An Interview with Tereena Lucas of Luca Jouel

Luca Jouel is a boutique Australian fine jewellery brand celebrating a sophisticated yet organic beauty. Founded on a passion for creating beautiful heirloom quality jewellery with a modern sensibility, their pieces combine ethically sourced diamonds, gemstones and mixed precious metals together with luxury hand finishes and a love of the details.

Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion.

I am essentially of English heritage and am English speaking. My father was born in Northern Ireland though when his father, after having served in the RAF during World War II, moved his family there in order to take up the position of head gardener to the estate of the Duke of Abercorn, the late Lord Hamilton. Some years later in 1953 he accepted a position as director of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical gardens and so the family, consisting of his wife Edith May, my father and his three siblings, moved all the way to Hobart, Australia. My father then went on to join the RAAF, met my mother in Darwin and we travelled around a lot. I was born in Malaysia and have lived in Melbourne, Perth twice, Maryland and Canberra. My mother is a dressmaker and was born in a small country town in Western Australia. When I was 12 she insisted we settle back here in Perth and my father then left the air force and took up a position at the Bureau of Meteorology. My mother’s own mother had been dragged here – her words! – on a ship from England when she was eight and also married an enlisted man and had four children.

What is your personal story – education, prior work, and so on?

I have enjoyed two vocational passions, gemmology and naturopathy, for which I have studied and worked for years in both occupations. I have always had an interested in health care and the causes of illness, as well as gemstones since I was a small child. After high school I started studying to be a Naturopath over many years whilst I worked in various hospitality and retail type jobs. I then went on to work for a prominent jewellery valuation laboratory here in Perth where I was responsible for gemstone identification and authentication. During this time, I also received my qualifications as a gemmologist, diamond grader, and synthetic, imitation and treated gemstone appraiser.

All in all I consider myself a passionate life-long learner and will no doubt do more in the areas of health research and holistic health care in the future.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

My interest in ethical and sustainable fashion is an extension of this. Toxic chemicals are very often involved in many processes of making jewellery, clothing and accessories, cosmetics and other personal care items. The effects on people and our shared environment are very real. Just one example of this stark reality was presented by EWG President Ken Cook in 2012 when he shared information about how babies are born pre-polluted with as many as 300 industrial chemicals in their bodies…. the majority of which were industrial chemicals and the break down products of pesticides banned more than 30 years ago. Unbelievably disturbing! And they were American babies. What’s happening to the babies of mother and fathers in developing nations that are involved first hand in industrial manufacturing work and intensive agricultural methods?

Luca Jouel rings

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?

Well I consider myself to be an ethical person. I am a proponent of nature cure and as such the nature has to be in health for that to be relied upon for the health of everyone. I care about people and animals in general; and more specifically I care about the major disparities involving children and women, and I care about environmental pollutants affecting the health of people and animals adversely. I see the multitude of chronic and serious problems and don’t feel I can just turn a blind eye.

In establishing Luca Jouel, I wanted to make sure that I did it the best way I could. I wanted to make sure that the people in my supply chain adhered to policies that did not take advantage of the people in their employ, and that they adhered to processes designed to limit their environmental impact. No matter what we do we will all have an effect; there is no way not to while living our lives and being productive individuals. However I believe it is important to try one’s best to make the best possible choices to try to have the most positive effect. And this is generally not the easiest route; it requires extra time researching, saying no to some opportunities for the greater good and all round being conscious of every decision you make.

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

When the fashion industry is considered to be the 2nd largest pollutant on our planet behind oil and is rife with gender and age biased maltreatment, the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies has become paramount. The current situation will only change if there are people who actually care about our shared environment and substantial global social inequities and who are prepared to demonstrate that by taking affirmative action by consciously designing their products and having transparent business practices.

What is the importance of fair trade?

It can be hard for many people to understand the real effects of their purchasing choices in an unregulated market as a consequence of geographical distance, busy lives and general lack of education around the issues involved. Many are not able to resolve the true meaning of what that bargain $5 T-shirt might actually mean in the life of someone who was involved in its creation.

This is where Fair Trade comes in. Fair trade means decent working conditions and stable prices that aim to cover the costs of sustainable/pesticide-limited production for the farmers and people actually making the products – and their families located in 58 countries. This in turn raises their standard of living and supports the further positive development of their communities. Fair Trade empowers and connects people, which is ultimately beneficial for everyone near and far. Fair Trade means that what you buy matters and actually helps others to live better lives.

Luca Jouel Necklaces from her Reina collection

Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?

This is a hard question, there are so many people doing really great things within the ethical and sustainable fashion world now!

