SELMA ROTH SELMA.ROTH@ARABNEWS.COM
Wednesday 11 July 2012
The need to live a greener and more sustainable life is becoming apparent for a growing number of people, and as a consequence, the market in Saudi Arabia is opening up for consumers who care about their impact on the environment and are willing to make a difference. Now, shoppers even have the opportunity to buy “green” and ethical jewelry, as Eden, the first and only eco-friendly natural jewelry company in Saudi Arabia, opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web recently.
The woman behind this all is Ranyah Seraj, a Saudi artist and designer who founded Eden with her husband Stephen Elliott in 2007 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. “A friend of mine, who is a miner, introduced me to the gemstones, which I started to collect,” said Ranyah, who came to the UK to study design, fashion and textiles, and production design for film — first at Brighton University and then at Edinburgh College of Art.
Not happy with her job at that time and inspired by the world of gemstones, Ranyah decided to combine her passion for natural stones with her profession as a designer — hence, Eden, a series of ethical and sustainable concept art jewelry pieces derived from nature, was born. It includes rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and cuffing made of gemstones, meteorites, tektite and fossils, among others.
“In Scotland, green practices, renewable energy and recycling are part of everyday life. Organic and ethical products are also widely available. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, people still need to be educated about these practices. That’s why my husband and I in 2010 decided to bring our company to the Kingdom.” Their mission is to enlighten and educate. “We show our customers how beautiful God’s creations are. Our planet is incredible. It should be respected and appreciated,” Ranyah commented, adding that people usually don’t associate being green with high-end products, but “you can be good and gorgeous!”
To make sure only ethical and sustainable materials are used for their jewels, Ranyah and her husband personally go to the miners. These “ethical miners,” as she calls them, only take small amounts of the best quality stones and leave no traces behind of their activity. “They will mine only what they can carry of the precious stones, in contrast to the thousands of tons some nations take away. The miners we work with make sure their work does not harm the local environment,” Ranyah said.
Besides being sustainably sourced, the materials Ranyah and her husband use in their designs are also fair trade, which means they ensure the locals get a fair price for the stones they excavate. “This way, we keep their trade alive and thriving,” said Ranyah, explaining that the main aim of fair trade is poverty alleviation.
At the same time, by going directly to the miners and cutting out the middleman Eden keeps its prices affordable. According to Ranyah, this is one of the things that make them unique. “The average price of our jewelry is SR400 to SR600. What makes Eden artifacts also special is that they are all Saudi designed, and the jewelry is different and personal. “Our style is simple, funky and elegant. We attract confident women who are determined and know themselves. They wear our jewelry for themselves, not for others,” confirmed Ranyah.
Eden does not limit its collections to gemstones. Their Pacific Series, for instance, consists of shells and pearls obtained from farms so as not to dwindle the species, whereas their Eternal Wing collection has real butterfly jewelry to help protect the butterfly population from extinction. “On the rarer side, our Ancient Earth Series consists of real fossils up to 500 million years old and 15 million-year-old meteorite,” Ranyah added.
For the time being, Eden jewelry is only available online. Groups can request a private view at the designer’s home, and she organizes jewelry parties at people’s homes or in compounds. In the near future, however, Ranyah and her husband are hoping to open a boutique in Riyadh. “The whole project is an adventure for me. I realize that the trade in precious stones is thousands of years old. Cleopatra used to apply lapis lazuli on her eyes as eye shadow,” narrated Ranyah. It also takes time to master the craft. “As a designer, I am still learning. I regularly take courses or learn from old craftsmen. Their families often have been in the profession for generations. There are also hundreds of books out there I haven’t read yet.”
As long as she can continue designing exciting lines of creative jewelry and educate people on the importance of sustainable living, Eden jewelry seems here to stay.
Eden can be bought on www.sadashop.com, the first online boutique based in Saudi Arabia.
For a sneak preview on some of their pieces and to join their monthly newsletter, go to www.edenscorner.com. / firstname.lastname@example.org - www.terra-eclat.com