Before you commit your next empty drinks can to the recycling box, pause for a moment to think what it could become. If jewellery designer Anabela Chan has anything to do with it, your discarded Diet Coke vessel could one day be accompanying a starlet down the red carpet.
The London-based ethical jewellery has launched a new collection that uses recycled aluminium in place of traditional jewellery materials like gold or silver, and it is coming from empty drinks cans.
Chan, who has a store within the grounds of London’s fashionable Ham Yard Hotel and whose jewels have been worn by A-listers like Rihanna and Taylor Swift, is known for her use of lab-grown diamonds and gemstones. The choice to use these man-made gems comes from a desire to build an ethical jewellery brand that does not rely on traditional gemstone mining.
Her latest collection, Blooms, matches these lab-grown gems with recycled aluminium, and is – according to the designer – the first of its kind, due to its unusual materials. The Anabela Chan Blooms earrings and brooches, the designs of which take inspiration from flowers, have been two and a half years in the making as the designer endured a long process of trial and error to perfect the technique of turning cans into jewels.
To transform aluminium drinks cans into jewellery, the discarded metal must first be cut into tiny squares before being melted at 600 degrees Celsius, at which temperature the coloured branding on the cans disappears. The aluminium is then refined to erase impurities before cooling to ingots, ready for the jewellery casting process.
“The biggest challenge with recycling aluminium cans is the impurities in the metal that causes issues with porosity, an uneven texture and tiny pores in the surface of the finished piece,” says Chan. “By refining the recycled aluminium, through a process of trial and error, we were able overcome this and actually take advantage of a controlled porosity that allow us to achieve greater colour intensity.”
The result is a collection of jewels that offer up psychedelic, iridescent colours, achieved through a process called physical vapour disposition, or PVD; the same technique used to colour the bodywork of cars.
Though the techniques required to achieve these jewels are highly technical, what hits you when you see Blooms for the first time is not the science that fuels it – as impressive as it is – but the beauty of the jewels. These wildly radiant blooms will make a statement long before you have a chance to share the spectacular story of their creation.
From an ethical, technical and aesthetic viewpoint, the Anabela Chan Blooms collection is crushing it.