STEPHANIE WENK, CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF SAUER
A three-time recipient of the De Beers Diamond International Award, Sauer, one of Brazil’s most renowned jewelers, has held onto its esteemed reputation in the global fine jewelry industry for over 80 years. While the brand has come to be known for its myriad of Brazilian gemstones and timeless design, it’s not this alone that has garnered its recognition. Conserving the timelessness of the pieces, the brand continues to innovate into the 21st century, without debasing the quality of their craft. As of late, Stephanie Wenk, Sauer’s creative director since 2013, is the mastermind responsible for both preserving and modernizing this iconic brand. Wenk’s contemporary approach does not simply begin and end with aesthetics, as she is also a pioneer in sustainable production. For the past five years, Wenk has worked exclusively with recycled 18k gold, reaffirming the brand’s commitment to the circular economy by reducing its environmental impact – something she finds not just necessary, but obligatory. “Nature if our greatest asset,” says Wenk, “The jewel of all jewels.” As a woman at the helm of ths iconic brand for women of all generations, she feels an even larger sense of responsibility to lead by example. “It is important to propagate the strength of the women who inspire us,” says Wenk, “Who remind us each day that we invariably hold the key to solving the world’s greatest challenges.”
Below, we spoke to Stephanie Wenk about Sauer’s sustainable future.
SOLAR PLEXUS EARRINGS
MM: Generally speaking, what do you believe is the relationship between the fine jewelry industry and sustainability?
SW: I’d say every industry now is undoubtedly, or should be, linked to sustainability. It is important to our customers and it is extremely important to us. Nature is our greatest asset and our most precious treasure, the jewel of all jewels. It inspires us, nurtures us, and gives us such incredible beauty. It is our responsibility to take care of it. Fine Jewelry is inherently more sustainable than other industries as you pass it on to the next generations. We believe that in any industry sustainable practices should be an obligation. From a business perspective, the notion that sustainability is somewhat against business efficiency is outdated. There is no longer a tradeoff between sustainability and business, and we’ve learned that is actually the quite the opposite – the more sustainable, the more efficient we are.
MM: How are you pivoting your brand to being more sustainable?
SW: For the past five years, Sauer has worked exclusively with recycled 18k gold, reasserting our commitment to the circular economy, reducing our environmental footprint and impact. Since last November, our battle has also been dedicated to the Amazon forest. We forged a permanent partnership with IDESAM, an organization in the Amazon focused on the certification of zero CO2 emissions. Since then, for each piece of jewelry sold, we plant a tree in the Uatumã Reserve, in the Amazon forest. In addition to contributing to the fight against climate change, the partnership also aims to help improve the quality of life of riverside communities in the region.
MM: What are the challenges you face in transitioning to sustainable practices in jewelry design?
SW: The main challenge in any business towards sustainable practices is changing the conventional wisdom that there is a tradeoff between sustainability and business efficiency. Once we are able to overcome this [and realize it’s not the case], everything flows naturally.
MM: Does the value of the jewelry change? Aesthetically, can you tell a difference between recycled gold and normal gold?
SW: Gold is one of the rare materials that can be repeatedly recycled without any deterioration in quality and that reduces considerably the need of new mining. Only the intrinsic value changes, since our jewelry is contributing to minimize a complex social problem. There is no difference aesthetically between recycled gold and regular gold.
CHAKRA FRAME CITRINE ORANGE EARRINGS
MM: What are some more ways you intend on promoting sustainability within your business?
SW: In addition to the our partnership with IDESAM, we will also be launching this year an opportunity for our clients to recycle their old jewelry in exchange for store credit, therefore expanding even more our contribution to circular economy.
MM: What can we expect for the future of Sauer? What do you want your customers to know?
SW: This year marks our 80th anniversary, and we always aim to keep moving forward and looking ahead while we honor our past and our roots. As for our future, we will continue to work towards being a consistent, digital and innovative brand, from celebrating our eight decades of existence into marching towards our 100th year. We love our past, we embrace our present and we are excited for our future.