impossible. Therefore I feel confident that the 15% of
my profits which go back into wildlife and environmental protection
projects more than compensate for my minimal use of any natural
Our ongoing research suggests that propane may in the long-term
prove to be less polluting than micro-flame soldering systems,
which use hazardous chemicals.
Q. What is Bio-Vegan
(or organic-vegan)? *
A. With food this describes a vegan who only eats organic
foods - nothing chemically sprayed, artificially fertilized or
Coining this term for my jewellery, it means that everything that
I make is biologically earth-friendly, so that if ever disposed,
the parts it is made of will not cause detriment to the environment
as there is no chemical residue in the pieces - no plastic parts
etc. It also means that additional solutions I may have to use
when making my pieces are over 95% organic (95% being in compliance
with organic certifications as well as The
*The term bio vs organic can cause confusion depending on which
country you live. The general rule is that non english speaking
countries, particularly Germany use the term "Bio" for
labelling instead of "Organic". While in the UK "Bio"
when seen on some products can mean something quite diferent -
for example "biological" washing powder (detergent)
contains all kinds of non-organic chemical agents which have nothing
to do with organic certification!
Q. Is everything you
display at jewellery shows vegan?
A. In terms of how a piece of jewellery can more simply
be termed as vegan, meaning no animal derived parts in the actual
pieces, then yes. However, I will embelish this answer further
to dispell a myth about reclaimed precious stones: For demonstration purposes I occasionally
show one or two pieces I made during my apprenticeship - some
time before I began my ecological crusade as a strictly nothing-new-mined goldsmith. These pieces contain newly mined stones (at
that time) and are therefore not ecologically linked to my principles
(and therefore not hallmarked with my logo and not specifically
for sale as part of my collections). Recently, a fashion media
person passed my stand at one of my shows and pointed
out these pieces along with my pieces mase with reclaimed stones and suggested that they
(all) must be new-mined stones
because they all looked so perfect (suggesting that using antique
stones creates an inferior result). This presumption is completely
wrong and unsubstantiated. Firstly, it is a misconception that precious
stones cut a hundred years ago are less perfect than modern day
cutting quality. It is also, without question, possible for any
design using antique (old, previously mounted stones) to look
as equally perfect and impressive as one made with new-mined,
newly cut counterparts. The only reason my aforementioned precious
stone pieces made years ago are displayed as examples is because
I have made them at that time for myself and therefore own them;
instead of having been made on commission from clients. Once I
have made a piece for a client it is gone and because I do not
stock pile pieces with precious stones (in fact, I do not stock
any precious metals or stones), I rarely have such pieces
to display and don't make pieces containing
lots of antique diamonds or precious stones just for display. Instead
I work solely on client wishes if they commission
a piece with stones, whereby I will seek perfect quality antique
stones to suit the design. The finished pieces therefore go straight
to the client and thus not seen on display. It is important for
my clients to know that a piece made with carefully selected antique
stones will look as perfect as any piece made with new-mined stones.
Q. What about
customer repair work containing animal derivatives?
A. I usually accept basic repair work of antique
jewellery containing animal derivatives, such as re-stringing old
pearls etc. This is a service I provide at my German atelier for
local customers. However, I do not undertake any kind of work
which would leave animal-derived residue on my workbench etc.
At first, it may seem contradictory and against my principles to
repair animal-derived jewellery, but there is a very specific and
positive twist of logic for doing so:
One hundred percent of
all money I receive from repairing customer animal-derived jewellery goes
directly to wildlife protection projects. The point is that if I
didn't accept the repair work, the customer would simply go to
another jeweller who did repair it, without environmental
consideration, and the money would go straight into the jeweller's
pocket as profit. Secondy, instead of turning down a customer and
preaching why I don't repair such pieces, I turn the dilemna into
a subliminal kind of eco-education; When customers pick up their
repair work and pay for it I then explain to them that
their payment is donated directly to wildlife protection to help
compensate for the damage and suffering caused to wildlife through
the use of such materials in jewellery.
And so, by
giving the repair work money straight to wildlife protection, at
least this means that some of the negative elements relating to
old jewellery can bring about something positive.
In an ideal
world, as with fur coats, I would prefer to see all animal-derived
vanity-wear buried. But while owners of such products continue to
wear clothes and jewellery which cause animal suffering I would
prefer to positively exploit an element of that behaviour by
making sure the natural world can benefit - through repair work -
as a form of direct compensation.
your vegan methods and sourcing available to other jewellers?
A. The information on my site covers everything that aspiring
ethical goldsmiths might require to become as earth and animal
friendly as they can. Much of my process is based on experimentation
and making alternative tooling which suits my own way of crafting.
It has taken my partner (purely as an experienced
environmentalist and without vested interest) many years
to research and to assemble all the necessities for me to launch
faithfully as a bio-vegan (organic) ethical jewellery artist -
even though there is always something new to tackle when
to limit any environmental impact. For commercial reasons
I do not readily supply information direct by enquiry. However,
if genuinely ethical minded students wish to know more about a
certain green / animal friendly material I am using, we require
plenty of proof that they are who they say they are, and we reserve
our rights to use our upmost discretion on an individual basis.
This is due to being hassled by large profitable brand companies
or self-serving individuals trying to gain my knowledge as a free
shortcut instead of doing their own complex and costly research.
I am happy to share the workings of my principles with those who
I believe will use that information to genuinely better the cause
of animal and environmental protection, but I do not entertain those who
plagiarize my principles and present a greenwashed version full of flaws and
contradictions due to lack of genuine care and attention. Unfortunately,
careless greenwash clearly seems to be rife within the superficial
hyperbole of jewellery design and as
mentioned elsewhere on my website; when jewellery related companies
claiming to be green are speaking half-truths, it only adds further
tarnish to an industry already scrutinized for its ecological
and sociological shortcomings. (see
also this page)