May 23, 2016
sandy leong jewelry designer
Sandy Leong’s feminine, unique handcrafted jewelry is inspired by the natural world, so it’s fitting that supporting the environment is at the core of how she makes and crafts her jewelry. A member of Jewelers of America, Sandy Leong describes herself as a "fully sustainable, fine jeweler" – which translates to using recycled gold and conflict-free gems and working with local artisans in New York and Africa. We meet with the jewelry designer to learn what drives her passion for sustainable jewelry and her design aesthetic.

How did you get your start with jewelry design?

I began my career in fine jewelry studying classic goldsmithing at the Jewelry Arts Institute in New York, where I began to develop my craft for handworking 18 karat to 24 karat gold in the form of granulation, chain making, enameling, and hollow construction. In 2009, I launched my eponymous sustainable fine jewelry line. Since then, I've furthered my studies, including enrolling in the L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels intensive program to deepen my knowledge of the history of fine jewelry and watchmaking. I worked with some of the world's best fine jewelers and teachers to deepen my craft for design, wax carving and setting. In an effort to continuously strengthen my skills as a fine jeweler, I am currently enrolled in advanced wax carving classes at the 92 Street Y. It was here, in 2003, where my love and appreciation for jewelry making began; in a small classroom, learning the foundations of metal and goldsmithing. 

What is your design inspiration?

The new Black Diamond collection offers a curated selection of ultra-fine pieces inspired by the color variations of raw minerals found in nature. This collection expands on my travels to the mineral rich district of Jaipur, India. Known for its remarkable museum collections of textiles and art as well as its trademark architecture, Jaipur is at once opulent and artisanal. Each piece is crafted from 18 karat recycled yellow gold and ethically sourced gemstones, drawing from a color palette of warm earth tones, emphasizing the collection’s ecological influences. One-of-a-kind fancy and natural black diamonds create dramatic inclusions, making each style distinctive and unique. Conflict-free white and black diamond pave lend a refined polish to an otherwise effortless aesthetic.

What are your favorite jewelry materials to work with and why?

I produce all of my collections in 18 karat recycled yellow gold, with select bangles and stackable rings offered in 18 karat recycled white or champagne gold. I began my fine jewelry career by hand-sculpting yellow gold, and spend some of the best hours of my day in studio, reworking the precious metal.

In an effort to develop artisanal craftsmanship on a global scale, I partner with artisans in Kenya on the carving of my ethically sourced cow horn pieces (offered in black or cream!) and of course love to work with conflict-free black and white diamonds. They add that extra luxe element to my signature, organic aesthetic.  

What sets your business apart?

From the onset of my brand, I have been conscientious of the long-term, global impact of mining. I work to remain sustainable in jewelry design and business practice by constructing each of my jewelry pieces in recycled 18 karat gold and ethically sourcing, conflict-free diamonds and gemstones. All production is done locally in New York through sustainable manufacturers who are transparent about their commitment to sustainability, with select natural materials sculpted by global artisans. I really strive to support local craftsmanship and preserve traditional design methods through my relationships.

For me, design is the first stage of philanthropy, so I actively partner with Voss Foundation to donate a percentage of sales on select collections, which enable community-driven development in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am also a member of the No Dirty Gold campaign, an international initiative designed to ensure that gold mining operations respect human rights and the environment.
Get to know more about Sandy Leong jewelry here or browse our Jewelry Gallery.

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