Currently, a large proportion of gemstones and precious metals used in fine jewellery are sourced only from certain regions around the world, where supply chains can be dubious and complex, and mining methods can be seriously harmful to both people and planet. The Kering-owned brand is hoping to overcome this by expanding its portfolio of ‘precious’ materials. As a by-product of industrial waste recycling, Cofalit is an unlikely choice. But while it looks like charcoal in its raw form, it can resemble onyx or obsidian when polished.
It’s produced through a vitrification process (undertaken by French asbestos management specialist Inertam), where the notoriously hazardous waste is heated to temperatures of 1,400-1,600°C. This liquidises the material and renders it safe for use. The resulting Cofalit is then typically used as a substrate in road-building.
But the material needs adequate mechanical properties – like hardness and resilience – to be suitable for the collection’s pendants and brooches. To achieve this, Cofalit is reduced to a powder and redensified via a nascent flash-sintering technique, producing a solid material (that can be faceted) with properties similar to ceramics. For this process, Boucheron worked with various research and development partners, including Sil, Kering’s jewellery and watch innovation lab.
The Jack de Boucheron Ultime range is very much a work in progress, since the way Cofalit performs over time is yet to be seen. However, by demonstrating the potential of overlooked surplus resources, the move will help disrupt conventions within the luxury jewellery sector and, in turn, improve supply chain standards.