Eco Friendly Jewelry: The Leakey Collection (Shop for a Good Cause)

by on Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I love that I can shop for a good cause and really purchase something I’m crazy in love with when it comes to The Leakey Collection. Their tagline is “natural elegance” and that couldn’t be more spot-on. I really like to capture the essence of casual luxury in all aspects of my life. And jewelry from The Leakey Collection looks great, while also being unique, easy to wear (it’s very comfortable and light) and I did mention how it lets you shop for a good cause, right? That’s the perfect equation!

What I discovered about jewelry items from The Leakey Collection is that it’s all light and very wearable. Plus, it’s so easy to take these pieces from casual wear to professional looks. They’re very artsy, and make me feel earthy/arty and more connected to the world and the earth when I feel these pieces of jewelry. Eco friendly jewelry has never looked so beautiful to me.

Leakey Collection: Ways to Wear this Eco Friendly Jewellery:

I already know that my sister is now very interested in jewelry from this site – which gives me a great idea for her birthday present! (And The Leakey Collection has really nice white gift boxes with what I think is a gold-colored embossing of their logo. Perfect to present a really nice gift with, for sure.)

Everything sold on the site uses natural materials that are from sustainable substances. By being unique and well-made, they are truly able to stand-out. They create jobs for people in rural Kenya. By working with, not disrupting, the environment or different cultures, The Leakey Collection is truly a marvel.

You know that we do Dress Like a TV Character features on ShesSmart.com and I could definitely see Temperance Brennan (Emily Dechanel)  and Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) from Bones both wearing jewelry from The Leakey Collection.

The Leakey Collection is made by Maasai women. I first heard of the Maasai when Edward Norton was running a race with some Maasai warriors. But now I know even more. The Maasai live in the rural area between Kenya and Tanzania. They had trouble when there were horrible droughts that lasted for years up until 2001. That was a terrible time for them. And on top of that, it had always been men who could make money by working with cattle. Women had no way to have an income.

Philip and Katy Leakey live in the Kenyan bush with the Maasai and wanted a way to help them earn money without ruining the culture that makes them so special. Because Maasi women could make wonderful beads from grass, the idea started there.

Soon the women were harvesting grass, one blade at a time. The long grass was dried and cut into bead-size pieces and dyed lovely hues – blues, greens, reds, yellows, pinks, purples, earth and natural tones – which were then strung into necklaces and bracelets. The Leakeys added brilliant Czech glass beads to their designs, mixing them with the soft luster of the grass beads and giving sparkle and a contemporary flair to the jewelry. Zulugrass was born.

Zulugrass continues to provide much needed and desired opportunity for these wonderful women and their families.

As word passed through the Maasai community, women started walking as much as two hours each way to have their first chance to earn money. Now over 1400 hundred Maasai women are making Zulugrass while continuing to lead their lives in their traditional life style, and they can use their income to better their lives as they wish.

Using natural elements such as fallen wood, grass and porcelain, these renowned designers create unique products while protecting the environment and providing economic opportunity to the local communities.

The jewelry for The Leakey Collection is divided up into Zulugrass, Zuluwood, and Porcelain. Within each category there are lots of beautiful jewelry pieces and options. I think the Zulugrass is my favorite, but it’s so hard to decide. Everything has a very strong presence to it. It’s as though you know there is the spirit of humanity imbued in every piece. You know that each piece of jewelry was handmade by a Maasai woman, whose hopes are as strong and bright and the jewelry itself. She’s sharing a piece of her world with you. Be generous and share some of your world with her so she can have a better life.

I will confess that this review is really difficult to write because there is SO much information I keep learning and want to include (but know you guys don’t have time to read every little detail.) More than that, the story behind the company is so touching. You forget that there can even BE stories like this, stories of people who live out in the wild and see a culture that needs help and then they find a way to help them help themselves.

What’s more, not enough people know about The Leakey Collection. I think everyone needs to know about this. It’s very worth knowing about! It’s not just that you’re helping the Massai people, it’s that you really get a wonderful piece of jewelry for your purchase. (Where’s Oprah when you need her?!) That’s why I am so glad to help provide some exposure. I hope you read about this company and pass word along to your friends and family.

Everything on The Leakey Collection is GORGEOUS, and you help so many people with your purchase. I had one issue at first about the packaging, which was quickly resolved. Now I only have the issue of wanting to buy one of everything on this site, for me and everyone I know. I honestly am tearful as I write this, because life can feel so complicated and little, petty mole hills can feel like mountains, blah blah. I’m extremely insecure and fearful by nature, so I’ve been working on opening up my root chakra (I am a novice at all of this) and I feel like this is all about a great big connection of the world, the people in it, streamlining in a pinpoint all the way back to even little ol’ me. There’s something powerful in that. And there’s something equally powerful about the way I feel when I wear a piece of this jewelry. It’s so much more than just jewelry.

