Looking at a piece of fine jewelry, you might not immediately wonder where it came from or who made it.
Thai entrepreneur Proud Limpongpan wants this to change.
Her sustainable jewelry brand, Cerimani, aims to represent the rich history of jewelry making in Thailand by supporting the rural communities that inspire her pieces, while also being kind to the planet.
In addition to opening what she describes as the first sustainable jewelry factory in Thailand in the next few months, Limpongpan uses recycled gold and silver and ethically sourced gems.
For every piece of jewelry purchased, the company contributes $50 to a fund supporting access to water in one of Thailand’s poorest provinces, Mae Hong Son.
Mae Hong Son lies on the border of Myanmar and is home to ethnic and religious minorities including the Karen people, who live in small villages dotted around the mountains.
Cerimani has partnered with the Karen Hilltribes Trust, a community led organization working with the Karen people.
“People think that maybe Thailand is another cheap labor country, but we have a very rich history of jewelry making,” said Limpongpan.
Limpongpan initially wanted to build jewelry-making schools in the Mae Hong Son province, where silversmithing and craft making is part of the Karen people’s traditional lifestyle, but quickly realized the communities had more pressing needs.
“The kids, instead of going to school, they have to walk miles in order to get clean fresh water from the stream and bring it back,” said Limpongpan. “I realized I could do something in the jewelry industry.”
By continuing its partnership with the trust, Cerimani hopes to help at least 10 villages in the next two years.
But Limpongpan believes that it is possible to make a profit and to do good.
“It’s not a charity. We’re a profit-making company,” she said. “We’re actually collecting a lot of waste and we’re reusing it as well.”
The company uses a filtering system which collects dust particles of precious metals, such as gold and silver, so they can be reused.
Limpongpan hopes her new factory will be 100% solar powered by 2021.
“We can’t just have pretty clothes or pretty jewelry without thinking about how the earth is going to be as well,” she said. “There’s no point if we don’t have an earth to live in.”