Interview with Mike Angenent of Wishes Jewels: creating ethical jewellery
Mike Angenent, aged 39, is an entrepreneur based in the Netherlands close to Maastricht. He studied in Antwerp, graduated as diamond grader and gemologist at Diamond High Council (HRD) and has a Master’s degree in arts & science studies, specialising in ethical decision-making processes. Since then, he has worked tirelessly for the production of ethical jewellery, sourced from well-treated and empowered miners.
When was the brand created, by whom, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Late 2010, by me personally. The inspiration behind it was to combine high-end jewellery designs with a complete transparent (Fairtrade) story. Thus knowing where the gold came from, where the diamonds were polished, etc. and to tell a complete story of not only origin, but also the passion and technology that makes this kind of jewellery possible.
Apart from the Hauser collection, are the pieces currently displayed on the website designed by you? If not, then by whom, and what about their work caught your eye?
Wishes is open to designers who are making high-end masterpieces. The design has to be something special and/or the finish has to be extraordinarily good. For the design, apart from the Hauser collection, we work with various independent designers. The designs are often a combination of experiences from various people helping and thinking out how to make it possible.
How do you personally feel about jewellery, and how do you use it to express yourself?
Jewellery for me should highlight specific features of one’s personality. It should dress and sparkle. It’s a form of personal adornment and celebration of the human body, but also spirit.
What are a few of your likes and dislikes in terms of design and style aesthetic?
Style and aesthetics should, in my opinion, capture something of beauty that is not tangible or visible and seek a way to express it. I like it when I feel that the designer made that happen, but it’s a very personal feeling.
What are your favourite things about your job? Any negatives?
About this part of the job, the creation of jewellery; the nicest thing is to see something being created out of base materials. When you take gold and know where it has come out of the ground, you know the people involved in making this happen, the amount of work that it takes (two weeks to dig up 40 grams of gold in the case of Oro Verde), and a similar process for diamonds, then the polishing, creating, making the jewellery, having it set with stones and then to see it getting polished into this shiny piece of art is absolutely great.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you hope to be in ten years?
Well, I worked towards a better future for myself, but also for the very people who are digging up all of these things that make this possible.
As I see it now, within the next ten years a lot more of these small-scale, artisanal mining communities will get direct market access and a certification system that will further enable them to promote and market their products directly.
I wish to work a lot more with these kinds of initiatives and coordinate and assist this further into being.
How would you describe your personality, and is this reflected in your work?
If I would use a few key words that have kept me busy over the last few years they would be ethics, justice, literature, poetry (telling stories) and freedom.
Do you have a team working with you to help manage the brand?
Yes, there are designers, setters, casters, IT gurus, etc., but no fixed team of people and everybody has other jobs as well. No exclusivity for Wishes (which helps in the pricing).
Tell me about your connection with Fairtrade.
I’ve been very much involved with Oro Verde from the beginning. As a matter of fact, Open Source Minerals [the company under which umbrella we host Wishes Jewels] was one of the first to import gold from OV into the Netherlands (back in 2009). Since 2011, we started working with DC Diamascorp and Diamond Development Initiative to make fair trade diamonds a reality. But even before that, we worked with the Liqhobong Women Miners Cooperative in Lesotho (it doesn’t exist anymore).
Basically it started with a travel to Madagascar in 2001 and my passion to work with the sapphires mined there, and to do something beneficial for the people mining them.
How do you feel about blood diamonds and unethical mining? Any advice on this topic for our readers?
I dislike the term “blood diamonds”; it’s a political phrase used to steer away from the real issue: blood weapons – or perhaps even better: bloody politics.
We make all this effort to establish a verifiable and traceable supply chain for these little stones that are being “mined” 15,000 miles away, just to make sure that they cannot be used to purchase weapons.
These weapons (AK47, etc.) all have serial numbers already inscribed… just think of it! It’s a lot easier to track and trace those if that was the intention.
These standards are not just about helping these communities. They are about empowering and enabling miners to have an independently verifiable certification system in place for clearly defined responsible mining.
It will help to improve the position of these miners within the existing commercial structures.
To learn more about ethical jewels, click here. Wishes Jewels has a new collection coming out next year and more products going up on the soon-to-be-renovated website next week.