Sustainable, accountable and ethically sourced is perhaps engaging buzzwords for mining firms and international jewelry homes however Nigeria’s super-rich aren’t shopping for it.
“The reality is the shoppers aren’t fussed, it’s a ‘good to have’ solely,” says Jennifer Obayuwana, government director at Polo, Nigeria’s largest jewelry chain. “The very first thing they’re searching for is model recognition — they all the time desire a heritage model. They’re searching for Cartier or Rolex or Chopard. It’s the standing image while you put on it.”
Ms Obayuwana has 157,000 Instagram followers. She commonly posts from personal jets or Parisian boutiques, sporting Cartier love bracelets subsequent to the newest £48,100 gem-set bezel Rolex Yachtmaster. Her super-rich clientele “positively need to purchase African, however for an African jeweller to cost the identical value as Chopard can be a tall one”.
The African jewelry market affords conventional jewelry and new high-quality designs, however regional shoppers have historically most popular western manufacturers. There’s a lack of religion within the high quality of home jewellers — patrons presume that they haven’t modernised and nonetheless depend on vacationer trinkets.
With a view to thrive, the African jewelry business wants to draw middle-income patrons, in keeping with Frannie Léautier, chief working officer and government director of asset administration on the Commerce and Improvement Financial institution.
What’s driving demand for African-made jewelry, Ms Léautier explains, is the truth that “it’s distinctive, it has a narrative, folks wish to take part in a narrative, it connects folks to historical past and tradition”.
The business continues to be comparatively small, particularly contemplating the continent’s wealthy heritage. Euromonitor International estimates the South African jewelry business is value over R5.2bn ($293m), however has no figures for the remainder of sub-Saharan Africa.
Satta Matturi works as a nice jeweller in Botswana, the place she creates made-to-order jewels impressed by west African masks, with costs between $5,000 and $35,000. Beforehand a diamond valuer at De Beers, she isn’t questioned in regards to the sustainable credentials of her diamonds and gem stones.
Whereas Ms Matturi’s jewels are gaining a home following, together with one African First Woman whom she doesn’t title, her prospects are involved in her designs relatively than responsibly sourced supplies.
The gems’ provenance is of utmost significance to Ms Matturi. She visited alluvial mines in Sierra Leone within the 1990s, the place she noticed 15-year-old boys panning in mud for battle diamonds. However she says: “No . . . I don’t suppose [my customers] do care”.
“There are lots of unscrupulous folks on this enterprise,” provides Ms Matturi. She buys solely from “main sources” reminiscent of De Beers, who she says guarantee “the perfect practices”.
The Kimberley Process, an initiative set as much as eradicate “blood diamonds”, not too long ago got here underneath scrutiny after two non-governmental organisations withdrew. In accordance with Impression, a Canadian NGO, the departing members felt that the group failed to ensure that stones didn’t gas battle or human rights violations.
Botswana has a thriving reducing and sprucing business — a high-margin service sector that the nation is eager to develop, after years of mining diamonds. However Ms Matturi doesn’t depend on Botswana to fabricate her designs, preferring London’s Hatton Backyard, Bangkok and India the place, she says, the skillset is stronger. “Folks want to grasp,” she explains, “the one factor that comes out of Botswana is the tough product. You do have factories turning tough into polished, however in 99 per cent of the instances it’s despatched to Dubai or Hong Kong.”
Designers making extra inexpensive gadgets are much less affected by the dearth of infrastructure to fabricate nice jewelry. Kenya-based Adèle Dejak makes use of native supplies reminiscent of recycled brass, reclaimed cow horn, mango and olive wooden to craft earrings, rings and necklaces, which she sells in Nairobi.
“My ethos is to point out lovely issues could be made in Africa but in addition to create jobs and provides folks an opportunity,” says Ms Dejak, who has 12 in-house employees and works with about 100 Kenyan artisans. “Every part is African inspired — the start line is Africa.”
Her items are impressed by the ornaments of Kenya’s Samburu tribe and the Turkana folks in north-west Kenya. Their designs enchantment largely to native college students, members of the nation’s rising center class and expats.
“Sustainability is the brand new buzzword unexpectedly however I’ve all the time been sustainable as a result of it’s survival of the fittest, nothing will get discarded right here.”
Different jewellers are utilizing conventional craftsmanship to make modern designs. Shekudo is an moral jewelry and equipment model, based by Nigerian-Australian Akudo Iheakanwa final yr. The beginning-up employs native Hausa goldsmiths in Lagos to make daring silver earrings and necklaces. Their creations draw inspiration from Nsibidi, the traditional pictograms present in south-east Nigeria, juxtaposed with trendy geometric shapes.
“I goal to shine a highlight on craftsmanship in Nigeria and put a recent spin and aesthetic on conventional craft strategies,” Ms Iheakanwa says. “Now we have wonderful goldsmiths primarily based in Lagos. They don’t like working with silver a lot, nevertheless it provides a very fairly primitive, handcrafted really feel.”
Her designs resonate with native tradition, and Ms Iheakanwa is searching for funding to extend manufacturing volumes. Some baulk at her larger value factors — reminiscent of Shekudo’s $180 Adaku sterling silver earrings — as comparable merchandise could be discovered on the quick style market. However as soon as she describes the traditional strategies used, her middle-class shoppers resolve to commerce up.
“There may be lots of room to enhance the standard, the advertising to promote a narrative across the jewelry and fetch a greater value,” says Ms Léautier. The jewelry market “is among the lacking hyperlinks”, she says. Whereas there was giant progress within the artwork market, this has not but occurred to jewelry, which she describes as “the following frontier”.