Ethical gold and lab diamonds: Prada breaks the mould with jewellery collection

Prada’s ethical fine jewellery line is forging the journey towards a more planet-friendly industry

Pieces in Prada's Eternal Gold jewellery line make good on the brand's minimalist aesthetic. Photo: Prada
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When luxury Italian house Prada first unveiled its fine jewellery line in October last year, it was a given that it would be something unexpected. With a reputation for an avant-garde yet intellectual approach to fashion, it was unsurprising that the same out-of-the-box thinking would be applied to this latest venture.

Having taken 14 months to develop, Prada chose to fly in the face of convention with Eternal Gold, a collection created entirely from certified recycled gold and adorned with laboratory-grown diamonds. In keeping with the brand’s minimalist aesthetic, the pieces are pared back to the point of brevity and based on the house’s iconic motif – the obtuse triangle.

Made in either white, rose or yellow gold, the polished sheen is interrupted only by white diamonds and sparse flashes of amethyst, malachite, green quartz and onyx.

Using the triangle as the core of each design is clever, as it doubles down on how recognisable it is as a logo, so much so that there is increasingly little need for the brand’s name at all. Yet, being Prada, the familiar three-sided form is played with, examined and explored.

It arrives like a plump cushion as a nano-pendant or single stud earring. In some cases, it is softened into fluid, almost sculptural forms as pendants. It is also designed as a cut-out, leaving nothing but the echo of the shape behind. What makes the collection resolutely Prada is the fact, like everything the house touches, it is presented in that intriguing space between masculine and feminine.

A chunky chain with boxy, angular links, for example, feels weighty and masculine when worn as a bracelet, yet becomes sensual and feminine when threaded on to a cross-grain ribbon and worn as a choker. Likewise, another necklace features sharp, almost spiked links, softened with diamonds at the apex.

Coils of reticulated gold become snake-like bracelets and rings, while elsewhere, the triangle is expanded into an oversized pendant that hovers somewhere between sensual and industrial. The diamonds, when they appear, are densely packed, snow-set with different-sized stones, clustered together for a haphazard approach that is anything but.

One brooch in white gold is so smothered in diamonds no metal can be seen at all, with the stones seemingly wrapped around the edges for a slightly plumped effect.

Dazzlingly original, it also showcases the skill of the atelier behind it. More stones trace the circumference of bracelets and rings, while oversized diamonds appear to be cut into pyramids, as the tip of twisting rings, asymmetrically placed on triangular earrings or as chunks of prism on heart-shaped pendants.

Continuing this unconventional approach, the collection also includes items that are strictly made to order, such as a pavé white gold brooch and a broad cuff of interlinking triangles in yellow gold.

Reusing gold is a more sustainable approach than relying on mining. It also taps into the long history of this noble metal, which has been coveted by humans for millennia. Emphasising this, Prada offers a collection that is modern yet timeless, while making sustainability a fashion statement in itself.

Noble metals have such longevity because they can be melted and reformed endlessly without compromising quality. Reworking gold that is already above ground not only gives new life to jewellery that has fallen out of style or is broken, but also sidesteps the thorny issue of dubious practices across an industry that is largely unregulated, and that too often operates in the shadows.

By using gold that already exists, Prada puts a firm distance between itself and any hint of questionable provenance, a move it enshrines by accompanying each piece of jewellery with a chip listing the metal’s journey with the company. This information is also logged with Aura Consortium Blockchain, a company co-founded by the Prada Group, which also helps the likes of Loro Piana, Mercedes-Benz and Cartier establish provenance and traceability for future generations.

The decision to use lab-grown diamonds has a similar story. While the stones are not completely impact-free, thanks to an energy-hungry manufacturing process, when compared to the environmental destruction of opencast mining, they are the lower-impact choice. Formed under pressure in a factory, these artificial stones can not only potentially reach any size, but they are also free of the scandals that shadow the mined diamond trade.

From a customer perspective, such stones are becoming attractive because they are indistinguishable from mined stones – the only difference is the amount of nitrogen at a molecular level, a shift so subtle only a handful of specialists can detect it. With tales swirling that as many as 20 per cent of mined diamonds in circulation could, in fact, be lab-grown, by choosing this alternative from the outset, customers can be sure of what they are getting. And for anyone looking to reduce their environmental impact, lab-grown diamonds are a no-brainer.

For Prada, this collection adds to its existing steps towards being a more sustainable brand, coming on the back of the 2019 launch of Re-Nylon, which replaces nylon with econyl, a fibre made from regenerated nylon waste, which, like gold, can be recycled over and over.

With Eternal Gold billed as the first truly sustainable fine jewellery line by a major fashion house, it offers a new beginning for customers’ understanding of reworked gold and how fine jewellery is regarded. Traditionally, jewellery has been created new using freshly mined components. With this collection, Prada offers an alternative that delivers a different level of conscious environmental awareness, without compromising on style.

Updated: December 19, 2023, 6:46 AM