Well if you haven’t already noticed from various Facebook and Instagram updates, engagement season is most definitely in full flow! With your newsfeed scattered with hands adorned with diamonds, each one sparklier than the next. Well for a bit more wedding fever inspiration we caught up with Ingle and Rhode. They are jewellery designers, specialising in engagement, wedding and eternity rings. But, with a difference. They source ethically and only use gold and platinum from Fairtrade or recycled sources. All diamonds and gemstones can be traced back to mine of origin, guaranteeing that your ring is conflict free and ethically produced.
Something as special as an engagement or a wedding should never be tainted. And it’s no secret that the diamond trade is corrupt and lives are being lost. Ingle and Rhode are built with the aim to stop the corruption and are an example that the mining industries do not have to have a negative impact on the environment or on their workers.
We talk to Tim and David, the founders, on how David's engagement to his now-wife brought to light the issues within the diamond trade and how Tim and David joined forces to successfully build an ethical jewellery brand.
What were you doing prior to launching Ingle & Rhode?
Tim was a management consultant, and David worked in TV.
Were you familiar with the industry beforehand?
We were both outsiders to the industry, which in the short term came with headaches but turned out to be an advantage in the long run.
Did you always see yourself as an entrepreneur?
I think we’d both always wanted to run a business, and both wanted to do something ethical - it was just a matter of finding the right opportunity.
Can you tell us what inspired you to launch and how this has impacted everything that you stand for at Ingle and Rhode?
David got engaged more than a decade ago, and his now-wife had spent time working in Africa - the whole issue of conflict diamonds was on the radar well before the movie Blood Diamond came along. He couldn’t find a jeweller who could tell him where their diamonds had come from, or the conditions under which their jewellery was produced. The more he looked into the industry, the more compromises he discovered he was being asked to make. From blood diamonds, to dirty gold, to sweatshops and child labour. Ingle & Rhode was founded as a response to this gap.
Your company is proof that the mining industries do not have to create a negative impact on the environment or to workers.
Absolutely - and we believe that consumers shouldn’t need to compromise their ethics in order to have a top-quality product.
Could you tell us about some of the realities of the mining industry? And what we can do to stop any unfair treatment?
Globally, there are fifteen million small-scale miners, and a further hundred million people who depend on them for survival. These miners account for 10-15% of global production, but make up around 90% of the workforce. Many of them are children, and they often work in unsafe conditions, facing a lifetime of backbreaking labour as they struggle to earn a living. They generally don’t have access to the international markets, making it almost impossible for them to get paid a fair price for their gold - their work goes to line the pockets of middlemen dealers. The only way to improve this situation is through consumer awareness - the industry will only clean itself up when it’s forced to.
Could you tell us about Ingle & Rhode's sourcing process?
We source pure gold and platinum from only certified Fairtrade or recycled sources. Our diamonds and gems can be traced back to mine of origin, and aren’t just guaranteed conflict-free, but come only from suppliers that treat workers with dignity and respect, and mitigate their impact on the environment.
Could you tell us about some of your in house collections? And your bespoke service?
We keep a range of about forty classic engagement rings in stock:
We also specialise in creating bespoke rings to match our clients’ requirements:
What steps did you take to set up the business?
We started out by looking for sources of ethically-produced gold, platinum, diamonds and gemstones. Once we had the raw materials in place, we assembled a team of designers, mounters and setters who we would work with to produce our jewellery. Finally, we set about marketing our idea, mainly through our website and a little bit of PR.
And what are the best pieces of advice you can offer to others looking to start and run a successful business?
Listen carefully to all the advice that you get offered, but be prepared to disregard some of it!