“Jewellery is a fascinating world in which beauty and dreams, but also very hard realities, coexist,” says Dorothée Contour, founder and CEO of ethical jewellery brand JEM. “This is particularly true of the mining industry, where those hard realities impact upon real lives. When it came to making jewellery, I wanted to do something different: to shake up the traditional rules of the business and start paving the way to a new idea of luxury.”

Yet it wasn’t until Dorothée discovered the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) in 2009 that she realized how surely she could pursue her ideals. Unlike other forms of uncontrolled gold panning, the ARM standard was legal, sustainable and set up for small-scale and artisanal miners. Better still, it was organized by and for the miners themselves in a cooperative-style management system. It respected the environment, human rights, international labour regulations and Fairtrade principles.

“By applying rigorous ecological, social and humane standards, this initiative gave us hope for the future ethical jewellery brand we wanted to create,” says Dorothée. JEM – which stands for “Jewellery Ethically Minded” – was launched in Paris in 2010 as France’s first ethical jewellery house. Underpinned by the values of progress, humanity, conscience and modernity, the company is a recognized pioneer on the ethical jewellery scene and is proud to lead by example.

“We are committed to sustainably and ethically sourcing all of our materials,” says Dorothée, “from the gold we use – 100 per cent of which comes from Fairmined-certified mines – to the jewellery box it is presented in.” In line with this commitment, JEM launched its revolutionary ethical lab-grown diamond last year: an industry game-changer. Manufactured in a laboratory, these diamonds are completely traceable and have all the individual sparkling allure of the stone with none of the human or environmental impact of diamond mining.

“These stones are not fake gems or imitations,” says Dorothée. “They are diamonds. They have exactly the same physical, chemical and optical properties as natural ones. They are valued by the same four principles of carat, colour, clarity and cut that guarantee the quality and uniqueness of any diamond. What differs is their history and origin. It enables us to have complete traceability during every stage of the jewel-making process.” This new-generation diamond invents a new shine and embodies today’s values.

While JEM presses on towards its radical vision of luxury coupled with responsibility and social and environmental progress, it is working hard to preserve the traditional know-how of French jewellers. JEM’s creations are produced in workshops in Les Vosges, near the German border. The workshop is itself dedicated to excellence and sustainability in jewellery making, and reserves its most exquisite craftsmanship for showcasing designs in ethical gold.

“Every one of our pieces is handmade according to traditional techniques,” says Dorothée. “It is this irreplaceable human savoir faire, passed on from master to disciple, that expresses itself in our creations. By partnering with the best French craftsmen, we are also helping to perpetuate a craft that is currently under threat from relocation and the globalization of the industrial process.”

From a design perspective, the strength of JEM’s collections lies in the distinct yet subtle balance of timelessness and modernity that permeates their ethos. Lines are minimalist, pure, precise – and radical. “Our pieces give strength to women who wear them,” Dorothée says proudly. “Through their history, their conscience and their boldness, they empower the modern woman.”