words REBECCA JAMIESON DWYER photos EVE WILSON floral arrangements POMP AND SPLENDOUR, ACID FLWRS interior design DANIELLE BRUSTMAN
Inspired by the beauty of precious stones and the majesty of the universe, Black Finch Jewellery incorporates customers’ stories into their bespoke pieces – weaving sustainability and ethics through every part of their process to create something truly special.
We humans have been adorning ourselves with beautiful things for almost as long as we’ve been on the planet – using our imagination and creativity to make jewellery imbued with magic and meaning, and wearing it for a lifetime as a reminder of something we never want to forget: a moment, a promise, a loved one, an experience.
It’s this sense of meaning and emotion tied up in jewellery-making that drives Raymond de Zwart and Davina Adamson, the founders of Black Finch Jewellery – a Melbourne-based fine jewellery brand that’s been creating beautiful rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets since 2007. Hand-crafted from recycled gold and ethically sourced stones in their Collingwood studio, each of their commissioned pieces is as individual as the person it’s being made for. “I often write down stories and quotes from customers and have them sitting there in front of me at the bench while I’m creating their piece,” says Raymond, master jeweller and founder of the brand. “That reminds me of the conversation, and of the unique significance of this piece of jewellery in their life, and allows us to hopefully translate this really well into the final piece.”
Creative director and designer Davina sees the result of this commitment to storytelling when customers set eyes on their pieces for the first time, and loves being present during these moments of heightened emotion. “People often have these really profound reactions when they come to pick their item up – they’ll cry or they’ll be shaking because of the emotion,” she explains. “It’s contagious; we often have a little teary moment standing there. Creating jewellery means we’re right at the forefront of the human experience, and that’s a really beautiful thing.”
People often have these really profound reactions when they come to pick their item up – they’ll cry or they’ll be shaking because of the emotion.
Both lifelong creatives with artistic backgrounds, Davina and Raymond have grown Black Finch from a small Melbourne store to one of Australia’s most exciting and innovative jewellery brands, with clients across Australia and around the world. Whether they’re creating special custom pieces or innovative jewellery for their own collections, every item is a wearable work of art that transforms some of the earth’s most precious and ancient materials into something tangible to be treasured for a lifetime. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Raymond brings technical excellence and passion for materials and design theory, and Davina – who ran her own sustainable fashion label for a decade – spearheads the design, marketing and client-focused side of things, while also managing their team of 10 employees, who are predominantly women.
The couple have a mutual passion for stones, travelling the world together to find the high-quality, ethically sourced diamonds and sapphires used in their jewellery, and falling in love with and becoming inspired by individual stones along the way. “For the bigger pieces, we respond to the stone by creating a piece around it, rather than designing first and then bringing in the stone,” Davina explains. They source conflict-free diamonds from around the world and Ceylon sapphires from Sri Lanka, as well as travel closer to home to meet the independent, family-run Australian sapphire miners on the Queensland gem fields (who work from shallow mines, which have a minimal impact on the environment compared to open-cut mines). Many Black Finch diamonds are also sourced from Australia, and these are conflict-free, mined to Australian ethical standards and subject to the internationally recognised Kimberley Process, which helps reduce the flow of conflict diamonds around the world.
Sapphires are a particular favourite of the Black Finch team, beloved for their sparkling beauty, dazzling colours, hardness and variety of unusual cuts. They are the second hardest stone after diamonds, which means they aren’t likely to show signs of wear and tear, even after daily wear for many years. “Because of their range, we can put together the most amazing combinations of colours to create something a little different to what you usually see in jewellery – they come in blues and greens, but also oranges, pinks and yellows,” says Raymond.
They even come in a colour-shifting variety, which can be used to echo a particular place, mood or person. “We made a piece recently called the Stormy Seas Ring – a customer proposed on the Mornington Peninsula looking out over the ocean during a storm when there was sunlight on the sea. They bought us a photo and we chose a unique colour-change sapphire that went from grey to green to reflect the landscape,” recalls Davina. “We’ve also had someone purchase a ring with a yellow sapphire because the colour reminded her of her cat’s eyes. People often commission family portrait rings, with a different coloured stone representing each family member’s personality and temperament – they’ll be like, ‘Oh the little one is really wild, so she can be that tiny pink stone.’”
