Fanatic about ethical jewellery, design, her business and work-life balance, Cata Rosca is an incredibly forward-thinking and inspirational woman
Cata Rosca is the owner of and designer at East Dulwich-based vintage jewellery shop Lila’s. Lila’s sells environmentally and socially responsible Edwardian, Victorian and retro jewellery. The growing demand for Cata’s bespoke services led her to launch her first ethical jewellery collection, Confluence.
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I grew up in Romania where I spent most of my holidays enjoying the free life in the countryside and studying during school terms. Being the youngest child with a huge age gap between me and my siblings meant I was mostly on my own. I ended up developing an exploration which often got me into trouble.
I studied journalism, but after just over a year of working as a radio reporter and editor I moved to various other jobs until I joined my husband’s business, in 2007. It was here that I started my long-lasting affair with gold and gemstones and also learnt about all the unglamorous aspects of running a business.
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Lila’s Jewels was born from my experience within the trade joined with a newly found passion for vintage and antique jewellery. I wanted to explore the beauties of the past and make them relevant for the contemporary woman, focusing on responsibility and sustainability.
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The best way is by recycling as much material as possible, whether that is precious metal or gemstones. It’s really not that glamorous to sort through scrap or scratched old stones to identify the real ones, re-polish if needed and give them a new life. But it’s extremely satisfying to be able to revive them, especially knowing the terrible conditions that many of the artisanal miners have to endure to source the much-prized minerals.
Another route we take it repairing and refurbishing old jewellery, converting it into modern, wearable and unique pieces. This is a method supported by the Responsible Jewellery Council as well.
Third, but not least, with the new or bespoke pieces we create, we focus almost entirely on Fairtrade gold and we do our best to source stones we know the origin of. Traceability and chain of supply is very important to us, so that we make sure we minimise the suffering connected with mining precious metals and gems.
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I do feel it’s extremely important to make this effort and help small communities develop their financial independence. Lots of people might think that disengaging would be better; that is staying away from sourcing precious materials entirely, to prevent child labour, for example. But what often happens with embargoes is that you take away the families’ only means of sustenance.
A much better way is to continue our custom as well as ensuring the miners have the right working conditions, is to pay the right price for their products. This ensures that they have the support to grow into a sustainable community that can support its members. Fairtrade and Fairmined organisations like us can achieve this very well, but consumer commitment is essential.
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Our Fairtrade gold comes from Sotrami, an artisanal mining organisation in Peru. This organisation is set up in an arid area, where agriculture and farming are not really viable, the community is very poor and they lack basic utilities like electricity or running water.
With the help of the Fairtrade organisation they were able to become a legal entity able to trade internationally, they receive the fair price for their gold and a premium on top of that, which allowed them to mechanise the mines to some degree and acquire protective equipment, to improve their living conditions and invest in their children’s education and health.
They’re now working to improve their infrastructure with running water and electricity. So every time clients buy pieces made out of Fairtrade gold, they contribute to a better life for the people in this community.
As the name suggests, it represents the joined forces of the present fashion trends with the history of the recycled gemstones and the future of a sound traceable supply chain of Fairtrade gold. There is a taste for colour and fine lines with minimal settings at the moment, so our Confluence pieces bring together various shapes, sizes and colour gemstones set with minimal claws and very fine lines.
All the pieces are very pretty and easy to wear, not to mention unique. The gemstones are recycled by us and they are all made from Fairtrade 18ct gold, either rose, white or yellow. Confluence is a full ethical choice topped off with good taste.
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Balance. I work full time, I am a mother and a wife and on top of that I have my own ego to please, so I’m trying hard to keep on top of all these aspects, with the occasional, inevitable meltdown. I wouldn’t be able to give up any of these areas without immense pain, so the little trick I practice is cyclicity: focusing in turns on work, family and me.
I usually wake up early to either finish a project for work or study for my gemmology or appraising qualifications. Then it’s waking up the kids, breakfast and school drop off followed by work, then afterschool clubs, dinner, bedtime for kids and wine o’clock.
Work tends to fluctuate from one day to another, it’s focusing on design work one day, the admin or bookkeeping, valuations, sales, website admin and general day to day activities.
I believe different women inspire me at different moments in my life, depending on where I’m at and what the challenge of the moment is. Right now, it would have to be Simona Halep, the Romanian tennis player who is no 1 WTA and who is an excellent example of hard work and constant improvement in small steps, she is the embodiment of resilience for me and the proof that hard, steady work brings results.
If you enjoyed reading about Cata’s fascinating background, check out Elizabeth Harrison’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to discover more about this talented jewellery designer.