Black Pearls from Kamoka Pearls

One of the biggest regrets I have as a jeweller, is that over the years of campaigning for the introduction of Fairtrade Gold in to the jewellery supply chain, has been the fact I have had to neglect my love of the process for creating jewellery. As much as I have loved working with miners and learning about their lives and understanding their unique challenges, the need is always to link this process with a finished product. This is best achieved through inspired design of desirable and adorable product. This is as equally important as all the groundwork we have done at securing a better livelihood for the miner.

What links this mine to market experience is of course the ‘narrative’. I remember when I first started Cred Jewellery, Anita Roddick was very encouraging saying ‘Greg, whatever you do – never stop telling the story’. This was the best piece of business advice I ever received. Fairtrade Gold is now quite rightly, ‘the best gold story in the world’, but it has only just begun. For gold we need to work hard in the coming years to increase supply to meet the demand.

Personally my prayer is that there will always be a supply problem, as this will consistently drive the change on the ground. Yet equally we need to turn our attention to the other products we use in jewellery and to look to rediscover the authentic narrative.

The Kamoka farm is powered by solar and wind

Meeting Josh Humbert a pearl farmer from Tahiti at the Tucson Gem Show in 2010 was a key moment for me. We were at a symposium on ethical jewellery practices and Josh was given the floor to speak about his work as pearl farmer. Josh spoke as an impassioned environmentalist and as someone deeply concerned about the traditional Tahitian Black Pearl Industry. You could see he loved his livelihood, his appreciation of the sea, the aquatic eco-system and the sustainability of what he was doing had given him not only a good income, but as you can imagine a quality of life that many of us would cut off our right arms for.

Black Pearls from Kamoka

However that quality of his life and all those who worked there, was now under serious threat from rising sea levels, driven by climate change (climate change denial is driven by delusional emu’s, maybe we all need to begin to deny their existence and clearly based on their myopic logic the emu’s will all disappear) and cheap fresh water pearls from China that have flooded the global jewellery market over the past 15 years. It was a story not unlike many others I had heard of where traditional economies and ways of life are being swept away on the tide of mass production and product at the cheapest price possible.

What distressed me most about Josh’s story was it was an invisible story. Because of the intentional severance of the mine to market story in our trade, almost all jewellers had not heard of this problem. In fact quite the reverse has happened, the industry has rejoiced in the cheap pearls being pumped out of chemical based farms irrespective of the serious social and environmental consequences these practices create. [1]

Since my encounter with Josh I have spent time (not enough to be honest) looking into the background of pearls. These natural organic sustainable items are exquisite. The Tahitian Pearls have captivated my attention in a way I have not experienced since CRED Jewellery produced its first Oro Verde eco-wedding rings back in 2003/4. Their lustre, their colour hues, their individuality lends itself to the creative process beautifully. And in the case of Josh’s pearls the positive approach he and his colleagues have taken towards their farming methods has demonstrated that jewellery is not about managing risk as the CSR managers would have us believe. It is about creating a positive legacy through its very creation.

Fish cleaning the Oysters – As nature intended

On my desk I now have 26 Tahitian Pearls, wonderful rounds and semi-baroque’s speaking to me of possibility. The possibility of changing livelihoods, the possibility of transforming eco-systems and improving them, the possibility of new sustainable jewellery ranges and the personal possibility of indulging myself in the creative process again.

I am just beginning to discover pearls, their hidden truths and their potential to transform. After all the gates of heaven are made from pearls, the most sumptuous treasures of the sea.

For more information on Kamoka Pearls please visit

Greg Valerio

Jeweller & Activist


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[1] Please refer to the following link for more info.