When Octavia Zamagias, 31, started her jewelry company, Octavia Elizabeth, four years ago in her apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., she wasn’t looking for labels like ‘ethical’, ‘recycled’ or ‘sustainable’. “. Instead, her jewelry organically reflected this as an extension of her values.
Zamagias grew up in Pennsylvania and, before founding her company, worked in the wedding industry, the fashion industry and at Honest Company, a consumer goods brand founded by Jessica Alba, under the direction of female leaders who inspired her to be more creative and ultimately her own boss.
Zamagias is a designer and trained jeweler known for her artisanal gold hammering technique. When she first started making jewelry, she created each piece from her bench in her Santa Monica studio.
“When I started, I was creating custom, one-of-a-kind pieces and I thought it would be a fun side project,” she says. “It grew to the point where I decided to start my own line.”
After a year and a half of creating pieces herself, she hired a team to meet the demands of her growing business and currently has a staff of eight at her Los Angeles production facility.
“I work with a production company that I have carefully vetted,” she says. “I’ve tested many places and got lots of stares when I ask to see the facilities or ask basic questions like, ‘Do your employees have lunch breaks?’ Are they full time? Do they have health care?’ I wanted to make sure that as I grew, the people who produced this jewelry were treated well.
Since starting the business four years ago, she has released five collections and has a thriving bespoke business, which includes engagement and wedding rings. Zamagias works exclusively with recycled 18-karat gold and conflict-free stones, and ensures ethical working conditions for its Los Angeles production facility and overseas supplier partners.
Octavia Elizabeth has five collections, Nesting Gem, Into the West, Heirloom, Ivy and Imogen. Categories include earrings, bracelets, cuffs, rings, necklaces, anklets, and men’s jewelry. His most popular collection is his original capsule collection, Nesting Gem, which includes everyday pieces that showcase his signature hammering technique.
“The hammered finish that I love is very unique to Octavia Elizabeth and it comes from my training as a bench jeweler,” she says. “I like it to look very natural. I want our jewelry to be comfortable and not bulky. I always think it’s best to take a step back and think about what transcends time.
The Gabby Hoops (US$675) are a best seller, which come in a variety of sizes and optional diamond detailing. This classic gold hoop stands the test of time and can be worn daily, from yoga to a nice dinner.
Octavia Elizabeth’s jewelry ranges from US$295 to US$50,000, though many of her engagement rings and bespoke pieces are well over that. Octavia Elizabeth has an e-commerce site and is also available at retailers across the country as well as online retailers including Net-A-Porter, Moda Operandi and MatchesFashion.
Zamagias works exclusively with recycled 18-karat gold and conflict-free stones, such as diamond, emerald, sapphire, opal and pearl. Her gold hammering technique, seen in many of her pieces, creates a beautiful organic look, especially when paired with baroque pearls or untreated colored gemstones (no two stones are the same ). She works with a variety of finishes in addition to hammering, such as high gloss and satin. Her pieces are meant to be worn everyday and layered on top of each other.
While each piece seems true to Octavia Elizabeth’s unique style, pieces range from statement pieces, like this Emerald Oval Pendant ($12,300) to dainty drop earrings, like the Nesting Semi-Carat Stud Earrings. Gem (US$3,500). Zamagias also reuses vintage and heritage jewelry for modern clothing. She also has a line for men, which includes cuffs, money clips and rings.
WHAT IS THE GOOD?
“Nowadays there are all these buzzwords and people want to build businesses around sustainability,” she says. “For me, especially the fair labor aspect, there was no other option. I consider jewelry to be an ancient tradition and art. When people aren’t treated fairly or paid well, that won’t be felt either. »
Transparency is key to Octavia Elizabeth’s products. Her jewelry is ethically sourced using conflict-free stones and made with 100% recycled 18k gold from an SCS-certified gold supplier. This means that the gold does not come from conflict metals or illegal sources; factories have labor protections, environmental performance standards; and everything is traceable.
Even the casting, chains and accessories (the lobster clasp and the jump ring) are made with recycled materials in the USA, which is extremely rare for a jewelry company as it is more expensive to produce than to source directly from abroad.
The line is produced locally in Los Angeles, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions from outsourcing production overseas. It also ensures fair work for its employees in the United States and abroad by partnering with transparent vendors, which it vets carefully before working with them.
Sourcing from the best and most ethical suppliers, who offer excellent working conditions, is very important to her. She says the diamond industry used to be very dirty, but thanks to the Kimberley Process, it is much easier to source diamonds from conflict-free countries.
“The price per carat is more expensive when buying from conflict-free countries, but that doesn’t matter,” she says. “Honestly, I couldn’t imagine wearing a piece of jewelry that you didn’t know where the stones came from. I care and my clients really care.
Octavia Elizabeth recently partnered with a 75% women-run lapidary (a gem-cutting factory) in Pakistan called Myne London Emeralds. They are safely cut and polished mainly by women while providing them with full-time jobs.
In an effort not to overproduce, Zamagias does not adhere to a traditional fine jewelry calendar of launching collections several times a year, but rather when it feels inspired.
“High jewelry doesn’t have a season, and if you’re making something that’s timeless, it shouldn’t be something that gets put back in your jewelry box,” she says. “I love when people wear pieces for years and years. That’s also part of our sustainability aspect; we don’t produce collections consistently. We produce when I feel inspired, because I never want to overproduce.
She recently launched her fifth collection called Imogen, meant to complement her existing collections. The collection includes statement chain necklaces with large statement stones, such as emeralds and chrysoprase.