Behind the Designers: Gary Ptak, The Conscience Collection

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Behind the Designers: Gary Ptak, The Conscience Collection

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Behind the Designers: Gary Ptak, The Conscience Collection


Each week we profile a new Sulusso featured designer. All of our designers have one thing in thing in common - a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - 8:00am

Hear from Gary Ptak, the designer of The Conscience Collection - a line of fine jewelry made exclusively from recycled gold and lab-created diamonds.

1. How did you get started in making jewelry?

For many members of this industry, including myself, it was something of a family tradition. My dad started out in the jewelry manufacturing business with his brothers in the 1940's, so I have always been around it. Throughout my life I've been exploring many different creative avenues, and making jewelry has become an outlet for expression as well as something that provided me an income. 

2. Sustainability in the jewelry sector is pretty rare, what inspired you to use only recycled metals and lab-created gems?

To a certain extent I’ve always been personally conflicted with jewelry manufacturing because of the disparity between the emotion evoking beauty of our materials and the unspeakable journey many of these materials have taken to become finished jewelry. 

Throughout my career I've worked to reconcile that conflict in my business. Sustainable fine jewelry just makes sense to me. I've been using recycled metals and lab grown stones for many years. But, about a year before the movie "Blood Diamond" was released, I recall many industry blogs and publications fearing the release of the movie, speculating that if the public learned the dark secrets of the diamond trade that sales would be crippled.

Certainly, it was a legitimate concern for the industry, but what moved me most was that the message from these sources was focused on how to debunk the "propoganda" in the film and assure consumers that the highlighted issues were not a systemic problem. The industry wanted consumers to believe that Hollywood sensationalism was making the problem out to be much larger than it was. My feeling was that the issues brought into the light in the film were real, legitimate and that addressing them was critical.

The reality of lab grown gems and recycled metals is that beauty does not need to be compromised and the "wow" factor is taken to another level in that the piece is not only a fashion statement, but a statement that the wearer is observant of the impact that their choice has made.

3.  Why do you think lab-created gems are important to the sustainable jewelry movement?

Besides their beauty, what attracts me to the gems I use in The Conscience Collection is that I know that our environment was not destroyed or even disturbed in their procurement. Nobody was enslaved or had their life or health in danger while bring them to market. These points cannot be understated. I enjoy conducting my business in accordance with these principles—sometimes doing so makes manufacturing more complicated. Sometimes it negatively impacts the bottom line, but I believe what I am doing is the right thing for me to do.

4. Who are you outside of the founder and designer of Gary Ptak, LLC? 

Father, husband, cook and television personality, bass player, traveler, driver, dog lover, friend to all animals, patriot, photographer, athlete, coach and all around good guy.

5. Who would you be most thrilled to know is wearing your jewelry?

My wife.

6. Could anyone who knew you as a young boy have predicted that you would be a pioneer of sustainable luxury?

I doubt it. It would have been far fetched, however, taking initiative and acting in accordance with my values has been an enormous factor in my life as far back as I can remember. I'm told I was "taking a stand" before I could stand. While I've certainly learned from mistakes and been enlightened numerous times, my principles have always led my way.

Keywords: Gary Ptak | Lab-created Diamonds | Recycled Gold | Sulusso | Sustainable Jewelry | the conscience collection