Ten pioneering Black jewellery designers took a break from their workshops and studios to mobilise for a cause – an Instagram auction #HandInHand that was rolled out from 14th-17th April in support of the World Central Kitchen (WCK), a charity that distributes food in conflict zones.
The band of designers who took a collective action were Castro, Johnny Nelson, Lola Fenhirst, Lorraine West, Marei, Matturi Fine Jewellery, Melanie Eddy, Moony Moon, Sheryl Jones and Thelma West.
“As a result of the war in Ukraine, locals and immigrants alike continue to face food poverty as they attempt to flee the country, often with little to no possessions and with no idea where their next meal is coming from. World Central Kitchen is working to feed all groups regardless of skin colour, who they are, and where they come from, as they find safe passage and refuge in nearby countries.”
The designers revealed their charitable jewel via Instagram with the hashtag #HandInHand. Istanbul-based jeweller Castro said: “My heart breaks at what is happening in the Ukraine. It is a tragic situation, especially for those facing discrimination on the ground.” His Infinity lock pendant made in 18-karat gold, bronze, sterling silver, and grey diamonds was part of the virtual auction.
“As a transplant from Africa to Europe, I understand the hardships one can face as an outsider, but that becomes magnified beyond comprehension in cases of conflict,” Thelma West said. “It’s an honour to join hands with a group of like-minded creatives who I’ve long admired, and when Castro proposed we do something, I agreed wholeheartedly.” The Adaeze 6 drop earrings inspired by the sugarcane featuring rose gold and princess-cut diamonds designed by Thelma was part of the Instagram bid.
The auction end time marked the date of which Russia invaded Ukraine, and 100% of the proceeds from the auction would go directly to the World Central Kitchen. “Anyone can come and pick up food with no questions asked,” said Xandy McKinley, Donor Relations Manager of the charity. “We know that disasters and crises disproportionately affect marginalised populations, and it is worth noting that people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds do come to receive a WCK meal.”
“I’m a Yoruba girl from Southwestern Nigeria, who was born and raised in London, then moved to California and now live in Paris,” said Lola Oladunjoye of Paris-based Lola Fenhirst. “Maybe that’s why the question of identity and ‘who belongs where’ is often in my thoughts. It’s reflected in my work, which uses the media of jewellery and adornment to explore weighty issues, such as identity and intersectionality. Naturally, seeing the sovereignty of an entire nation being put into question, and helplessly watching the chaos and suffering that is being unleashed affects me deeply.” The designer expressed her gratitude to the WCK that had provided them with an opportunity to help through the auction. “The earrings are made up of a richly saturated faceted Brazilian amethyst suspended in a hand-made brushed 18-karat yellow gold prong-setting. It’s a simple design that attracts light to the face through the movement of the stone,” added Lola.
Jeweller Melanie Eddy, based in London, pointed out: “It is unfathomable the realities facing many in Ukraine right now and those who have had to flee for safety. Many of us feel helpless reading the news reports and personal donations and efforts can only go so far, so I was really heartened when Thelma West and Castro Smith reached out about coming together to raise some funds. Jewellery is something that brings joy, marks milestone moments in life and defines who we see ourselves as so if we can raise funds for the important work that WCK is doing in the process of bringing a special piece to someone then that’s another layer of meaning.” Earrings historically have always carried various associations and the designer has been quite enamoured with early ideas of them as talismans of protection. “I see my 18-karat Faceted Hoop earrings as arresting geometric forms – sentinels to keep watch over you. So, for me, earrings seemed a fitting choice for this auction – geometry is special and magical, and earrings are about togetherness,” explained Melanie.
The Damian black onyx horn talisman ring in sterling silver designed by Angie Marei, a pair of earrings in 18-karat white gold, brilliant white diamonds and specially cut onyx designed by Satta Matturi, Mini Open-Heart studs set with pavé diamonds designed by Lorraine West, pear-shaped hot pink sapphire and pavé diamonds drop earrings made in 14-karat rose gold by Sheryl Jones, a sterling silver and 18-karat gold Angel Baby pin accented in diamond from Moony Moon’s Sir King, hand pendant and chain necklace by Johnny Nelson were designs that were part of the #HandInHand auction.