Sustainability starts with education: Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf

Sustainability starts with education: Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf
Photo credit: National Jeweller

Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf is a custom jewelry designer based in California, owner of Vittoria d’Aste-Surcouf Bijoux jewellery brand. Also, she writes for the National Jeweler with a column called The Designer’s Diary.

We talked with Vittoria about what jewellery means for her, how she sees the sustainability trend in the market, how consumers can contribute and the role of certified gold from artisanal and small-scale mining in the supply chains. She started the path to become a Fairmined Licensed brand in October 2020.


Jewelry is art that you wear and it has a personal meaning. And art expresses emotions and stories. How do you see that happening in jewelry in terms of the stories that you can tell?

I feel like every piece of jewelry has a story. Jewelry is purchased because of something that, specially fine jewelry, is loved. Most of the time it’s bought to celebrate milestones in people’s lives like an engagement, a marriage, a celebration of an anniversary, a baby, graduations. So it already starts with a story. 

Then what’s really beautiful about it is that most of the time jewelry gets passed down to future generations and that’s where the next part of the story really begins.

I think it would be amazing to tell the real story of where a piece came from. What if you could really trace it back to “this is the miner who mined my gold, this is their family, this is the region that it came from”, and the lives you impacted because you purchased a simple gold band. That would be just incredible.

Do you see sustainability and ethical gold happening as a trend from the consumers?

Absolutely. I think it really starts with education, I feel like there are a lot of consumers out there who are educated about the fact that this is a possibility but then there are others who are not they have no idea that there’s anything having to do with sustainability and jewelry, there’s just people who don’t know and it’s not criticism, it’s just that they don’t know.

I think that it’s the designers job to educate, I think it’s the jewelry industry job to educate, let people know that this is indeed a possibility, but it’s something that a consumer has to ask for if the designer isn’t doing it already. It’s something that the more people ask for,  the more it will become mainstream.   

What do you think about sourcing with recycled and certified gold from artisanal and small-scale miners?

I prefer the artisanal miner for sure, I think that is a much better route for so many different reasons. 

I think about the human element of it. Recycled gold is fine of course and I would much rather do that but the thing is that many jewelers use recycled gold, you know whether they’re melting it themselves or they are taking it for a refinery. 

But at the same time too I think  it’s just  a matter of organization for designers, it’s so easy to just go and get the recycled gold or whatever, that’s such an easy thing to do, whereas doing the Fairmined gold it a little bit more complicated, but I think that with proper education that could be easy to access, and it definitely is a much much better thing to do. 

How do you think brands should adapt to the sustainability trend with this holiday season upon us, that is going to be a very weird holiday season with everything that happened this year?

I think that this is actually a perfect time for brands to really focus on sustainability because you have a consumer right now that it’s kind of beaten down to be honest with everything that has been going on. People are really talking about the environment, especially here in California where we are looking at all of these crazy wildfires, and all the natural disasters that have been happening. I actually think that this is really a good time for designers to really really implement sustainable practices in their jewelry because people are aware and thinking about it. 

I also think it’s not just about sustainability but the human factor, especially here in the US with the Black Lives Matter movement. People are really thinking about this human factor, how people are treated. I think this is the perfect way to talk about. You are really making a difference in miners’ lives, you are helping families and communities, you are helping to give people an opportunity to make their lives better. Being aware of that human element is balancing sustainability with the human factor as well.