Join us as Laura Chavez takes us behind the scenes of her ethical jewelry brand, Lark & Berry. We discuss her inspiration behind the brand, the benefits of cultured diamonds, and her hopes for the future.
Hello! Who are you, what brand do you run, what kind of products do you create?
My name is Laura Chavez, and I’m the founder of Lark & Berry, the first fine designer jewellery brand in the world to use only cultured diamonds and stones in all our pieces (also known as lab-grown diamonds).
Since our launch in early 2018, Lark & Berry has only used cultured stones, and we will always use only cultured stones. We’re a design-focused brand first and foremost, but the commitment to only creating pieces with sustainable stones is a passionate one for us.
Cultured stones are much safer for the planet versus what it takes to mine for the very same stones, and cultured diamonds are the only diamonds on Earth always 100% guaranteed to be conflict-free.
What inspired you to create Lark & Berry?
I was completing my MBA at London Business School, and one of my forms of recreation during my last semester or two was to take a class outside of school just for fun.
I took a history of jewellery course, and I learned that diamonds and other luxury gemstones can now be lab-grown. And not just that, but they were the very same quality, or better than mined stones, and with none of the mining, groundwater pollution, displacing of wildlife, and perhaps most importantly, lab-grown were 100% guaranteed to be conflict-free.
I was sold. I knew I could finally start a jewellery brand, which I’d always wanted to do, without worrying about where the diamonds were coming from or worrying that someone was hurt in the process. That was it. Lark & Berry was born.
Did you always know you wanted to be a jewellery designer?
I have always loved jewellery and design in general, yes. As I started to get older, those two loves began to coalesce into a one-in-the-same kind of passion, and I even found myself beginning to sketch out jewellery designs on my iPad while in some of my university classes before I even started taking the history of jewellery course I mentioned.
My grandmother was very independent and strong-willed, I had great respect for her, and when I was very young, I remember being totally awestruck by all the beautiful fine jewellery she bought herself. I would think, ‘I want to be like her and look like her someday…’
She also had a love for our planet and nature, which I like to think I inherited. Had lab-grown diamonds been an option back then, I know she would have loved them and totally supported this disrupting alternative.
It wasn’t really until around 2006 I’d say, when ‘Blood Diamond’ came out, that the lid was blown off just how harmful diamond mining had been, and people started to become aware in a mass sense. I know that movie really affected me personally.
So, all these influences from childhood, becoming more socially and environmentally aware, and yes, my love of jewellery and design and drawing – it all sort of came together in a big bang epiphany during my last year of my MBA program, and then shortly after, Lark & Berry came to be.
How are Lark & Berry’s cultured diamonds created?
To create a cultured diamond, lab engineers must replicate the same high heat and pressure conditions that occur underground, causing diamonds to form. Most often, one of two methods are utilised in labs to mimic these conditions, either HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature) or CVD (Chemical Vapour Deposition – this is the newer method of the two).
In the CVD method, a diamond seed, extracted from the purest diamond from a previous batch, is placed inside a growth chamber. The chamber is then filled with carbon-rich gasses, and the seed is exposed to incredible amounts of heat and constant pressure.
In the HPHT method, created diamonds are produced from carbon material in apparatuses that mimic the high pressure, high temperature conditions of natural diamond formation in the earth.
Culturing diamonds still requires large amounts of energy, how do you ensure that Lark & Berry Diamonds are created as sustainably as possible?
As I mentioned, there are always more and more labs emerging all the time utilising new methods to produce carbon negative diamonds. That means the energy they did use to create the diamonds is totally offset by other means of production.
Labs are also growing diamonds with 100% renewable energy, and there’s even labs now that can grab excess carbon from the sky and convert that into a diamond. That, to me, is beyond sustainable. It’s all a matter of choosing the right labs to work with.
Have you seen a shift in consumers’ perception towards cultured diamonds in recent years as social awareness grows about the ethics and environmental issues behind mined diamonds?
