After traveling to East Africa with the documentary Sharing the Rough in 2014, Monica, blogger at iDazzle.com, was inspired to start ANZA. ANZA, which means begin in Swahili, is a project that aims to create a circle of development. Monica explains, "beginning with fair trade prices for rough gems, using US cutters to facet the gems, and then setting those gemstones into designer jewelry capsule collections that benefit primary and trade schools in gem communities."
"It’s win-win-win-win, especially for consumers who want to feel great about their gemstone jewelry purchase. "
Monica chose the first round of designers based on aesthetic. Jennifer Dawes, Vicente Agor, Rebecca Overmann, Erika Winters and LilyEmme also "all have integrity in their design process, use responsible materials, and care deeply about this project." Moving forward Monica plans to add designers and expand the collection, that will soon be available for purchase here.
The designers are slowly releasing their designs featuring ANZA gems and all of them that I've seen have been beautiful. I was especially drawn to this necklace by Erika Winters, so I wanted to get her perspective on the project.
Both ladies love garnets. Erika's favorite type is demantoid while Monica's is tsavorite
"I first learned of ANZA from founder Monica Stephenson who asked me if I’d like to design a collection with the ANZA gemstones. I was honored and wanted to participate immediately. The project’s aim is to help independent miners and their communities in gem-rich East African countries create an environmentally sustainable and locally-focused gem trade where miners, gem cutters, and their families benefit from their own labor. I’m in the midst of producing new work with the ANZA gems, and the experience has been pretty amazing. Each gem impacts me, as I focus on designing pieces to help bring these gems to market for the larger goals of helping kids go to school, helping women in the region learn to cut gems, and directly benefiting miners who work endlessly to unearth the gemstones we enjoy."
"I chose gems that were already faceted with shapes that inspired me. I kept thinking about the stories told by each shape. I asked myself, "What stories do these shapes tell, and how do they speak to the larger meaning of ANZA?” My first piece, a pendant, features an 8.1-carat almandite garnet, cut from Kenyan-mined rough by Peter Torraca. Another facet of this project that I love is the collaborative spirit behind each piece. Monica sourced the rough for this piece, Peter Torraca cut the gem, and then I designed the pendant."
"The almandite garnet was cut in a modified shield shape with a very high crown and depth that imparts a stunning dimension. I wanted to celebrate this shield shape within the context of ANZA’s goals in a way that reflects my own aesthetic which hearkens to Victorian romance. I adore gold Victorian jewelry, and during the period, garnets were heavily featured, so there is a play on that. I love shield shapes as well, as there is so much symbolism to explore. The pendant, with its shield shape, reflects both the bravery and strength of ANZA’s endeavor. It could also be interpreted as a modified heart shape, as the hearts of these gems live inside the miners."
"I have several pieces that will debut in the coming months. The next piece is a ring set with a garnet that I had a hard time putting down, because I kept playing with it! It’s one of those complicated rhodolite garnets that reveals different aspects of its color in different lighting conditions. Sometimes it's a rich red, and at other times it's more purple. It had to go into a ring, so someone could enjoy its complexity and depth! Coming soon!"