Brooklyn-based jeweler Catbird was founded in 2004 with sustainability at the top of its brand edicts.
Now a $20 million annual business, the company has decided to work exclusively with recycled diamonds for its in-house line. “Enough diamonds are above ground we don’t need to dig up more,” said founder Rony Vardi of the decision.
Prior, the brand had been working with rose-cut diamonds primarily sourced in Canada, but found “it’s pretty murky out there. I have always felt confident about our diamonds being conflict-free but the supply chain has many steps from the mine and cutting to the dealer.”
So began the 18-month process to convert Catbird’s designs to accommodate brilliant-cut recycled stones — which required adjustments in prong shape and size. The stones are plucked from vintage jewelry pieces.
About 95 percent of Catbird’s products now utilize recycled diamonds, the remainder still being rose-cut stones. “It’s a very elusive thing as far as sourcing,” Vardi said of the recycled diamonds. “To find someone who deals in high volume for smaller things like pavé rings and earrings, we found a guy in New York who is fifth generation working in recycled and estate jewelry. For us that was the solution to all the murkiness of conflict-free.”
Co-creative director Leigh Plessner conceded of recycled stones, which have a carat price similar to newly-mined stones: “We can’t say where they are from — what country or mine, we don’t have the provenance — but it’s, to us, like buying a leather coat in a thrift store or fur. You don’t know where it’s from but it’s not causing any further damage, there is no environmental risk – all the energy has already been put into them.”
The diamonds add to Catbird’s pre-existing sustainable practices like using recycled gold. The company utilizes packaging made from recycled material, has cut out plastics, and prefers using the subway and bikes rather than automobile transit.
The jeweler has recently begun experimenting with lab-grown diamonds — offering the stones in a single engagement ring style that costs half the price of its sister style using natural diamonds. “They are molecularly identical to mined diamonds, but are produced using less energy!” reads the style’s description.
Vardi says that the stones have found favor with consumers who “are inclined either towards the price or particularly for big diamonds.”