Stephen Webster

LONDON — Stephen Webster remembers the first sustainability panel talks he took part in — as part of a long-term partnership with Positive Luxury. They resembled Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“They would have me come at 8:30 in the morning to do a little talk, in a cold church somewhere in Soho, talking to about 12 people who were already converted. Now, when we do something it’s packed, because that’s the pace of change,” said Webster.

The British jeweler was among the first to receive a fair trade gold license over a decade ago and has since then been spearheading a number of sustainability initiatives.

The latest is the debut of a new service, dubbed Reset, where customers will be able to bring in old jewelry for Webster and his team to re-design.

The idea started when a client approached Webster to redesign pieces from her treasure chest of a jewelry box — filled with pieces by Graff, Cartier or Bulgari — into pieces which were more relevant to her current lifestyle.

“That was quite an extreme example, but nearly every woman has that kind of jewelry box that’s got a piece they are emotionally connected to; one earring instead of two, a broken chain or even their old engagement ring that they just don’t wear anymore,” said the designer. “A lot of it is, of course, generational, so you’re carrying a lot of intrinsic value and the fact that most of these things are made of gold and gemstones, some modest and some not. It’s all this stuff sort of sitting there, in this box, that never gets worn and yet it can be very easy for a jeweler to take different parts and create something new.”

To address this need, Webster is now starting to offer informal consultations where clients can bring in old pieces of jewelry for a member of his team to look at and propose a redesign, so that customers can get the chance to “recycle what they already have” and keep wearing these older pieces that carry a lot of meaning and stories behind them.

The new service has already gotten very high engagement when the brand communicated about it on social media — and Webster thinks that it’s more important than ever to speak to the new generation.

“The fact is, it doesn’t matter who you are, as far as a business goes, you’re not going to be forever selling jewelry to an older generation, you won’t survive, it’s not sustainable. Everything is about sustainability and I think from a business perspective that means that not only do you have to be sustainable in your supply chain and your sourcing to achieve longevity, you also need a client base,” he added.

In addition to Reset, Webster has also been seeing a lot of success with his Last Straw initiative, a sterling silver straw he designed as a statement against the use of plastic straws, with a portion of proceeds from the sales going to Plastic Oceans.

“I was skiing and I could see that everybody’s got plastic straws in their cocktails. I thought that it was hideous and I’m going to make the last straw — and the minute I said it everybody around the table was asking for one. It was such a simple idea, but it brought in a new customer and people were buying them for every family member,” said the designer.