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Greater than gold: meet the wedding band company mining ethical gold out of Nelson

Sustainability is the ultimate goal for Good Gold – a New Zealand wedding band company making waves with their environmentally friendly process. Family power trio, Ash Hilton, Laurel Hilton and Siggy Hilton have been working together for the last 10 years in the jewellery industry and have since decided to make change for the better within their field by using alluvial gold mining from the wild rivers and coastlines of Aotearoa.

CEO Laurel Hilton says that they gave themselves the challenge of making the world’s most ethical wedding ring.

“Despite being the only piece of the wedding you carry on your body every single day, wedding rings are sometimes an after-thought in the planning process, so we wanted to give people a super-efficient option that is still really special and tells a great story,” Laurel says.

Laurel says that traditionally mined gold is an environmental disaster, with each ring making tonnes of mining waste. “We knew we had to find a better source of gold or give up making rings all together.”

The team of three now use process that produces alluvial gold, a more gentle procedure to get their hands on high quality gold. “The South Island produces what’s called alluvial gold which is a fantastic alternative to open-pit mining. Instead of extracting gold from crushed rock with cyanide, the gold is washed out of rocks with water then collected with a sluice,” Laurel says.

Once Ash and Siggy receive their materials, they get to work on developing the rings by hand in either rose, yellow or white gold. Focusing on a minimalist design allows the team to ensure they can make them as beautiful as possible.

“We’re into refining, simplifying, minimising and being very thoughtful. Ash and Siggy have made over 10,000 wedding rings together and they still try and find wats to make such a simple shape even better,” Laurel says.

The packaging wasn’t an after thought, either. A delicate book-shaped box was designed by Mat Bogust from Think Packaging. Made entirely from paper extracted from used takeaway coffee cups and intended to be displayed in your home, the box is as sturdy as it is beautiful.

“We also wanted our packaging to be beautiful and special because wedding rings are really important. We wanted something that didn’t need to be wrapped in additional bubble wrap or protection, that wouldn’t be thrown away, that protected the rings and knew that we wanted to send everyone a care kit so that they could polish or buff their rings in the future,” Laurel says.

Along with a sustainable box came a sustainable ring sizer. Previously, being an online ring retailer meant customers had to size their fingers at a jeweller or buy a plastic ring sizer from a cheap retail website like Amazon or eBay. Good Gold wanted to put an end to the plastic waste and make the service more convenient for their customers, so Ash put together a cardboard ring sizer that can be sent in the mail.

“Ash has spent years scheming a better way and finally cracked, he designed a cardboard ring sizer. It’s made from super-sustainable Eska board. The ring sizer is lightweight and flat so it is easily posted in the mail and can be recycled at home or shared around with friends,” Laurel says.

Sustainability within the workplace is also important to Good Gold. As a certified living wage employer, they ensure that their workplace is ethical as well as the companies and suppliers they work with. Working with their own sanding sticks, citric acid as their pickling solution and having an electric company car are just some of the ways Good Gold tries their best to care internally for the environment.

Ash and Siggy Hilton.

“We print on A5 paper and use the front and back whenever possible. We don’t print packing lists or paper invoices for your parcel and we’re working through the process of becoming a B-Corp,” Laurel says.

The team also partner with the Toolbox Initiative which involves sending tools that are no longer needed by some jewellers directly to jewellers in West Africa. With shipping from New Zealand not being practical, Good Gold donates money to the group in order to fill the gaps in what tools are needed.

“What I love about Toolbox Initiative is that they are jeweller to jeweller organisation that doesn’t try assert itself into another culture and ‘save’ it. They are not employing people to make their designs to provide jobs (aka cheap labour) for their own businesses, but are giving direct support to West African jewellers so that their business can thrive,” says Laurel.

With sustainability on their mind they want to keep the environment and their customers happy. Good Gold offer free resizing, free shipping and free returns for life.

Laurel says, “We know it’s a big purchased to make without seeing it first, so we want to make the whole process super easy.”

This article was originally published on Idealog.

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