Exotic, beaded, tribal jewelry is plastering the runways, magazines, and department stores. This may be another temporary fashion trend, but I’ve loved the look for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite jewelry lines, The Leakey Collection, embodies this indigenous and earthy style. The company also has an inspiring, eco-friendly story that makes their line a fun and educational purchase that supports sustainable causes.
The Leakey Collection is hand-made by the Maasai women of Kenya who create necklaces, earrings, and women’s accessories from natural products including local grass (called Zulu grass), Zulu wood (fallen acacia tree branches), and kiln-fired porcelain. Taught by the Leakey family, Maasai women grow Zulu grass themselves and then cut and dye it to create small colorful beads. These beads, mixed with Czech glass, create gorgeous and striking multiple strand necklaces and bracelets. Characteristic of the area and the culture of the Maasai, the jewelry is colorful and bold.
Beyond the pure aesthetic of the Leakey jewelry, the company, owners and mission are admirable. The owners Katy and Philip Leakey lived among the Maasai people for years and saw the immense problems the Maasai were having after the 2001 drought took their homes, crops and animals. The Leakey’s were single handedly supporting over 100 Maasai families in their area and decided to develop a sustainable business that would help the Maasai women earn money to feed their families without interfering with their cultural integrity. (Maasai men had moved away to work on cattle farms and were sending money back to their families.)
The Leakey Collection also maintains an up-to-date blog that includes photographs of their work sites, jewelry production and stories about their bead makers. They frequently discuss Kenyan politics, the challenges the Maasai people are facing and their hope for the future. Their company transparency provides assurances that their intentions are appropriate and that they are working to create not only great jewelry, but a better life for the Maasai women and children.
In addition, their focus on the growth of Zulu grass has helped to protect and preserve the wet lands in Kenyan communities. There is no longer need for the Maasai to burn and re-grow grass for cattle consumption. And 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.
PLUS, their jewelry is extremely affordable (necklaces cost less that $40), lightweight, and easy to tailor to an outfit. Their most popular multi-strand necklace has a sliding choker bead that creates varying length looks and makes it very easy to pull over your head. This is perfect if you are trying to put on jewelry without help (I hate messing with clasps and hooks!).
This line is sold in boutiques all over the country and makes a beautiful gift that supports a great cause.
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The Leakey Collection was founded in 2002 by Katy and Philip Leakey.
Philip Leakey is the third and youngest son of paleo-anthropologists Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey. He was a Member of Parliament in Kenya for 15 years, a Deputy Member of the Cabinet for 14 years and a Member of Cabinet for 1 year. Philip is known in Kenya for his dedication towards improving conditions for all Kenyan's with particular attention to the areas of business opportunity and the environment.
Katy Leakey is an artist and a designer. Her interest as an artist has been to connect diverse cultures through understanding using art as a vehicle and lecturing in University systems in the United States. Katy Leakey spent time studying ancient cultures in the unexplored areas of the Amazon of Peru and Ecuador before moving to Africa in 2001. In 1964 Allen and Helen O'Brien along with Katy Leakey's parents, Robert and Evelyn Moodey and three others, co-founded the L.S.B. Leakey foundation, lending a cultural anthropological bent towards Katy's life long work in Art.
A design company built on innovative uses of natural materials to create a line of competitive products in the contemporary global market place. Product lines include interior/home accessories, gift, jewelry and women's fashion accessories. A company dedicated to creating employment opportunities for rural Kenyans. A company dedicated to training and educating people in sound business practices in order to enhance their chances for ...