Sometimes dream projects come along. When these are also brought to us by the loveliest of customers, well, then the whole process is something quite magical.
Jani’s first email landed in my inbox with a pretty clear idea of what she and her fiancé Peter wanted for her engagement ring, a beautiful 5 stone U-cut setting. After chatting through all the details, they decided on 4 lab-grown diamonds on either side of a second hand mined diamond set in a simple yet boldly proportioned 9k yellow gold band. We loved every moment of this commission and so rather than just sharing the finished piece, I thought I would pepper the telling of their love story with a couple of images of the ring’s process of becoming.
How did you and Peter meet?
Peter and I met in 2019. Wanting to get involved in some sort of community I decided to contact the local church's person in charge of youth & young adults: Peter van Biljon. He invited me to an event in Hillbrow and being polite he offered to pick me up (with his motorcycle) at my flat. He always says that the moment he got off his bike and saw me, he knew. Then life and distance got in the way.
Skip to February 2020: Peter had moved to Pietermaritzburg for his medical internship and I was still in Joburg. He was listening to the radio and heard a certain choir conductor with whom I sang for a bit and it reminded him of me. He sent me a message on FB (because he had deleted my number in an attempt to try and forget about me!) and we got to know each other a bit more. In March 2020, exactly a week before lockdown, he was in Joburg for a few days. We went for dinner and again for breakfast the next morning, and out of the blue Peter asked: "So, how are we going to make this long-distance thing work?" And that day the two of us decided to take on this daring adventure - something that would become a common theme for us.
What is your favourite memory together so far?
Our relationship has been filled with so many exciting moments: we hiked Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg, also around Sani Top in Lesotho, we did our open water diving course and got to swim with sharks, and survived a very hectic white river rafting trip on the Tugela (I thought I was going to die but it just proved to Peter and his family that I really was the one for him so it was worth it!).
But none of those get close to the small, ordinary moments: cooking together, eating together, talking about the places we still want to see and the life we want to cultivate, or like the evening when we officially got engaged - just being in a bubble with the other person and then with our families. Those holy moments.
What was the main thing you wanted in your engagement ring?
Some background about me: my MA dissertation looks at informal waste pickers and the future of waste management. During my research I heard about informal waste pickers who take apart electronics they find in the trash and make jewelery from it. I immediately googled to see where I could find something like that and obviously AuTerra popped up. I decided then and there (very single at the time) that one day my wedding ring would be made by you!
The main thing I wanted in my ring was to make it eco-friendly (as eco-friendly as any piece of jewellery can be anyway), and to choose a jeweller with whose values and processes I agree.
What do you love most about your ring and how did you find your experience with AuTerra?
So apart from where it comes from, the ring will also forever be a reminder that we need to be conscious about what we use and where it comes from. We also like to say that the 5 stones represent our two families (both of us come from very happy families - mom and dad, and 3 kids) and how we want to cherish family life.
Initially we weren't actually so keen to go for diamonds as we didn't want to support the De Beers model of selling the idea of diamonds = love, and then regulating the price as they see fit. But on the other hand: diamonds are amazing! And they are timeless and so pure. I had heard about lab diamonds but before meeting you I did feel that it was a bit inferior to mined diamonds. Though I am very excited about them now and love to boast about my 4 lil' labs. I’m glad we decided to incorporate the one second-hand mined diamond in the centre too (again: I wanted to support the idea that recycling and quality should become the new 'new'.).
AuTerra is the type of business I want to support and wish more people would invest in: local, transparent, serious about its ecological footprint and the dignity of communities, and a pioneer in building alternative production and waste systems. And of course, AuTerra was the only place (that I know of) that take metal from recycled e-waste!
After a few emails and meeting you, we became even more convinced that you were the perfect team to work on the ring: we actually love the fact that the ring is handmade, one-of-a-kind - that you keep the age-old skill/art/trade of goldsmithing alive - and then the personal touch of actually getting to meet you, being able to read and know about the exact processes and chemicals and materials you use, and the level of professionalism and communication throughout the process (particularly when the lab diamonds were 0.1mm smaller than expected and you got in touch as soon as they arrived at your studio - this said so much about the integrity of your brand!).
What excites you most about the next chapter of life together?
Now we look forward to starting our life together next year somewhere rural where he will be doing his community service and I will hopefully get involved in the local NGO - we both value justice and upliftment and want to cultivate that in our lives. And otherwise we can't wait for the many big and small adventures awaiting us in the future!