Anyway! Okay. Deep breath! No more teary eyes! Zulugrass Jewelry uses grass beads (yes, grass beads!) made from sustainable sturdy grass, with Czech glass beads for beautiful strands that you can use in so many ways. (The elastic they use is what was invented for the Spiderman movie!) You can buy zulugrass necklaces, earrings, bracelets or buy it in single strands. A single strand can even be used as a bracelet (or part of a large bracelet), necklace, anklet, or ponytail band. (I was especially excited about that last option, finally – something chic to wear over a ponytail that isn’t predictable!)

Eco Friendly Jewelry – Zulugrass singles:

(Wear just one or two, or have several and you can knot them as you see above. While normal beaded necklaces can look tacky, these have a really unique texture to them. They look very expensive. I also like that they easily move and don’t seem fragile as long as you don’t crush them in the bottom of a jewelry box or anything like that.)

Eco Friendly Jewelry – Zulugrass Beads for Learning:

“Each 26″ Zulugrass Beads for Learning Bracelet has been designed by Maasai artisans to symbolize the bright futures of educated children. The bracelet is wound 4 times and packaged on a specially designed color story card. The Leakey Collection will donate 100% of their profits from the sales of these bracelets to pay for local teachers’ salaries. BUY 5 BEADS FOR LEARNING BRACELETS AND GET ONE FREE!”

Eco Friendly Jewelry – Zulugrass multi-strand necklace:

(I love that the satin cord lets you change the length of this necklace! And it’s seriously a very light-weight necklace. It’s a statement necklace! There are so many different color combination offered, I want one in every color!)

Eco Friendly Jewery – Zulugrass Multi-strand bracelet:

(These zulugrass bracelets have hand burnished wood beads from fallen acacia trees and porcelain beads fired in a bush kiln. They wear wonderfully on the wrist, and don’t twist around too much like other bracelets usually do. I think the wooden beads help keep the bottom section at the underside of the wrist. But, you can of course twisted it around if you want that on the top part of your wrist. It gives you a nice pop of color on the wrist.)

Eco friendly Jewelry ZuluSport Friendship Bracelets:

(A raffia ribbon holds these two friendship bracelets together, and friends are meant to cut the tie together as they make a wish. Wearing these shows your dedication to friendship and other women.)

Eco Friendly Jewelry – Heart Porcelain Earrings:

(What you can’t see in this picture is that the blue of the porcelain has a really soft wash over the earrings, making them look truly – as they actually are – handmade. Around the edges you can see some of the white base, and it looks like a beautiful wash of water has covered the porcelain. It’s a cliche to say, but this picture does not do these earrings justice. But it’s hard to capture their beauty!)

There is also a Zuluwood collection that offers necklaces, bracelets and earrings. It’s all eco friendly jewelry!  Other accessories are offered like belts and salad tons made out of that fallen acacia wood that also is used for the jewelry. Between the Zulugrass, Zuluwood and Porcelain jewelry collections, it’s hard not to find a million things you will LOVE.

Here are some faq’s from the website that I really feel are important to share (once you see how important this jewelry is to the Maasai people, and how wonderful and environmentally conscious this company is, it’s hard to not consider bookmarking their site.)

* The Leakey Collection offers employment opportunity to over 1200 Kenyans depending on the time of year.

* Assembly of products for The Leakey Collection – Kenya is in a non-factory setting. Women work under the acacia trees at mobile, work sites which can provide work opportunity where ever work is needed in the Rift Valley.

* Work sites are set up only when invited into a community by Maasai women and elders. When a community no longer wants a work site it would be dismantled and moved. This happened once in 4 years.

* The Leakey Collection currently has a waiting list of communities that have requested work stations, which will open as demand for products increases.

* All materials used by The Leakey Collection are environmentally sustainable. In 2002 The Leakey Collection won the Environment Conscious award from the Association of Makers and Exporters of Gifts and Allied Articles of Kenya for its innovative use and management of natural materials.

* Zulugrass is water proof, salt water and fresh, colorfast, and long lasting, the elastic has a memory of over 6 years and still going even if warn every day, sun, shower, pool or ocean and tied in any number of ways from day to day.

Check out The Leakey Collection for earth friendly jewelry aka eco friendly jewelry (eco friendly jewellery.) It’s one of the most wonderful charity shopping sites.

Disclosure: I was sent items for review, but was not monetarily compensated in any way. My opinions are completely my own. And if you can’t tell, I’ve become very passionate about this company! I will definitely be purchasing from them in the future.

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