by Maddie Eisenhart, Managing Editor
When I opened up the email from our newest sponsor Ash Hilton Jewellery, my heart quit for a second. It’s a rare thing when wedding jewelry takes my breath away, which is of course what New Zealand-based Ash Hilton‘s designs did for me. But it’s extra special when I get to meet business owners who have built their entire operation around social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and a commitment to family. And Ash Hilton Jewellery nails all three with such grace and heart, well, I just sort of stopped breathing altogether while I regained my composure.
In fact, what Ash Hilton Jewellery had to say about their business (which is sustainable in both materials and in the way they run it as a family) was so lovely, I’m going to let Ash’s partner Laurel give it to you herself. Her description of their business philosophy, which is equal parts details about their business and a love letter to Ash, is one of the most beautiful renderings of why supporting small businesses matters that I’m warning you now, parts of this made me tear up:
When it comes to our business philosophy, we avoid doing things that will wreck the earth. We choose quality over discounts. We believe people deserve a fair wage no matter where they live in the world. We’re more concerned with where diamonds come from than tiny differences in clarity and color (that you’d never notice anyway). We re-use tape if it’s still sticky.
Ash has been making jewelry for ten years now and when he started, there really weren’t easy supply chains to ethically sourced metals and gemstones. He had to work really hard to find a supplier that would make one hundred percent recycled sterling silver and then hit a roadblock sourcing ethical gold, as none of the suppliers here in New Zealand could justify making special small batches just for him (apparently, no one else was asking for it). Luckily, Ash’s dad has always had a touch (a BIG touch) of gold fever and had spent some time working as part of a two-man operation collecting alluvial gold on a beach near where Ash grew up. Ash made a few trips to the beach to see the setup and to find out if there were any hidden environmental costs, and it all checked out. So, he started buying pure gold here and alloying it himself so that he could offer a source of gold that he knew firsthand was legit.
These days, Ash Hilton Jewellery is a true family business. It’s just Ash, his Sister Siggy, and Me. Ash has amazing systems so that he can produce a lot of pieces, which gives me the freedom to spend a lot of time with each couple to make sure that they’re getting exactly what they want. We are really invested in community and forming relationships with the people we work with, and we are just so happy that we have found a medium that allows us to do that and supports our family.
Having lived and worked with Ash for the last nine years, I finally feel a tiny bit comfortable talking about his artistic philosophy (which he will insist he doesn’t have because he’s not an artist, which is B.S. because he totally is). Ash loves simple lines, solid structures, and has a natural eye for pattern and layout. He’s really, really good at interpreting people’s ideas and making something beautiful in this collaboration. He draws a lot of inspiration from the natural and man-made structures from the tiny, windswept, and very isolated town he grew up in at the end of the road on the West Coast of the South Island. But his true art lies in his ability to make anything, from a one of a kind engagement ring that only exists in someone’s imagination, to the coolest ever robot ninja costume for his nephew’s sixth birthday (it even had a slot for a memory card).
We are just so, so lucky that we have this business. Ash gets to hide out in his workshop with all his tiny tools and torches (and his brand-new calipers, which are the best thing ever in the whole, wide world apparently) and I get chat to people planning their wedding all day! And not just any people, but cool people that promise to send me beef jerky and invite me to their wedding and abide when I demand that they send me photos from their wedding. But, the best, absolute best part of our job is that it allows us to split the work and kids fifty-fifty, which is pretty amazing for two reasons: 1) It’s so awesome to hang out with your kids all day, and 2) It’s so awesome not to have to hang out with your kids all day.
We want to work with APW couples because they get it. They get that weddings are WONDERFUL, but are also big parties that get swept away in champagne bubbles and wonderful stories and drifts of confetti and legend-making dance-offs. There are few durable items left behind after the big sweep, so APW couples are thoughtful enough to invest some real energy into those precious things: photographs, dresses, and the rings they’ll wear every day. They want their rings to become heirlooms that tell the story of who they were to the future generations. We’re also pretty sure that APW couples will think it’s pretty neat to be able to get to know the little family that makes their rings. Most of all, they want rings made in the most environmentally and socially responsible way possible.
We want this business to be sustainable, not just in an environmental sense, but for us as a couple and a family. The only way we can do that is by working with people that get that we’re putting our whole life into our work. We might not be as convenient or expedient as ordering from a giant online retailer, but we touch each piece, we talk about your ring over dinner and we totally remember you when you come back to get another tree etched on your ring to represent your newest baby. I think that pretty much sums up the experience APW couples are after when they’re planning their wedding and life together.
Ash Hilton‘s prices range from $100–$155 USD for sterling rings, and all other metals are quoted on an individual basis. They offer an incredibly affordable custom design option ($40!) in which Ash will design a custom etching based on photos you send him (like the one featured above). And on top of that, they are offering APW readers a 10% discount on all jewelry. Simply use the code APW10 on their Etsy site, or mention APW when emailing them directly.