‘Ethical’ has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and it can be difficult to understand exactly what it means. Supply chains are often hard to untangle, and there’s not always complete transparency about where materials are sourced.
Erin Malloy and Michael Tink are the creative couple behind Wild To Ware (W.T.W) – a true ethical jewellery label creating bespoke pieces created using raw materials painstakingly sourced from the natural world. Erin and Michael can tell you exactly where every part of their jewellery comes from, down to the very riverbed a gemstone was sourced, because they find them all with their own two hands.
Michael, who has been running his own jewellery label for the past 8 years, discovered a love for gold and prospecting in the Victorian Goldfields. When he and Erin met, the pair began fossicking for gemstones together – which is how the idea for their ethical jewellery label, Wild To Ware, was born. Discovering a gap in the market for sustainably, locally sourced gold and gemstones, the pair has embarked upon a true analogue process for developing their one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces. Drawing on Michael’s previous experience in the goldfields, the pair travel to areas known as gemstone deposits on spare weekends to source their raw materials.
Erin explains more about the methodical process of gemstone fossicking on the couple’s field trips: ‘After finding a spot that contains sapphires we get down to the river and “suit up”. We then begin looking for suitable bends in the rivers or old deposits – these are where the stones are built up over time’, Erin says. ‘From there we shovel from the riverbed into two sets of sieves – stacked on top of each other – shaking these from side to side. All of the smaller stones drop out and the heavies sink to the bottom. After a bit more shaking, the sieve is flipped over to reveal the sapphires and other gemstones at the top.’
So how do Erin and Michael figure out where to even look for these hidden gemstones? There are no gadgets or ‘Where To Find Precious Stones’ apps involved in this old-school process – it’s more like ‘X marks the spot’! ‘We collect a lot of old maps and books with hints and locations where gemstone deposits may still exist’, explains Erin.
For Erin and Michael, Wild To Ware is about so much more than creating a beautiful piece of jewellery. This painstaking process is one that requires much patience, and not every trip yields fruitful results. In fact, most of the time they either don’t find anything, or the quality of the stones they do find are not up to scratch. ‘For every 10 stones we find, maybe one is good. But we believe that’s what also makes these pieces and stones so beautiful – the scarcity’, explains Erin. A true treasure hunt!
Look out for the official launch of Wild To Ware in March. For now, you can keep up with Erin and Jessica on Instagram!