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avenida SANTIAGO establishes a seamless connection between sophisticated design and exceptional craftsmanship on one side, and a deep commitment to both people and the environment throughout the production process on the other.
During his tenure as an advertising photographer specializing in silver jewellery, Roland Knipfer recognized a notable absence in the market. It was evident that there was a lack of offerings when it came to exquisitely designed silver jewellery that not only boasted timeless extravagance but also exhibited impeccable craftsmanship, all while being produced fairly and sustainably in Germany. This realization sparked the idea to address this gap through his own label. In January 2022, avenida SANTIAGO was officially launched.
The mining of precious metals leads to significant environmental destruction, often accompanied by profound social injustices. While a new perspective on luxury emerged years ago, raising awareness of this problem, a more extended process is required to embed this awareness deeply within the population. There is still a substantial production of jewellery where neither social equity nor ecological sustainability significantly factors in. The positive news is that there is substantial potential for substantial improvement in these areas, through methods like utilizing recycled precious metals, responsibly sourced gemstones, local production, and shorter delivery routes.
avenida SANTIAGO was established with the goal of addressing these challenges and meeting the evolving demands, particularly from younger consumers who prioritize credibility and transparency. "In the past, a clear divide existed between suppliers and consumers, enabling brands to construct their own narratives through marketing and PR. However, in a digital world, they have to become transparent entities under the scrutiny of their customers and prospects. Young consumers no longer wish to hear advertising promises but demand authentic standards, such as ethical practices and climate protection," explained Roland Knipfer, the brand's designer.
The company envisions that in the future, consumption, particularly luxury consumption, will assume greater social and ecological responsibility. "I believe that adopting a mindful lifestyle can contribute to making the world a little better. Opting for high-quality, enduring, and ethically produced items not only brings enjoyment but also conserves resources, reduces energy consumption, and minimizes unnecessary waste," continued the designer.
"You don't have to forgo luxury to consume responsibly; quite the contrary. Many elements that epitomize luxury items, such as premium materials, expert craftsmanship, and their resultant longevity, align naturally with this ethos. If material selection and the production process also adhere to ecological sustainability and principles of human dignity, I firmly believe we have made substantial progress. Furthermore, if the luxury market leads by example, this attitude may well extend to our everyday consumption."
avenida SANTIAGO's jewellery collection is in a constant state of evolution. New design inspirations always play a role, but the principles of sustainability and responsibility remain steadfast. Drawing inspiration from Tiffany, Hermes, as well as art and styles from past eras like Bauhaus and Art Deco, the pieces also evoke the Space Age designs of the late '60s and '70s.
For Roland Knipfer, today's luxury entails owning high-quality items that do not compromise nature or human dignity. Additionally, values such as personal time, mindfulness, and well-being are increasingly seen as luxurious. Consequently, we now expect luxury brands to adopt eco-social responsibility, have a higher purpose, and clear ethical stances. "In the past, luxury was primarily associated with expense and exclusivity. Today, our preferences may be swayed by a brand's position on social, political, or ethical matters, or we may choose to boycott them," he says.
Roland Knipfer personally selects all materials used in his creations. When it comes to precious metals, they exclusively employ sterling silver. However, in the case of gemstones, extensive experimentation was undertaken. "Originally, there were approximately one hundred different stones to choose from, all subjected to stringent selection criteria." It was of paramount importance to him that the stones not only harmonized visually with his designs but also possessed exceptional resilience against various external factors. Since they encourage their customers to embrace their jewellery as they would a dear friend, the stones had to meet these unique requirements. Ethical sourcing also factored into the decision-making process. Ultimately, the selection was narrowed down to just three different stones: onyx, rock crystal, and moonstone.
Conversely, at avenida SANTIAGO, all their precious metals are sourced from a single reputable refiner specializing in recycling secondary precious metals, thereby abstaining from processing mined raw materials. This supplier is also certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council, ensuring strict adherence to ethical, social, and ecological standards. Additionally, the recycled raw materials originate from verified sources, steering clear of conflict regions.
"We adopted a similar approach with the stones. We procure them exclusively from a supplier with whom I have a strong rapport and who operates cutting workshops in the stone's countries of origin. This ensures fair working conditions and guarantees that goods of questionable origin, for instance, are not incorporated," stated the designer. Furthermore, Roland Knipfer attaches great importance to offering "Made in Germany" products, explaining: "As a German company, if we were to outsource production to the Far East, our jewellery would have to traverse great distances to reach its final destination. Moreover, numerous flights would be essential for close coordination of production and our stringent quality standards. Alternatively, we could collaborate with a local production company. However, this would necessitate relinquishing a significant degree of control, a scenario incongruent with achieving the desired outcomes," he emphasized. In addition, there is hardly any influence on whether the people who work on the jewellery are really treated and paid fairly or whether they have social security. Producing cheaply in low-wage countries and accepting all the disadvantages described above in return was never an option for the designer.
The jewellery unfolds its uniqueness through the combination of exquisite design, unsurpassed quality and responsible manufacturing in German workshops. A good example of this is the handcrafted anchor chain made of flawless round chain links.
The production of this piece of jewellery requires consistent precision on the part of the craftsman. Each individual link is carefully crafted and perfected in meticulous detail. With round chain links, even the slightest inattention would immediately catch the eye, as the connection between the links is not concealed by the adjacent chain link - a difference from oval connections that makes the jewellery something very special.
The deliberate restraint with which this unique jewellery is worn is a subtle form of understatement. For only those who appreciate the finely woven craftsmanship and immense effort behind the jewellery can recognise its true uniqueness.
Recycled silver is an environmentally superior choice. "Recycled silver and mined silver are absolutely identical, bearing no chemical or physical distinctions. Therefore, not only does it offer the same quality, but recycled silver also boasts the advantage of eradicating all the issues associated with mining. Moreover, the energy demand for recycling is significantly lower than the extraction of silver from ore, resulting in substantial CO2 savings," emphasized Roland Knipfer. He elaborates on five key reasons.
First: Silver is a finite resource. At current extraction rates, the world's silver reserves are projected to be depleted in less than 30 years. To conserve this precious raw material, it is imperative to minimize the use of mined silver whenever possible.
Second: Silver mining inflicts significant environmental devastation. Open-pit mining carves colossal voids into the landscape, annihilating the habitats of animals and plants. Additionally, underground mining and the requisite infrastructure, including roads, railways, electricity, and water supply, often lead to the creation of illegal settlements for workers, causing massive harm to untouched ecosystems. Furthermore, highly toxic substances like cyanide and mercury are employed extensively in silver mining, akin to gold mining. Regrettably, contemporary filtration systems are often unavailable, resulting in the unchecked release of these hazardous and environmentally destructive agents. The local populations in these mining areas bear the brunt of these harmful influences.
Third: Silver mining is incredibly water-intensive. The substantial quantities required lead to a drastic reduction in groundwater levels in certain mining regions, causing wells and rivers to run dry. This not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of local communities but, in the worst-case scenario, toxic sludge, carrying the potential to poison groundwater and soil for an indeterminate period, is released back into the environment.
Fourth: In addition to industrial silver mining, there exists small-scale mining, where workers frequently engage in illegal silver excavation without the necessary mining licenses, employing rudimentary methods. In this setting, conditions are particularly dire: laborers navigate ankle-deep mud, descend into narrow shafts without helmets or safety gear, and face exposure to highly toxic chemicals. Violence, crime, slavery, human trafficking, and prostitution are commonplace in these environments.
Fifth: Another issue is that gold and silver mines are often focal points of armed conflicts, leading to severe human rights violations. Forced labor and child labor are also unfortunate realities in this industry.