For Greg Valerio, the past 12 months have been very much focused on the future, with the launch of his new fairtrade jewellery business, Valerio Jewellery, at the tail end of 2015.
But it has also been a time of recognition for the many achievements he has made up to this point.
Awarded an MBE for services to Fairtrade gold and artisanal gold mining communities in South America and Africa in the 2016 Honours List, Greg has devoted his life’s work to the campaign for ethical trading.
“When you work in a luxury sector like jewellery, it’s easy to forget that every aspect of its success is shaped to maintain a narrative of exclusivity, aspiration, celebrity, seduction and opulence; yet our success is built upon the backs of the poor and the exploitation of the environment,” he explains.
“Our true legacy as jewellers is in the human rights we uphold, the eco systems we protect and the communities we work with to transform them for the better. This is the true essence of what the aspirational jewellery narrative should be about.”
Currently working on a documentary film about small-scale miners in Uganda, who together with Fairtrade have committed themselves to becoming ecological Fairtrade certified gold miners, Greg is also soon to begin creating a framework that will enable young designers to access the ethical supply chain. “The MBE will help to mainstream Fairtrade gold, but it is no reason to rest on my laurels,” Greg admits.
Pictured here in Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve near Chichester, with its ancient, twisted yews, Greg is philosophical about the future. “These trees always inspire me to think long term.
Where does the ethical jewellery movement need to be in 10 years, 25 years, 50 years? Who are the next generation coming through, and what legacy are we leaving behind us? We play the long game as it is not how you start the race that matters, it’s how you finish.”