Yes, I could even equate it to my own cultured diamonds awakening, so to speak. Like I’ve said, I didn’t know about culturing diamonds before I took that class around 2017, but technically, science has been attempting it since the 1950’s (the first breakthrough was made then by General Electric).
From there, it took decades to get the lab-grown diamonds to gem-quality status, and it’s only been since around 2005 that they’ve begun to emerge in fine jewellery in the market – and even more recently, like really in the last few years, that lab-grown diamonds engagement rings, the most competitive area of jewellery, have made a big mark. I can speak for that personally, too – during the lockdowns period of the COVID pandemic, we saw our engagement rings sales increase 1,000%.
I know from analyzing our market though – that increase in sales wasn’t just people having more time to shop being stuck at home, it’s a trend that is ever-progressing.
As more and more of us accept the reality that if we don’t act now to combat climate change by acting definitively in how we live, travel, buy, all of it – we just simply won’t have a livable planet to pass on to future generations. People are realizing all of it now, and they’re seeking sustainable alternatives, including fine jewellery, like what Lark & Berry offers.
I love sharing this as an example of the change I see happening all the time – we had a family of 3 generations come into our London Flagship location a little while back – daughter, mom and grandmother, and they all wanted to get piercings together.
It was so inspiring to see three people spanning that many generations excited about sharing an experience Lark & Berry could create for them. We were not only offering beautiful jewellery to them, we were creating a familial memory. I see that as a sign that lab-grown diamonds are starting to go mainstream. That’s the goal, of course – to see the day when lab-grown are just called “diamonds” the same way no one calls pearls “cultured pearls” even though nearly all of them are grown these days. It’s just the norm and it’s better for the planet.
What elements of your brand are important to you which illustrate your brand values and culture?
Everything we do at Lark & Berry is proudly waving the flag of championing and practicing sustainable causes. Of course there’s our stones – always cultured, never mined.
And we even have a shipping program that offsets all our already minimal carbon emissions. We’re also set to soon debut 100% recycled gift packaging for all our orders.
Since shortly after launch, we also plant fresh trees in areas around the world that need them most per every Lark & Berry purchase.
Do you have a favourite piece of the Lark & Berry collection?
I love our new Summer Piercings Collection for 2022. I’m just getting really into ear-stacking with piercings myself, and I love to see it out there thriving as a trend.
We have lots of fun, edgy labrets and hoops in this new collection, like our Mini Shooting Star, our Lightning Strike Labret and our Marquise-set Knife Edged Hoop.
They’re all sure to get you noticed, I can speak for that!
Have you tried a product from another sustainable and ethical brand that you love?
I support all sustainable brands who are making a difference for our planet regardless of market sector.
As far as jewellery goes, I would like to take this opportunity to mention Lark & Berry’s sister brand Alondra. It’s very new, we launched in just the last few months.
With Alondra pieces, we’re able to use the very same lab-grown diamonds and gemstones that are used in Lark & Berry pieces. The only difference, as far as materials, is that Alondra pieces are made with silver and 18K gold vermeil. This simple difference allows our widest audience yet the opportunity to buy designer jewellery made with the most sustainable diamonds on the planet.
Desire from this wide audience not yet ready to invest in solid gold pieces has grown rapidly since Lark & Berry launched, so we’re thrilled to be able to meet that demand.
Design-wise, Alondra allows us to try ideas, concepts and designs that are different from the Lark & Berry style. With Alondra, we’re focusing specifically on creating generally larger-sized conversation pieces with a modern, edgy flair to really make your personal style pop.
What does the future look like for Lark & Berry?
We will continue designing new collections always with the same ethos in mind – to never use mined diamonds and to find creative ways to keep educating the public on the merits of lab-grown diamonds and stones. We’re also looking to expand into making some sustainable fashion accessories as well!
We want to say a huge thank you to Laura for taking the time to give us an insight into her brand.
We’ve included Lark & Berry in our favorite sustainable and ethical jewellery guide. Plus, If you enjoyed this interview, check out more of our Q&A series including an interviews with sustainable sneaker brand Baabuk, and ethical lingerie brand ColieCo.