We really like to keep on pushing the boundary of what we can do in design.
There’s a clear Black Finch aesthetic that’s a little more wild and carefree than the usual fine jewellery offerings, and Raymond and Davina attribute this to their artistic training, as well as their willingness to colour outside the lines by remaining open to the creative process and seeing what emerges. “We really like to keep on pushing the boundary of what we can do in design, and we feel very free,” says Davina. “It can be hard with such expensive materials because you might think that playing it safe is the way to go, but we’ve found there are enough people who are interested in art but still want a really elevated and luxurious piece with an amazing finish. We try to remain true to what we think is exciting and beautiful.” Raymond adds: “Those pieces are the most potent.”
Sustainability is built into every aspect of the business, even when it’s not the easiest option. At Black Finch, all that glitters is 100% recycled gold from a Melbourne-based refinery, which is used to make each and every one of their pieces. “It took a few years of calling and meeting people to get to this place where we can use 100% post-consumer gold,” Davina says. “They supply this to our casting house, one of the biggest casting houses in Melbourne, which means a huge number of jewellers here now use recycled gold, in what we believe is an Australian first. That’s amazing because gold mining is not an industry we want to be supporting.” The refinery even recycles X-rays, collecting the silver from them to be used in casting jewellery – meaning that a material used to diagnose broken bones could eventually end up living a glamorous second life embedded with precious stones.
After recently completing a carbon analysis, Black Finch is now certified Carbon Neutral by the Carbon Reduction Institute under its NoCO2 program (one of only three jewellers in the country with the accreditation), reflecting their commitment to planet-friendly business practices and establishing them as a leader in the sustainable jewellery space. The assessment process was robust, leaving no (gem)stone unturned: “It came down to every single gram of gold, every carat weight of every stone, what our staff eat for lunch, how people travel to work, our couriers and all of that kind of stuff. It’s a really big focus for us,” says Davina. Black Finch now plants a tree in Point Nepean National Park on the Mornington Peninsula (where Davina and Raymond live, and where the brand has recently opened its second store) through the Legacy of Love Project – a landcare group for coastal restoration – for every item of jewellery sold. Alongside their sustainability initiatives, they’re committed to helping the community through the business too, donating to the grassroot Indigenous group Pay the Rent every month as part of their acknowledgement that they are working on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung people.
Working in the wedding space, inclusivity is something that’s important to Davina and Raymond, and they respect and value each and every one of their clients, and strive to make them feel comfortable engaging with their team. “We have a very diverse customer base, with lots of different gender identities and types of relationships, so we’re committed to making sure we’re completely inclusive at all times by thinking carefully about our language and the way we interact with people. It’s something we really love about being based where we are,” Davina enthuses.
We’re committed to making sure we’re completely inclusive at all times by thinking carefully about our language and the way we interact with people.
With product names such as Skywake, Aether, Stardust and Spellbound, it’s clear the team is inspired by the beauty and splendour of the natural world, and the ways that every one of us is connected to the universe around us. Davina’s creative brain is charged with writing the copy for new collections, and it’s a task she relishes, as it encourages her to pause and reflect on just how incredible the materials they handle every day really are. “I love literature and words, so I have fun writing quite spangly, magical copy for our collections; telling the story is such a big part of creating jewellery,” she says. “Every diamond we’re handling – which is many a day – is literally three million years old. That is wild! The colours and the light they create are so incredible, and it all comes from beneath our feet. I’m inspired by natural phenomena: for example, a ‘moonwake’ is the reflection of the moon’s light on the sea. It’s something that’s universal; we’ve all experienced it.”
As masters in the art and craft of storytelling through stones, it’s fitting that Raymond and Davina’s business name should have its own beautiful story. “My surname, de Zwart, is Dutch, and I didn’t feel it was right for the name of the brand,” Raymond says. “But it translates to ‘of the black’ and my mother’s maiden name translates to ‘of the finch’, which is how we decided on Black Finch.”
As time goes on, everything changes, but Black Finch still has that little bit of gravitas, that little bit of power to it.
“Just after we started there was that whole quirky Melbourne ‘put a bird on it’ thing happening, and we were like, ‘Oh no!’” Davina adds. “But it’s amazing how the name has really held up over the years. As time goes on, everything changes, but Black Finch still has that little bit of gravitas, that little bit of power to it.”