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January 15, 2019 02:09 PM
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Meghan Markle is continuing her focus on ethical fashion.

On her first official visit to one of four newly announced patronages Thursday, the Duchess of Sussex debuted a pair of bold earrings from new London-based brand Kimai, which specializes in lab-grown diamonds.

“It’s so exciting for us, especially as we just launched in November,” says Kimai co-founder Sidney Neuhaus. “Her team contacted us, and we sent them to her a month or so ago. She really loved these earrings.”

Meghan, 37, who wore the $806 18-karat gold Felicity earrings to visit the London office of Smart Works, was drawn to the design as well as the brand’s ethical message.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty; Inset: Kimai
Kimai's "Felicity" earring, worn by Meghan Markle.
Kimai

“They are made in a lab in Belgium, like cultured diamonds,” explains 25-year-old Neuhaus, whose family is also in the jewelry industry. “They have exactly the same properties as mined diamonds, but they are environmentally friendly and less controversial.” (The traditional practice of mining diamonds “displaces land, wastes water and pollutes the air. Not to mention puts a strain on local communities,” the company says in its mission statement.)

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The design, which features a diamond-encrusted curved bar that sits horizontally across the lobe of the ear (it fits just one piercing), was inspired by the idea of dancing diamonds.

“We wanted them to move as they were worn, and we use a lot of the marquise shape in our collection — everyone says they look like eyes, but we didn’t plan for them to look like eyes!” says Neuhaus, who is the creative talent behind the brand, while her co-founder Jessica Warch, also 25, handles the business side of the start-up company.

Meghan chats with Patsy Wardally at Smart Works on Jan. 10. The charity provides free clothing and training to women seeking to enter the workforce.
Clodagh Kilcoyne - WPA Pool/Getty

On her recent tour with Prince Harry, Meghan also wore designs from ethical jewelers Pippa Small and Ecksand, as well as other brands with sustainability or socially conscious messaging — including Rothy's flats, made from 100% post-consumer plastic water bottles; Veja sneakers made from wild rubber; and Outland Denim, a company that employ victims of sex trafficking.

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Meghan also debuted her first maternity fashion look on Thursday, wearing a $218 Eliza black stretch-knit dress from maternity brand Hatch. The same dress has previously been worn by Hilary Duff and is one of the brand’s bestsellers.

“She just looked so amazing, it fit her like a glove,” founder Ariane Goldman told PEOPLE. “I love the way she styled it with Oscar [de la Renta], and she’s having this beautiful high-low moment that just looked amazing. It’s just such an honor for the brand.”

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