Individually handcrafted, bead by bead, from fallen African hardwood and sterling silver, this necklace is a truly timeless treasure! Each deeply-hued bead is hand-honed and burnished to gem-quality shine without the use of lacquer, varnish, or wax, allowing the natural oils from your skin to penetrate the grain and maintaining its beautiful condition for generations of wear.
Designed by Philip and Katy Leakey in the bush country region of Kenya, where the Zuluwood jewelry company provides work opportunities for their Maasai neighbors without adversely impacting the Maasai culture. The Leakey Collection uses only fallen dead wood that would otherwise be burned as fuel. With a tradition of superlative beadwork dating back generations, Maasai women string the beads together with sterling silver fittings, creating attractive jewelry for you, while bringing much-needed income and opportunity to themselves, their families, and their community.
- Sustainably harvested wood & sterling silver
- 18" L (45.7 cm)
- Handmade in & fairly traded from Kenya
Can jewelry design alleviate the disastrous effects of drought? The Leakey Collection's Zulugrass jewelry is a shining fair-trade business model based on Philip and Katy Leakey's desire to help their Maasai neighbors after the 2002 drought hit most of Kenya. While the Maasai men drove cattle to far-off lands to find water, the Leakeys assisted the desperate women and children left behind by creating a line of simple but stunning bracelets and necklaces made from bio-friendly, native long grasses. This abundant plant is harvested by hand, dried, cut into beads, then dyed with natural elements into lovely hues and strung with Czech faceted glass beads.
Working with the nomadic nature of the Maasai, who have a long history of beading jewelry, Philip and Katy called on the strengths of the 800 year-old Maasai culture to set up a business model that could be done anywhere. "We tried to make our business fit their lifestyle rather than change their lifestyle to fit our business," notes Richard. As a result some women can string 100 strands in a day. They package kits of beading supplies to make ten items of jewelry and the women spend as much or as little of their day as they'd prefer, sitting, laughing and chatting while stringing beads onto elastic.
The ingenuity and thoughtful expression of caring by the son of the famous anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey and his adventurous artist wife, Katy, have endeared them to fellow Kenyans, who voted Richard in as the first white member of Parliament in Kenya after free elections. He served in politics for nearly a decade, and the two currently live the African safari lifestyle, out of tents.
A generous part of the Leakey Collection's proceeds are invested back into the community to improve health and education. Today, up to 1,400 Maasai people at sites spanning 150 miles of the Rift Valley make an average of $100 a month per person thanks to the Leakey Collection, while still maintaining their unique cultural traditions and the region's environmental health.