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Jewelry with heart, mined straight from the earth

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Square-shaped garnet ring, Elemental by Sela. Photo from ELEMENTAL BY SELA/INSTAGRAM

When Instagram sellers of gemstones post their wares, they usually promote them with intention: emerald for more self-love or pink chalcedony for manifesting better health.

Charging stones with intention, which has always been an integral aspect of wearable gemstones, has found its time in a period of volatility. It encourages a more intentional approach, to, well, just about everything. Crystals and minerals, previously undervalued (they began to gain larger attention sometime in 2016, after celebrity endorsements on social media), are now considered part of the rising New Age industry. These stones have moved past their ornamental purpose; they have become meaningful pillars on which more and more people are finding stability in.

Photographer, designer, and marketer behind Elemental — a nascent jewelry brand of this genre — soft-spoken Sela Gonzales is all about personal destiny, things coming to you when they’re meant to. That includes her interpretations of classic jewelry pieces: a labradorite signet, watermelon tourmaline pendant, and square-shaped ring, among others.

An earth-mined jewelry brand, Elemental champions natural materials and conscious craftsmanship. Earth-mined gems are precisely as they are described: stones that are excavated from where they were formed. Briefly turning on her video over a Zoom call, Gonzales showed CNN Philippines Life the finished pieces, along with cut gemstones in oval, cushion, and heart shapes, mined from all over the world. “Yung mga pinagtapyas-tapyasan ng mga stones na ‘to, binigay ko sa mga friends ko na mahilig din sa stones para ma-share ko naman yung energy,” she says, before switching back to a voice call.

Transparency is a huge part of Elemental’s practices. “There’s no child labor involved and the miners are paid well,” Gonzales said. So too are the goldsmith and silversmith whom she met last year over the Internet and now provide the metals in which the stones are set: solid gold, filled gold, gold vermeil, plated gold, and sterling silver. Gonzales even makes sure the gold they use has papers to prove that they have not been smuggled from abroad and are instead purchased from gold miners in the Philippines.

The birth of the brand itself was unexpected. During the onslaught of the pandemic, fear of catching the virus prompted Gonzales to quit her day job, where she worked in marketing for a camera company. She spent the early part of quarantine working from home for another company in Spain, until she was laid off six months later. Spending more time at home, she realized that she had a number of gemstones at her disposal: a collection carried over from a younger time, when her mom, who had worked in Israel, would buy her agate bracelets. She came up with the idea to start a small business to assist herself financially. “Naisip ko na maybe this is what I’m like, born to do,” she laughs. “I’m just kidding.”

Graphic by ZOE SABANDAL. Item photos from ELEMENTAL/OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Years of self-led research, perusing online articles and watching YouTube videos led Gonzales to her gemstone supplier Gemstones PH through “the wonders of the Internet.”

“I feel like I’m an energy-sensitive person,” Gonzales shared. Apart from considering the experience and reputation of her supplier and smiths, she pays attention to their personalities and manner of communication. “The way they talk, kung paano sila makipagcommunicate sayo... makikita mo din dun kung trustworthy ba sila. Kasi right now you can easily smell bullshit from other people naman eh. Mismong pa’no man lang sila makipag-usap sa ’yo... madali mo na lang ma-vibe.”

While geographical and health-related restrictions prevent her from visiting the mining sites and the workshop herself, Gonzales plans to make her in-person trips once such restrictions ease.

In the meantime, the role of sourcing the gemstones, which is at the heart of her business, has been filled by Gemstones PH. She and the man behind it have now become business partners. “Super closely kami nagwowork together,” Gonzales shared. “Parang tandem na nga kami eh.” As he’s more knowledgeable on the stones, he’s also in charge of sourcing them; prior to the pandemic, he would even travel around the world to do so. He carries certified gems from countries like Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and Zambia, where he has made previous trips and is now able to purchase rough stones directly from miners, who send it to the cutter. He sends photos of the raw stones to Gonzales, along with a recommendation on which cut will optimize its beauty. Afterwards, the stone is delivered to her either raw or shaped, something Gonzales takes care to honor in the final design of her jewelry.

“I want when I’m sharing a piece with someone, yung intention ng stone will serve its purpose,” Gonzales said. “Kapag tapos na yung piece, kapag sinuot siya — ‘pag naging part na ng kamay ng wearer — mafufulfill ng ring or pendant [yung intention]. Hindi lang siya pretty or something. Yung energy ng stone, magmamanifest siya dun sa life ng magsusuot.”