Now Queen Elizabeth II has rewarded him for his services to “Fairtrade” in his business dealings
By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – December 10, 2016) – Greg Valerio is certainly a ‘gem’ of a man, and to prove it, he has been awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honors’ List “for services to Fairtrade Gold and artisanal gold mining communities in South America and Africa.”
Also, this year, he was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by Winchester University in the UK for his services and work in the field of social justice.
But Greg’s awards don’t just end there. Ge was voted by The Retail Jeweller in both 2011 and 2016 as one of the “Top 100 Trailblazers in the UK Jewellery Industry,” and he was the winner of The Observer’s “Ethical Awards Global Campaigner 2011.”
I first met Greg, an extraordinary man who is a committed Christian, at a Pioneer Churches Leaders Conference in the UK. At the time I was rather startled as he was running around carrying a stick with feathers on it that he said declared “the need for change.”
Later on I joined him for a while as a trustee for his then charity, CRED, which sought to push the fair trade much further, particularly in his niche area of jewellery and Greg had opened shops in Chichester and London.
Greg often described himself as an “angry young man,” and although he is somewhat older, is probably still angry. From those early days of campaigning, he has pushed hard, and is still pushing to change the way jewellery is sourced and sold, recognizing the tremendous exploitation that goes on in this trade, and seeking to make it “fair trade.”
Currently, he is selling jewellery online at http://www.valeriojewellery.com/, and particularly from Carla’s Jewellery (http://carlasjewellery.com/). Carla says of her “Garden Jewellery,” that the “Garden” is a reference to “The Garden of Eden,” and she adds that there is an urgent need to act in reverence to the earth and all life on earth by protecting it. The collection uses simple silhouettes carved with the lushness of the natural world.
“The ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch, so aptly expresses where we began, where we have been, and where we are heading; it opens and closes with a message of the fragility of our planet,” she says. “As a designer, the word [that is] on the tip of my tongue is ‘beauty’ and beauty can only be perceived with a serene mind and a harmless heart. My only intention is to create beauty and therefore the core of that direction will remain harmless and Fair Trade to its core.”
Valerio Jewellery offers only certified Fairtrade Gold and Silver jewellery, accompanied by fully traceable to source gemstones and diamonds. The designers section of Valerio’s growing international website offers the jewellery loving public the finest jewellery design talent using the purest ethical material sources.
Greg says that what spurred him on to push the cause of fair trade jewellery was when he stood in a filthy mine in India which he called the “gateway to hell” and this convinced Greg that he had to be not only a budding retail jeweller, but also a campaigner on behalf of those who were being exploited at the source.
The destinations he has visited were often like apocalyptic scenes – Sierra Leone diamond mines, Congolese gold mines, and Indian gemstone mines, where adults and children worked knee-high in mud, exploited by local and international traders, the modern day slavery of extreme proportions. All of this compelled Greg to confront and create a better option for the jewellery world. He confronted the industry giants and power brokers — with passion and fire — to pursue human rights and environmental justice throughout the jewellery value chain.
He ended up rubbing shoulders with iconic campaigners and fashionista’s like Bob Geldof, Katharine Hamnett and Anita Roddick. He was the first international jeweller to visit Oro Verdé, Colombia, where he befriended some eco-friendly gold miners.
Monitoring supply routes of raw materials, Greg became determined to make transparency and traceability his mantra. “Jewellers often ignore the stories of their sources,” he says. “This is an industry that is running scared of the truth, but with the resources to put it right.”
Talking to Greg recently, and trying to understand how he had received the MBE at Buckingham Palace, Greg told me, “2016 has been a strange year for, while receiving awards like the MBE, Top 100 Jewellers and more latterly the Honorary Doctorate from Winchester University, I am not really sure why I got them.
“‘Fairtrade Gold’ was a very big piece of this groundbreaking work, something not done before, and through this I have learned so much about how community development, empowerment, economic justice for the poor, environmental protection and the natural resources of the earth, can play a part in bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. Yet, none of this is done by an individual. Whole communities, organizations, as well as individuals, have made this happen.
“It is true that I have led the line, advocated vociferously, and took a lot of public and private abuse for my stance on gold. I guess this is why I have got these awards, because I was to a greater extent the public face of campaigning for a corrupt free, Fairtrade gold product. The whole story is all recorded in my book ‘Making Trouble’” (http://www.valeriobooks.com/).
He added: “Creating ‘Fairtrade Gold’ and pioneering ethical jewellery has taught me so much over the last 20 years — yet given that we are now entering into a dark-age of western history, I sense this has all be a dress rehearsal for the huge challenges that are to come.
“Food security, rural and urban poverty, extreme nationalism, a Christianized materialism entrenched in the Church, and the collapse of the welfare state will lead to massive pressures on us all. These are bigger issues than the complexity called ‘Fairtrade Gold.” It’s time to build the Ark, ride out the chaos, and be a refuge for the good hearted people of the world.”
To contact Greg Valerio, you can phone him at +44(0)1243 531101 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His address is: Valerio Jewellery, Head Office, 40 Hay Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8BE, UK.
Photo captions: 1) Greg Valerio biting the bullet on the mythology of diamond jewellery. 2) World’s purest jewellery. (http://www.valeriojewellery.com/). 3) Greg Valerio joins a gold panner in a Sierra Leone gold pit. 4) Greg Valerio with a copy of his book. (Photo: Dana Sanchez/Skype). 5) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.
About the writer: Adrian Hawkes is married to Pauline — Dan Wooding was best man at their wedding — and they have three children, 10 Grandchildren and two Great Grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church North London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka, as well as a church in Norway. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some main unaccompanied minors, and vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC Foster Care agency and has launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books and can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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