One person I would like to highlight in particular though is a lady I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of this past year. Her name is Diana Verde Nieto and she is the co-founder, along with Karen Hanton MBE, of Positive Luxury. Diana started with the idea of trying to create a way to inspire people to buy better and also to influence brands to do better. I am proud to say that Luca Jouel is part of the Positive Luxury community having been awarded the Butterfly Mark which is the sole trust mark that exists in the luxury industry today. We were awarded the Butterfly Mark in recognition of the fact that we take pride in our craftsmanship, service and design whilst caring for our employees and suppliers and our planet’s finite resources. I love the concept underlying the Butterfly Mark and believe it is particularly clever in its practicality because consumers are able to easily recognize brands that care and that are part of the solution to drive positive change globally.

What is Luca Jouel?

Luca Jouel is a boutique Australian fine jewellery company celebrating a sophisticated yet organic beauty. Founded on a passion for creating beautiful heirloom quality jewellery with a modern sensibility, our pieces combine ethically sourced diamonds, gemstones and mixed precious metals together with luxury hand finishes and a love of the details.

What inspired the title of the organization?

I decided on the name Luca Jouel essentially because I have a love of travel and languages. Luca is a truncated version of my surname Lucas, and although it is said to have several European origins, I like to think of it as being derived from one of my most favourite places, Italy! Luca is also said to mean bringer of light and paired together with the old French word for jewel, I felt it was a perfect fit.

What are some of its feature products?

Our collections feature rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets set with both finest quality diamonds and gemstones as well as lower quality stones that are both unique and aesthetically pleasing. Beauty is not always about perfection and our pieces aim to celebrate and showcase both the finest of fine but also the natural beauty of gem stone inclusions as is possible. I have an affinity for design that evokes a sense of nostalgia and old world charm, and that is of quality above all else.

Luca Jouel rings from the Lilja collection

What are the main materials used in the products?

In acquiring the elements for our pieces, Luca Jouel is committed to the legitimate and ethical sourcing of materials and maintains a policy of dealing only with companies who demonstrate that same commitment to ethical trading and warrant their own reputable supply chain and general business conduct.

The primary metals we use are gold, platinum, palladium and silver. The principle specialist manufacturers we engage are members of the Responsible Jewellery Council and also follow sourcing procedures that are fully compliant with the LBMA Responsible Gold Guidance and OECD Due Diligence Guidance for the Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals.

We also use diamonds that have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations resolutions and the World Diamond Council’s System of Warranties. Our coloured gemstone suppliers also warrant that they have been sourced ethically. I have a particular love of spinels, sapphires, tourmalines, tanzanite, tsavorite and malaia garnets, labradorite and rubies.

Considerable thought has gone into our packaging and after much trial and error we decided to opt for handmade sustainable bamboo boxes that are not overly branded so that they can be re-purposed as keep-sake or trinket boxes.

Who designs and manufactures the products of Luca Jouel?

I design each piece of jewellery or the concept behind each piece. Some pieces are handmade for which I primarily work with one jeweler of some 30 years experience, Kian Dastyar, here in Perth. Other pieces are made using CAD/CAM, hand-assembly and hand-finishing by expert crafts people either here in Australia or with a smaller family manufacturer in Hong Kong that also employ skilful diamond and gemstone setters. For these pieces I also work with two CAD designers, one of which is in India and the other in the Ukraine. In Australia all our diamonds and gemstones are set by one master setter. And lastly our chains are custom crafted in Germany and Hong Kong.

What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?

Having come from a predominantly health care/science background it has been a fantastic experience doing something creative. I like creating a collection of pieces along a certain thematic idea and I like then creating the photographic images. I have always been a very visual person and these are the elements I enjoy actively creating.

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

I still see some Naturopathy clients. I very much love to help anyone with health issues if I am able to do so.

Any recommended authors or fashionistas (or fashionistos)?

I am quite a fan of Margaret Zhang. I love her imagery and think she is a very clever and creative talent. She has also just recently authored her first book which is a volume of photo essays entitled In the Youth of our Fury. I would actually love to collaborate with her.

Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, Luca Jouel?

I can be contacted either by email at tereena@lucajouel.com or by telephone, +61 422 587 70 and am always interested in expressions of interest.

What has been the greatest emotional struggle in business for you?

I have also found the whole process of being an entrepreneur quite lonely and isolating at times, though this is improving as I form new relationships with others in business and engage with customers. I am also very grateful for all of the support I have received thus far from everyone at Positive Luxury, especially brand relationship executive, Catherine Mugnier.

What philosophy makes most sense of life to you?

I have a few that I live by. I believe that life rewards effort. I believe you should try always to be kind if nothing else. And I believe that you should strive to always be true to who you are, and not risk integrity and beliefs for money or stature. The grass is never truly greener elsewhere. Remember to keep your sense of humour, at the end of the day life is always about perspective.

Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Thank you for this opportunity to give more thought to my own knowledge and beliefs. These questions have enhanced my awareness yet again and also my resolve to continue to do the best that I can do to help other people and our planet.

Thank you for your time, Tereena.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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